Ecdysteroids

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    Last Updated: April 29, 2024

    Ecdysteroids are a type of steroid hormone found in arthropods, where they are responsible for reproduction and molting. Evidence for the use of ecdysteroids in humans is lacking, but they are often used to improve athletic performance and to stimulate muscle growth and are purported to have multiple other health benefits.

    Ecdysteroids is most often used for .

    What are ecdysteroids?

    Ecdysteroids are a group of polyhydroxylated ketosteroids that are similar to androgens (e.g., testosterone). They were initially discovered in insects, where they are used during the molting process (when the exoskeleton is shed to allow for growth). Certain plants also contain ecdysteroids, where they play a role in protection from plant-eating insects. Ecdysteroids found in plants are called phytoecdysteroids, and those derived from animals are called zooecdysteroids.[5]

    Phytoecdysteroids are more frequently used in supplements than zooecdysteroids, and sources include spinach, Cyanotis arachnoidea (a plant found in China), and Ajuga turkestanica (an Asian plant that lends its name to one of the most well-known ecdysteroid products, Turkesterone).[5][6] While ecdysteroids are a type of steroid hormone, they differ from human androgens in terms of their chemical structure, size, and polarity and therefore do not cause the hormone-related side effects that are associated with androgenic steroids.[7]

    What are the main benefits of ecdysteroids?

    Ecdysteroids are most well known as a supplement for athletic performance and muscle building. Some evidence supports these claims, although few studies have been done on humans. A study in 46 young men showed some benefit as measured by bench press strength and muscle growth compared to a placebo over 10 weeks.[3][7][8] Other studies to support these claims have been done on rats, showing improved muscle recovery,[9] increased grip strength,[10] and endurance (as demonstrated by a swimming test).[11] Future research in humans will be needed to confirm these findings, but research to date supports the idea that ecdysteroids have potential to improve athletic performance and muscle growth.

    An antiobesity effect has been noted in some studies done on rodents. Using 20-hydroxyecdysterone (20HE) in rats and gerbils on a high-calorie diet mitigated weight gain compared to control groups.[1][12][7] 20HE has also been shown to inhibit glucose production in rats and to lower glucose in a manner that is similar to some of the commonly used diabetic treatments, like metformin.[13] This could be helpful in people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, but it is not yet well studied in human populations.

    In menopausal and postmenopausal women, 20HE could help to decrease adipose deposits, particularly visceral fat (fat around the abdominal organs) and fat deposits in the muscles and joints. This has multiple benefits, including a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, improved mobility, greater muscle mass, and an improved bone density. However, once again, more research is needed in humans to confirm these benefits.[7][14]

    A small in vitro study[15] showed that ecdysteroids could suppress the growth of and increase cell death in certain types of breast cancer cells. The study also demonstrated a synergistic effect when ecdysterone is combined with doxorubicin (a chemotherapy drug often used in breast cancer treatment).

    In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), ecdysteroids have been studied as an alternative to steroids like dexamethasone, which are frequently used in combination with chemotherapy and radiation during treatment. 20HE showed positive results in in vitro studies, decreasing the proliferation of cancer cells, increasing cancer cell death, and improving the efficacy of certain chemotherapy drugs. These results are promising and will pave the way for the clinical trials that are needed to confirm these results in vivo.[16]

    Many other uses for ecdysteroids have been proposed, including respiratory disorders, renal failure, autoimmune disease, and sexual dysfunction.[7] Research into these areas and others is ongoing, but currently the evidence to support these claims is minimal.

    What are the main drawbacks of ecdysteroids?

    There is minimal research on the use of ecdysteroids in humans, so the dosing remains unclear. While no clear severe side effects have been demonstrated, the safety of these products is also uncertain. A study done in young men without known health conditions found that dosages up to 800 mg daily did not cause any notable damage to the liver or kidneys over a 10-week period.[3] No adverse effects have been noted in studies done on other mammals, with doses up to 100 mg per kg of body weight producing no noted adverse effects in rabbits.[7] Studies on other mammals do not always apply to humans, and more evidence is needed to confirm the safe dose for humans.

    Another problem is that commercially available ecdysteroid products are not regulated. This means they may not contain what they claim to contain, or they may not contain the amount of the active substance stated on the label.[17][18]

    How do ecdysteroids work?

    Ecdysteroids work in insects by binding to a receptor called the ecdysone nuclear receptor (EcR); however, no similar receptor has been found in mammals. In humans, the actions of ecdysteroids must therefore be through a different mechanism.[3] Given the broad range of effects that ecdysteroids may have in mammals, more than one mechanism of action is possible.

    Ecdysteroids may act through a G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR), a receptor found on cell membranes that plays a role in cellular signaling. Specifically, ecdysteroids might bind to GPCRs found in the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) — an important regulator of fluids, blood volume, and vasodilation that acts within the kidney. Ecdysteroids activate the MAS1 proto-oncogene (genes that regulate cell growth and differentiation) within this system, and this could enhance muscle protein synthesis.[7][19]

    Ecdysterone also causes an influx of calcium ions into the cells, which causes an increase in the phosphorylation of Akt. Akt is a protein kinase that mediates protein synthesis, so if ecdysterone increases its activity, then this could be the mechanism through which it enhances muscle growth.[20]

    Finally, a type of estrogen receptor called estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) might be responsible for the actions of ecdysteroids in humans. The activation of ERβ has been related to muscle protein synthesis, and ecdysteroids have been shown to activate this receptor.[7]

    The current data on how ecdysteroids work in mammals, and particularly in humans, is limited, and further research into the mechanisms of action is needed.

    What are other names for Ecdysteroids

    Note that Ecdysteroids is also known as:
    • Ecdysterone
    • Turkesterone
    • Ecdisten
    • Ecdysone
    • 20-hydroxyecdysone (20HE)
    • Beta-ecdysterone

    Dosage information

    There is not enough research to recommend a specific dosage for each possible use of ecdysteroids, and most of the available research has been done on animals.

    Studies seem to show a dose-dependent response for hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). In in vivo liver cells from both diabetic and nondiabetic rats, higher doses of ecdysone resulted in a greater suppression of glucose production. However, research in humans is lacking, and there is not enough evidence to recommend a specific dose for people with diabetes.[1][2]

    For use in athletes, one study suggested 5 mg per kg of body weight as an effective dose but also noted that higher doses showed greater improvements in strength.[3] Another study found that 200 mg daily was ineffective for improving body composition.[4]

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    Frequently asked questions

    What are ecdysteroids?

    Ecdysteroids are a group of polyhydroxylated ketosteroids that are similar to androgens (e.g., testosterone). They were initially discovered in insects, where they are used during the molting process (when the exoskeleton is shed to allow for growth). Certain plants also contain ecdysteroids, where they play a role in protection from plant-eating insects. Ecdysteroids found in plants are called phytoecdysteroids, and those derived from animals are called zooecdysteroids.[5]

    Phytoecdysteroids are more frequently used in supplements than zooecdysteroids, and sources include spinach, Cyanotis arachnoidea (a plant found in China), and Ajuga turkestanica (an Asian plant that lends its name to one of the most well-known ecdysteroid products, Turkesterone).[5][6] While ecdysteroids are a type of steroid hormone, they differ from human androgens in terms of their chemical structure, size, and polarity and therefore do not cause the hormone-related side effects that are associated with androgenic steroids.[7]

    Are ecdysteroids the same as anabolic androgenic steroids?

    Ecdysteroids are also steroid hormones, and they act as androgens in arthropods. However, the receptors they use to induce these effects in arthropods are not found in humans. While more research is needed to elucidate the mechanism of action of ecdysteroids in mammals, it is clear that they do not bind to mammalian androgen receptors like anabolic androgenic steroids do and therefore do not exert the same effects. This could be a positive thing, since it means that, if ecdysteroids induce muscle growth and improve athletic performance similarly to androgenic steroids, they would do so with far fewer negative side effects.[3][21]

    Are ecdysteroids banned in professional sports?

    Ecdysteroids are not currently on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list of banned substances. While they have been used frequently by athletes and bodybuilders as performance enhancers and to increase muscle growth, their effects in humans have not been thoroughly studied. However, they are currently under review, as some researchers have proposed they be added to the list of banned substances as part of the “other anabolic agents” section.[21][22]

    What are the main benefits of ecdysteroids?

    Ecdysteroids are most well known as a supplement for athletic performance and muscle building. Some evidence supports these claims, although few studies have been done on humans. A study in 46 young men showed some benefit as measured by bench press strength and muscle growth compared to a placebo over 10 weeks.[3][7][8] Other studies to support these claims have been done on rats, showing improved muscle recovery,[9] increased grip strength,[10] and endurance (as demonstrated by a swimming test).[11] Future research in humans will be needed to confirm these findings, but research to date supports the idea that ecdysteroids have potential to improve athletic performance and muscle growth.

    An antiobesity effect has been noted in some studies done on rodents. Using 20-hydroxyecdysterone (20HE) in rats and gerbils on a high-calorie diet mitigated weight gain compared to control groups.[1][12][7] 20HE has also been shown to inhibit glucose production in rats and to lower glucose in a manner that is similar to some of the commonly used diabetic treatments, like metformin.[13] This could be helpful in people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, but it is not yet well studied in human populations.

    In menopausal and postmenopausal women, 20HE could help to decrease adipose deposits, particularly visceral fat (fat around the abdominal organs) and fat deposits in the muscles and joints. This has multiple benefits, including a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, improved mobility, greater muscle mass, and an improved bone density. However, once again, more research is needed in humans to confirm these benefits.[7][14]

    A small in vitro study[15] showed that ecdysteroids could suppress the growth of and increase cell death in certain types of breast cancer cells. The study also demonstrated a synergistic effect when ecdysterone is combined with doxorubicin (a chemotherapy drug often used in breast cancer treatment).

    In acute myeloid leukemia (AML), ecdysteroids have been studied as an alternative to steroids like dexamethasone, which are frequently used in combination with chemotherapy and radiation during treatment. 20HE showed positive results in in vitro studies, decreasing the proliferation of cancer cells, increasing cancer cell death, and improving the efficacy of certain chemotherapy drugs. These results are promising and will pave the way for the clinical trials that are needed to confirm these results in vivo.[16]

    Many other uses for ecdysteroids have been proposed, including respiratory disorders, renal failure, autoimmune disease, and sexual dysfunction.[7] Research into these areas and others is ongoing, but currently the evidence to support these claims is minimal.

    What are the main drawbacks of ecdysteroids?

    There is minimal research on the use of ecdysteroids in humans, so the dosing remains unclear. While no clear severe side effects have been demonstrated, the safety of these products is also uncertain. A study done in young men without known health conditions found that dosages up to 800 mg daily did not cause any notable damage to the liver or kidneys over a 10-week period.[3] No adverse effects have been noted in studies done on other mammals, with doses up to 100 mg per kg of body weight producing no noted adverse effects in rabbits.[7] Studies on other mammals do not always apply to humans, and more evidence is needed to confirm the safe dose for humans.

    Another problem is that commercially available ecdysteroid products are not regulated. This means they may not contain what they claim to contain, or they may not contain the amount of the active substance stated on the label.[17][18]

    How do ecdysteroids work?

    Ecdysteroids work in insects by binding to a receptor called the ecdysone nuclear receptor (EcR); however, no similar receptor has been found in mammals. In humans, the actions of ecdysteroids must therefore be through a different mechanism.[3] Given the broad range of effects that ecdysteroids may have in mammals, more than one mechanism of action is possible.

    Ecdysteroids may act through a G-protein coupled receptor (GPCR), a receptor found on cell membranes that plays a role in cellular signaling. Specifically, ecdysteroids might bind to GPCRs found in the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) — an important regulator of fluids, blood volume, and vasodilation that acts within the kidney. Ecdysteroids activate the MAS1 proto-oncogene (genes that regulate cell growth and differentiation) within this system, and this could enhance muscle protein synthesis.[7][19]

    Ecdysterone also causes an influx of calcium ions into the cells, which causes an increase in the phosphorylation of Akt. Akt is a protein kinase that mediates protein synthesis, so if ecdysterone increases its activity, then this could be the mechanism through which it enhances muscle growth.[20]

    Finally, a type of estrogen receptor called estrogen receptor beta (ERβ) might be responsible for the actions of ecdysteroids in humans. The activation of ERβ has been related to muscle protein synthesis, and ecdysteroids have been shown to activate this receptor.[7]

    The current data on how ecdysteroids work in mammals, and particularly in humans, is limited, and further research into the mechanisms of action is needed.

    Update History

    Full page update

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    The FAQs were updated and additional information added. With most research being done in animals and no meta-analyses, the effects of ecdysteroids in humans remains uncertain.

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    References

    1. ^Kizelsztein P, Govorko D, Komarnytsky S, Evans A, Wang Z, Cefalu WT, Raskin I20-Hydroxyecdysone decreases weight and hyperglycemia in a diet-induced obesity mice model.Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab.(2009 Mar)
    2. ^Sundaram R, Naresh R, Shanthi P, Sachdanandam PEfficacy of 20-OH-ecdysone on hepatic key enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats.Phytomedicine.(2012 Jun 15)
    3. ^Isenmann E, Ambrosio G, Joseph JF, Mazzarino M, de la Torre X, Zimmer P, Kazlauskas R, Goebel C, Botrè F, Diel P, Parr MKEcdysteroids as non-conventional anabolic agent: performance enhancement by ecdysterone supplementation in humans.Arch Toxicol.(2019 Jul)
    4. ^Wilborn CD, Taylor LW, Campbell BI, Kerksick C, Rasmussen CJ, Greenwood M, Kreider RBEffects of methoxyisoflavone, ecdysterone, and sulfo-polysaccharide supplementation on training adaptations in resistance-trained malesJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2006 Dec 13)
    5. ^Das N, Mishra SK, Bishayee A, Ali ES, Bishayee AThe phytochemical, biological, and medicinal attributes of phytoecdysteroids: An updated review.Acta Pharm Sin B.(2021 Jul)
    6. ^Martins JP, Silva LC, Nunes MS, Rübensam G, Oliveira JR, Silva RBM, Campos MMCombined Effects of Exercise and Phytoanabolic Extracts in Castrated Male and Female Mice.Nutrients.(2021 Apr 2)
    7. ^Dinan L, Dioh W, Veillet S, Lafont R20-Hydroxyecdysone, from Plant Extracts to Clinical Use: Therapeutic Potential for the Treatment of Neuromuscular, Cardio-Metabolic and Respiratory Diseases.Biomedicines.(2021 Apr 29)
    8. ^Gorelick-Feldman J, Maclean D, Ilic N, Poulev A, Lila MA, Cheng D, Raskin IPhytoecdysteroids increase protein synthesis in skeletal muscle cells.J Agric Food Chem.(2008 May 28)
    9. ^Zwetsloot KA, Shanely RA, Godwin JS, Hodgman CFPhytoecdysteroids Accelerate Recovery of Skeletal Muscle Function Following in vivo Eccentric Contraction-Induced Injury in Adult and Old Mice.Front Rehabil Sci.(2021)
    10. ^Báthori M, Tóth N, Hunyadi A, Márki A, Zádor EPhytoecdysteroids and anabolic-androgenic steroids--structure and effects on humans.Curr Med Chem.(2008)
    11. ^Olanow CW, Calne DDoes selegiline monotherapy in Parkinson's disease act by symptomatic or protective mechanisms?Neurology.(1992 Apr)
    12. ^Seidlova-Wuttke D, Ehrhardt C, Wuttke WMetabolic effects of 20-OH-ecdysone in ovariectomized rats.J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol.(2010 Apr)
    13. ^Vestergaard PVarying effects of psychotropic medications on fracture risk in older people.Evid Based Ment Health.(2009 Feb)
    14. ^Kapur P, Wuttke W, Jarry H, Seidlova-Wuttke DBeneficial effects of beta-Ecdysone on the joint, epiphyseal cartilage tissue and trabecular bone in ovariectomized rats.Phytomedicine.(2010 Apr)
    15. ^Carme B, Mbitsi A, Moudzeo H, Ndinga M, Eozenou PDrug resistance of Plasmodium falciparum in the Congo. 2. Comparative study in vivo of chloroquine and amodiaquine in Brazzaville schoolchildren (November 1986).Bull Soc Pathol Exot Filiales.(1987)
    16. ^Farrugia M, Cutajar C, Agius JC, Wismayer PSSteroids-has the time come to extend their use to AML?J Egypt Natl Canc Inst.(2021 Mar 4)
    17. ^ Lafont, R et alEcdysteroidsEncyclopedia.(2021-12)
    18. ^Hunyadi A, Herke I, Lengyel K, Báthori M, Kele Z, Simon A, Tóth G, Szendrei KEcdysteroid-containing food supplements from Cyanotis arachnoidea on the European market: evidence for spinach product counterfeiting.Sci Rep.(2016 Dec 8)
    19. ^Lafont R, Serova M, Didry-Barca B, Raynal S, Guibout L, Dinan L, Veillet S, Latil M, Dioh W, Dilda PJ20-Hydroxyecdysone activates the protective arm of the RAAS via the MAS receptor.J Mol Endocrinol.(2021 Dec 23)
    20. ^Gorelick-Feldman J, Cohick W, Raskin IEcdysteroids elicit a rapid Ca2+ flux leading to Akt activation and increased protein synthesis in skeletal muscle cells.Steroids.(2010 Oct)
    21. ^Parr MK, Botrè F, Naß A, Hengevoss J, Diel P, Wolber GEcdysteroids: A novel class of anabolic agents?Biol Sport.(2015 Jun)
    22. ^Parr, M et alEcdysteroids as non-conventional anabolic agents: Pharmacodynamics, pharmacokinetics, and detection of ecdysterone, cited Apr 2024(2015)

    Examine Database References

    1. Testosterone - Wilborn CD, Taylor LW, Campbell BI, Kerksick C, Rasmussen CJ, Greenwood M, Kreider RBEffects of methoxyisoflavone, ecdysterone, and sulfo-polysaccharide supplementation on training adaptations in resistance-trained malesJ Int Soc Sports Nutr.(2006 Dec 13)