New anabolic – mustard?

New anabolic – mustard?

We have seen a wave of new products released purported to build muscle via non-hormonal mechanisms. Products such as Ursobolic and Anabeta were based on studies showing anabolic effects of their respective nutrients in studies conducted previously.

Now, we anticipate a new trend among supplement companies eager to explore the anabolic potential of that well known muscle builder mustard!

Before you dismiss this as a joke we ask you to turn your attention to the results of a recent study (1) investigating the potential of a specific extract found in mustard seeds called brassinosteroids, which are similar in structure to anabolic steroids.

In the study, oral administration of homobrassinolide (a specific type of brassinosteroid) at a dose of 20mg/kg for 24 days, or 60mg/kg for 24 days led to an increase in food intake, weight gain, lean body mass and gastrocnemius muscle mass. The rats which were fed a higher protein diet noticed greater effects. Both oral and subcutaneous administration of homobrassinolide showed low androgenic activity which means the effects were not mediated through higher levels of testosterone. The study also measured the fitness of the rats and, in untrained healthy rats, there was a 6.7% increase in lower extremity strength. At the end of the experiment the rats were dissected and showed that the treatment with homobrassinolide led to an increase in the number of type IIA and IIB muscle fibres which are most associated with strength and performance in the gym.


Our Comments

While we can see a craze for bodybuilders slathering mustard onto their chicken breasts now we advise caution before you do so.

First, the study examined a concentrated extract found in mustard seeds whose presence in mustard sauce would be much reduced. It is not known how much mustard would need to be consumed at this point to reach an equivalent effect.

Second, while the homobrassinolide showed both an increase in muscle protein accretion and a reduction in muscle protein breakdown, leading to a net protein synthetic effect, this was in rats and a study in humans would provide more conclusive proof of the potential benefits of homobrassinolide.

Future research directed at exploring the benefits of either whole mustard sauce or the extract would be required before we can consider mustard sauce or its extracts as an anabolic agent in humans. While the fact that it showed positive effects on muscle growth independent of the androgen receptor is intriguing, it is too early at this stage to say more than that this is a potential future avenue we may see the supplement industry going down.


Author: Reggie Johal



1. Debora Esposito, Slavko Komarnytsky, Sue Shapses and Ilya Raskin (2011):Anabolic effect of plant brassinosteroid

© 2012, Reggie Johal. All rights reserved.