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Supplement Savvy: More Questions, MOHR Answers - 09-06-04!

Let's take a look at the first study of its kind in humans to measure the activity of one of the many products of myostatin available.

Myostatin Binding Supplements

If there was a food or supplement that could cause our muscle to grow like weeds, I'm sure we would all be fighting over every last bottle. On the contrary, it is understood by most that no single food or supplement can have that effect. However, a fairly recent supplement on the market may lead you to believe your muscles can explode by taking a certain amount per day. This supplement is known as a myostatin binding product, in which the active ingredient is an algae, known as cystoseira canariensis.

Without boring you to death in detail, here's a simple overview. Myostatin is something in the bodies of animals (humans included) that essentially regulates muscle mass. There is data showing that when myostatin is blocked in the body, muscles virtually continue to grow. Now don't get overly excited, this data comes primarily from rhodents and cattle and there are no studies to date to demonstrate that these recently popular myostatin binding products actually work.

However, of course there's always promise, so let's take a look at the first study of its kind in humans to measure the activity of one of the many products available.

The Study

This was a double-blind, 12-week study in which 22 untrained men, meaning they followed no consistent training schedule prior to the study, were randomly assigned to either the myostatin group of the placebo group. Remember from earlier Supplement Savvy articles that double-blind, random assignment means that neither group knows what supplement they are consuming and they are assigned to whichever product randomly (like flipping a coin).

This is one of many steps that allows researchers to effectively compare the products at hand, without providing subjects with a product they "know" or "feel" should work. The impact of that "feeling" alone can skew the results. Anyhow, all subjects had blood samples taken at baseline, 6, and 12 weeks, underwent various strength tests at baseline, 3, 6, 9 and 12 weeks, and had anthropometric and body composition testing done at baseline, 6 and 12 weeks.

During the study, subjects trained 3 days/week for approximately 75 minutes/session. All sessions were supervised and specific exercises were provided for all subjects. Those in the MYO group received 1200 mg of the myostatin binding product, divided into 4 equal doses each day (as per the company guidelines) and the placebo group received an equal amount of placebo tablets. Subjects were asked keep diet records, but were asked to not change their diets.


At the end of 12 weeks, the author of the study found no significant differences between groups for any of the body composition or anthropometric variables. Both groups did increase the strength, thigh volume and mass significantly over the 12 week period; however, there were no significant differences between groups meaning the supplement wasn't the important variable.

Moral of the story: myostatin binder supplements provide no additional benefit to resistance training in the specific population utilized (or in my opinion, any population).

Although previous data in rhodents has shown that when they are injected with specific myostatin binding antibodies, muscle mass increases, the claims from supplement companies marketing their products to have the same effect are misleading.

Although it could be that the dose recommended (1200 mg) is too low, I do not believe that this is an effective supplement. In my opinion, the hype surrounding such a product will soon die down.