Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw’s®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 14 No. 5 • November 2011

Lift Weights, Eat Mustard, Build Muscles?

A press release dated 29 Sept. 2011 from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (publishers of the FASEB Journal)* reports on research1 that “suggests that rats fed homobrassinolide, found in the mustard plant, produced an anabolic effect, and increased appetite and muscle mass, as well as the number and size of muscle fibers.” Moreover, the researchers found that homobrassinolide treatment produced anabolic effects and improved physical fitness in healthy animals without detrimental androgenic effects.1

*Contact: Cody Mooneyhan, cmooneyhan@faseb.org, (301)-634-7104

Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal said, “[t]he temptation is to see this discovery as another quick fix to help you go from fat to fit, and to a very small degree, this may be true. In reality, however, this study identifies an important drug target for a wide variety of conditions that cause muscle wasting.”

The paper1 explains that very little is known about the effects of brassinosteroids in animals. “A natural brassinosteroid and its synthetic derivatives were found to inhibit herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and arena­virus, measles, Junin, and vesicular stomatitis virus replication in cell culture.” Moreover, the paper cites studies in which natural brassinosteroids have also been shown to inhibit growth of several human cancer cell lines without affecting the growth of normal cells.

Investigation of the mechanisms of growth promotion by homobrassinolide (HB) have revealed an association with the increased synthesis of nucleic acids and proteins.1 The researchers note that IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) has “both an anabolic effect on protein synthesis and an anticatabolic effect on protein degradation in skeletal muscle, similar to insulin.”1 “HB at concentrations of 0.3–20 µM inhibited protein degradation dose dependently, and its activity reached a plateau between 3 and 10 µM.” “Insulin at 10 nM served as positive control in this assay; it reduced protein degradation by 13.0 ± 1.6%.” This compared to 1 µM HB, which decreased protein degradation by 8.2 ± 0.6% above control levels.

The researchers explain that IGF-1 inhibits protein degradation in myotubes through PI3K/Akt/GSK-3beta- and PI3K/Akt/mTOR-dependent mechanisms, identifying Akt as the key intermediate in the IGF-1 signaling pathway regulating downstream targets for protein synthesis and degradation. Similar results were found for HB as for IGF-1, though the effect of HB on Akt phosphorylation “is not as robust as that described for IGF-1.”

Importantly, the researchers found that HB showed no significant binding to the androgen receptor from concentrations of 0.01 µM up to 10 µM. They were, thus, able to conclude that “our data demonstrate that oral application of HB triggers an anabolic response with minimal or no androgenic side effects.”

THE NATIONAL MUSTARD MUSEUM (7477 Hubbard Ave., Middleton, WI 53562; 800-438-6878) is our favorite source of a wide variety of mustards; you won’t find most of these at your local supermarket. The store/catalog has many hundreds of different kinds in their hilarious catalog. (This is an unsolicited plug!) Our favorite mustard sauce available at this store (goes great on chicken, fish, and egg dishes) is the Key Lime Mustard Sauce.


  1. Esposito et al. Anabolic effect of plant brassinosteroid. FASEB J 25:3708-19 (2011).

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