Amaranthus Dubius

Written by Ben Bunting: BA, PGCert. (Sport & Exercise Nutrition) // British Army Physical Training Instructor // S&C Coach.

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Amaranthus Dubius is also known as red spinach. This differs from green spinach and has been identified as having a generous nutrient profile.

It has also been identified as having cardiovascular benefits by increasing nitric oxide production, dilating blood vessels and reducing blood pressure.

This is why it came to our attention, and we have included it in our 'ENERGY' supplement alongside caffeine to give you the performance edge.

In this article, we look at the origins, characteristics, nutrient breakdown and how it can benefit your sporting aspirations.

Quick Bite:

  • Amaranthus Dubius has a high nutritional content
  • It is also an effective, if not the best natural¬†source¬†to produce maximum nitric oxide levels in the blood
  • This¬†can have cardiovasuclar health benefit and physical performance benefits lasting up to 8 hours

Amaranth belongs to the Amarantaceae, Genus Amaranthus. There are more than 60 species of Amaranthus in tropical and subtropical areas.

The plant is native to South America and Mexico. It is now widely available throughout the world.

This species is found locally in France and Germany. It has also become naturalized in the tropical and subtropical areas of the United States, including Florida and Hawaii, as well as in Africa, Asia and Australia.

Amaranths are becoming increasingly important in animal and human nutrition due to their excellent nutritional composition which has been studied to understand how they can fit into our dietary requirements.

Amaranthus dubus (red spinach) is widely distributed throughout Venezuela and in other tropical and subtropical American nations, where it is considered a weed that affects various subsistence crops such as corn and sorghum, as well as several legumes.

Characteristics of Amaranthus Dubius (Red Spinach)

It usually grows between 80 and 120 centimetres. There are both red and green varieties as well as some that have mixed colors. The green color is almost indistinguishable between Amaranthus viridis.

In the tropics it flowers from summer until fall, but in subtropical climates can bloom all year. This species is ruderal, and can be found in disturbed or waste areas.

Amaranthus dubus is considered a morphologically divergent allopolyploid. Genetically, it is closely related to Amaranthus Spinosus and the other Amaranthus species. 

It is a popular leafy vegetable in South and Southeast Asia, as well as Africa. It can be eaten either raw or cooked, in thoran and bhajis. In Uganda it is usually cooked with tomatoes, onions and peanut sauce. 

Amaranthus dubus is closely related to and hard to distinguish from callaloo. It's a popular vegetable in Jamaica, North America, and United Kingdom, where there are large Jamaican and Caribbean populations.

This product is also gaining in popularity as Caribbean nationals are influencing their African-American colleagues to use it instead of collard greens or spinach (Spinaciaoleracea), especially in southern states in the United States, when these vegetables become unavailable in winter.

Exports of the product from Jamaica are made to the Caribbean and North America where it is a popular menu item, especially during the winter months and spring.

Callaloo is from the Amaranthaceae and is an extremely nutritious product. Like collard greens it is high in vitamins A and k and a good source for potassium and calcium.

This staple is a trend that has emerged amongst the ethnically diverse populations of major metropoles who eat more and more foods from their native countries.

The Importance of Cultivating Amaranthus Dubius 

Amaranthus is the most popular leafy green vegetable in tropical regions due to its mild taste, high yields, and palatable leaves and stems. It also has a high nutritional value and can grow in hot weather.

During harvest, it can account for as much as 25% of the daily protein consumption in some African societies.

Amaranthus dubus is the most common Amaranthus used in coastal Kenya, Tanzania and the lowland areas adjacent.

In commercial gardens, it is grown as a single crop through direct sowing. However, in home gardens, this plant is usually intercropped.

It is a C4 photosynthesis plant that grows quickly under heat or drought stress. It can also tolerate a variety of soil conditions, including acid, saline and alkaline. The high content of protein has a positive impact on malnutrition.

Nutritional Value

Achigan-Dako and colleagues report the nutritional content of A. dubus. per 100 g of fresh weight (FW) is:

  • 3.5 g of protein
  • 3.1 mg vitamin A
  • 78 mg ascorbic acid
  • 582 mm calcium
  • 3.4 mm iron
  • 1.5 mm zinc

These results are similar to those reported by Alegbejo (2013: per 100g FW,

  • 4.6g protein
  • 8.3g carbohydrate
  • 419mg calcium
  • 8.9mg iron
  • 0.05mg thiamine
  • 0.42mg riboflavin
  • 1.2mg niacin
  • 64mg ascorbic acid

A. dubius had the highest calcium content (336.47+0.9 mg/100g FW), and iron content (18.64+0.23 mg/100g FW), of all five leafy Amaranthus varieties grown in Kenya.

One cup of amaranthus leaves cooked and drained provides 90% of the daily requirement for ascorbic acid and 73% of vitamin A. It also supplies 28% calcium, 17% iron and 28% calcium.

While cooking increases the bioavailability and reduces the antinutrient content of certain nutrients, such as iron, zinc, calcium, and calcium.

Red Spinach Extract Health Benefits

The phytochemistry of A. dubius has not been studied in depth. However, a qualitative screening indicates that the major classes of compounds found in the plant are vitamins (B6, C, A and Folate), phenols and flavonoids.

Amaranthus species contain, among other things, rutin, caempferol, hyperoside, isoquercetin, quercetin, catechin, apigenin, naringenin, myricetin, and naringenin.

Cognitive Health 

These phytocompounds have been shown to enhance cognitive function. Vitamin K, for example, is known to prevent neural destruction in brain tissue, so its consumption is recommended by alzheimer disease (AD) patients.

Further, flavonoids, alkaloids, and other compounds have been shown to inhibit oxidative stresses, amyloidogenesis, and inflammation. This is a key mechanism in AD pathogenesis. 

This study, published in 2023, provides empirical evidence of the therapeutic efficacy aqueous A. dubious leaf extract for reversing cognitive dysfunction by inhibiting oxidative stress.

The study concluded that A. dubius may have enhanced cognitive function through diverse mechanisms associated with its phytochemical principals.

The effect may have been achieved through a variety of mechanisms related to its phytochemical constituents.

A. was found to have therapeutic potential. Dubius is effective in treating memory impairments similar to AD.

A. dubius is a candidate that could provide several leads to develop potential novel agents for the management of AD. 

Obesity

In Kenya, Amaranthus dubious is used as traditional remedies to treat obesity, but their use is not supported by scientific evidence.

This extract contain various phytochemicals including saponins and flavonoids. It also also contains alkaloids and steroids. This 2017 study validates the use of this plants to suppress obesity.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

In a 2015 study it was demonstrated that Amaranthus dubius showed the greatest inhibition of TNF-őĪ (an inflammatory cytokine) when compared against other Kenyan¬†medicinal plants.

Anti-Cancer

A study published in 2004 investigated the effects red spinach had on cancer cells.

It was found that in the laboratory tests, red spinach had a positive effect on cancer cells, and had a more beneficial effect than the anti-cancer drug glycyrrhizin at its suggested dose. 

Physical Performance 

The extract of red spinach is said to improve digestion, and gastrointestinal health, boost immunity and help with weight loss.

Red spinach extract contains a high concentration of inorganic nitrogen (NO3), which is known to cause the accumulation of plasma-nitrite.

Anaerobic bacteria reduce NO3 to NO2 once it is consumed.

After NO2 has been metabolized in the stomach mucosa, it is further reduced and leads to the formation nitric dioxide (NO).

As a messenger biological, NO causes hyperemia, improves metabolic efficiency and regulates blood pressure.

This reported level of nitrates, plus other vitamins, minerals and electrolytes can contribute towards improved exercise performance. Let's take a look at what research is available.

Red Spinach and Nitric Oxide

In this 2016 study it was demonstrated that when compared to placebo, the NO3- level in saliva and plasma was significantly higher in the red spinach group than the placebo group after administration.

The red spinach-treated group had a significantly higher salivary NO2-level than the placebo group.

These results clearly show that an oral dose of amaranth can increase NO3-and NO2-levels in the body for a minimum of 8 hours.

Increased NO3-and NO2-levels can improve overall performance in people who engage in sports or vigorous physical activity.  

Increased Exercise Intensity

The Sports Journal of Switzerland reported findings in a 2017 study that demonstrated 1000mg of red spinach extract as a nutritional complement, may induce an ergogenic reaction by delaying the ventilatory threshold.

Time to Exhaustion

It has been shown in a 2020 study that red spinach extract increases the time until exhaustion when performing high-intensity exercise, and this results in an increase of exhaled nitrogen oxide. 

Aerobic Capacity

The aerobic capacity of young males who are physically active can be improved by using dietary NO3 from amaranth for a long period (6 days) as per this 2022 study.

You can use it as a nutritional supplement in the last week before a competition.

Cycling Performance

A published article in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning reported that red spinach extract supplementation Increases Cycling Time Trial Performance of Recreationally Active Women and Men.

Reduced Fatigue

Ingestion of red spinach extract led to large increases in NO2 in the plasma.

Recent data suggests that red spinach extract taken acutely may prevent fatigue when sprinting at high intensity intermittently. This may lead to improved competition or game play.

This indicates that red spinach extract, while it may not have increased power output, may have allowed a greater power maintenance. 

Red Spinach for High Blood Pressure

Red Spinach Extract is reported to be a source of dietary nitric oxide. It increases plasma levels of NO3 and NO2 30 minutes after consumption.

Nitric Oxide is a naturally-produced vasodilator which controls and regulates the vascular tone, and thus controls and regulates the blood pressure. 

In the last 40 years, research has shown that the loss of nitric-oxide production, also known as endothelial dysfunction, is the first event leading to hypertension.

The body produces nitric oxide naturally, which is crucial to maintaining cardiovascular health.

It is a vasodilator. This means that it relaxes and widens blood vessels.

Nitric oxide increases blood circulation and helps lower blood pressure by reducing the strain on the cardiovascular system.

Red Spinach and Haemoglobin 

Consuming red spinach (Amaranthus Tricolor L.) extract can have a positive effect on your health.

It has been found to increase haemoglobin levels, hematocrit levels and erythrocytes of postpartum mothers as per this study. 

Red Spinach Side Effects

While it is difficult to find any side effects directly related to red spinach, it should share many characteristics with green spinach.

Red spinach extract is safe for most users. Some individuals may experience mild side-effects such as nausea, diarrhea, or gastrointestinal discomfort.

The side effects of these drugs are usually temporary and disappear with continued use. These symptoms are rare, and most users do not experience them.

The severity and frequency can vary between individuals.

The likelihood that you will experience discomfort can be affected by factors such as your tolerance, the dosage and your overall health. 

It is important to seek medical advice if you experience any of the side effects.

Conclusion

Red spinach extract is a natural supplement made from the leaves of red spinach plants. It contains bioactive compounds like nitrates and vitamins A and C.

These nutrients have evidence demonstrating that they can support blood pressure regulation and cardiovascular health. Furthermore, there is a lot of new evidence showing how beneficial it can be for athletes.

Red spinach extract is a promising natural remedy that can be used by individuals who are looking to improve their health.

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