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Quinoa's bursting with ecdysteroids

If you eat 50 g quinoa from a health food shop you'll probably ingest 15-20 mg 20-hydroxyecdysone. That's more than the recommended daily dose that some ecdysteroid supplements contain. French chemists analysed samples of quinoa and found they contained high amounts of ecdysteroids.

Quinoa's bursting with ecdysteroids
Retailers call quinoa the 'grain of the Incas'. It's not related to more familiar grains, but for centuries people in South America have been eating Chenopodium quinoa seeds like other parts of the world eat wheat. When the Spanish conquistadores hit the Andes they labelled quinoa 'worthless food', but now it looks like quinoa is making a comeback. This is because quinoa is a) gluten free, b) has a low glycaemic index and c) contains high amounts of protein which, compared with wheat is of high quality.

A less known fact is that quinoa contains lots of ecdysteroids. In 2001 researchers at Rutgers University found that 1 gram of quinoa contains 30 micrograms 20-hydroxyecdysone, and 3-9 micrograms makisterone A, 24-epi-makisterone A, 24(28)-dehydro-makisterone A and 20,26-dihydroxyecdysone. [J Agric Food Chem. 2001 May; 49(5): 2576-8.]

Quinoa's bursting with ecdysteroids

Ecdysteroids in quinoa
The French researchers analysed the amount of 13 ecdysteroids in quinoa. Their results showed that the classic 20-hydroxyecdysone was by far the most important ecdysteroid in quinoa. The researchers know for sure that they haven't measured all the ecdysteroids, so the table below actually underestimates the amount of ecdysteroids that quinoa contains.


158.4 microgram/gram

Makisterone A

4.8 microgram/gram

24-Epi-makisterone A

4.4 microgram/gram

24(28)-Dehydro-makisterone A

4.4 microgram/gram

Polypodine B

3.4 microgram/gram

Makisterone C

1.2 microgram/gram


0.8 microgram/gram


0.8 microgram/gram

5-Hydroxy-24(28)-dehydromakisterone A

0.3 microgram/gram


0.13 microgram/gram


0.13 microgram/gram


0.05 microgram/gram


0.05 microgram/gram

The researchers analysed different batches of quinoa and quinoa products. The most interesting product was Zieglers Toasted Bran.

Quinoa's bursting with ecdysteroids

This figure provides an overview of the known quinoa ecdysteroids.

Effects of quinoa consumption
After extrapolating to humans the results of animal studies, in which ecdysteroids have positive effects on the skin, bone and muscle mass and break down fat, and going by the quantities of ecdysteroids found in quinoa analyses, the researchers suggest that people who eat quinoa regularly will be healthier as a result.

Food Chemistry 125 (2011) 12261234.

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Plant Steroids

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Modified ecdysteroids with more anabolic effect
In test tubes, the anabolic effect of some of these semi-synthetic ecdysteroids is three times greater than the anabolic effect of regular ecdysteroids.

Couple of milligrams ecdysterone daily strengthens bones
Ecdysterone supplementation at a young age may help prevent brittle and porous bones in old age.

Anabolic effect of ecdysterone strong enough to put it on the doping list
Ecdysterone, a steroid-like substance found in spinach, quinoa and bodybuilding supplements, has a stronger anabolic effect than scientists suspected.