Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ecdysterone: Supplemental Non-Starter or Estrogen-Driven Muscle Builder? Phytoecdysteroid Builds Rodent Muscles, But the Devil's in the Details - "Growth" ≠ "Mass Gains"

Estrogens are not for women, only!?
If you asked me the above question a day ago, I would have answered "supplemental non-starter"; and while I still believe that the corresponding products are useless ripoffs, a recent study, Maria Kristina Parr and colleagues from the German Sport University, the Freie Universität Berlin, the , Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, the Central Institute of the Bundeswehr Medical Service, Bayer Pharma, the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, and the Nanchang University in China had me thinking: The results look impressive, at first sight, but there are strings attached - strings you'll see only if you look closely.
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Ok, we are talking about yet another rodent study with all the usual downsides and one major advantage - you can do a full analysis of all effects and possible underlying mechanisms! In the case of the study at hand this analysis included dissecting the prostate, weighing the muscles, and a lot of other stuff that would have required killing a human subject if it had been done in a human study.
Figure 1: Size of soleus muscle fibers in rodent study and effects of ecdysterone vs. dexamethasone, DHT, IGF1 in a previous in-vitro experiment (Parr. 2014)
Needless to say that this does not change the fact that we don't know if the human equivalent of the 5mg/kg the male rats in Parr's study received in an 20% ethanol + 80% corn oil dilution for 21 days would produce similarly impressive increases in soleus muscle fiber area and myotube diameter (see Figure 1) in a human being as it did in the male Wistar rats in the study at hand.
Beware of the details! The increases in muscle fiber size did not translate into increased muscle mass. In fact the soleus muscle from Figure 1 was lighter for the rodents in the ecdysterone: 0.16g in the control vs. 0.15g in the ecdysterone group - non-significant, obviously, but certainly not the impressive gains the various product descriptions of ECDY products promise, ha?
One thing that appears to be pretty certain, though, is the fact that ecdysterone will have some estrogenic activity in humans, as well. The latter, i.e. the ability of ecdysterone to bind to the both estrogen receptors quite potently, sounds like news right from nightmare of the bro next door. In the end, it does yet explain how Ecdy, the anabolic activity of which is believed to be androgen receptor independent (Grolick-Feldmann. 2008), could perform its muscle building job in humans, as well: via its estrogenic activity! And the fact that the levator ani muscle, which is plastered with androgen receptors (Joubert. 1994), did not react to the treatment only confirms this hypothesis.
Figure 2: Serum levels of cortisol, IGF-1 and 17b-estradiol (Parr. 2014)
And what's more, the decrease in cortisol, increase in IGF and reduction of real estradiol the scientist observed, when they analyzed the blood of their furry study subjects also look as if they were the objects of a bro's dreams - wet dreams, not nightmares.
If you want to optimize your androgen levels, avoid these 10 proven anti- androgenic agents in your diet and life and maximize your natural androgen production for free!
Bottom line: Overall the study at hand is unquestionably the most convincing evidence of the muscle building effects of ecdysterone I've seen. On the other hand, the mere fact that no one reports similar gains on any of the currently or previously available ecdysterone supplements should make you question, whether popping 60-75mg of >90% pure ecydesterone, which would be the human equivalent of the dosage the rodents received in the study at hand, will really make you big and strong. Why? Well because the fiber-size of the soleus increased without increases in soleus weight (control: 0.16g; ecy: 0.15g) -- If you expect internal changes in muscle structure, only, go for it, if you want gains, I stick to what I said before: Avoid ecdysterone supplements.
  • Gorelick-Feldmann, J., MacLean, D., Ilic, N., Poulev, A. et al., Phytoecdysteroids increase protein synthesis in skeletal muscle cells.J. Agric. Food Chem.2008,56, 3532–3537.
  • Joubert, Y., Tobin, C., Lebart, M. C., Testosterone-induced masculinization of the rat levator ani muscle during puberty. Dev. Biol.1994,162, 104–110.
  • Parr et al. Estrogen receptor beta is involved in skeletal muscle hypertrophy induced by the phytoecdysteroid ecdysterone. Mol. Nutr. Food Res.2014,00,1–12