Health risks of fake foods and benefits of modern ergogenic dietary supplements for sports

Dr. Biol., Professor A.V. Lysenko1
PhD, Associate Professor T.A. Stepanova1
PhD, Associate Professor S.S. Vassel1
D.S. Lysenko1
1South Federal University, Rostov-on-Don

Keywords: ergogenic aids, food adulteration, fake foods, active longevity, biologically active additives, dietary supplements

Background. Modern research communities worldwide give a special priority to the adaptability building methods and models to improve the individual tolerance to physical, psycho-emotional, environmental, job-specific and informational stressors, protect health and secure an active longevity [1-4, 6, 9, 11, 12]. Many leading experts believe that rational nutrition and food safety make a special contribution to the premature aging and disease prevention efforts in the epoch of global physical inactivity and informational pressures [4, 8]. Well-designed and managed diets are known to form a basis for competitive progress in professional and amateur sports and in physical therapeutic systems [8]. Some athletes misuse dietary schemes in the efforts to improve the competitive performance in the tightened doping control situation and these schemes are often very unhealthy as they expose the athletes to the risk of injuries and premature aging rather than increase and restore the adaptability, physicality, plasticity and energy resource [2-4].
For the last two decades, the Physical Education and Sports Academy of Southern Federal University, in cooperation with the Moscow and St. Petersburg research teams, has run a variety of nutrition research projects to develop, test on a preclinical basis and implement stress-mitigation, ergogenic and geroprotective drugs for sporting/ professional/ age groups [2, 3, 5]. Modern fake foods (i.e. the foodstuffs with the actual compositions and qualities different from the formally stated ones), however, may at least nullify the efforts of nutritionists, gerontologists and other health specialists or even be lethal – e.g. in case of ethyl alcohol being accidentally replaced by methanol in alcoholic drinks.
Objective of the study was to systematize our research findings on the short-peptides- and amino-acids-based biologically active additives, their benefits and administration algorithms, and offer express tests to detect fake foods.
Methods and structure of the study. We tested and analyzed for the purposes of the study effects of more than 20 biologically active peptides on athletes and other groups exposed to different environmental and job-specific health stressors. The express test system of our design is based on refractometric technology that requires neither high-tech equipment nor special reagents, but only a portable and relatively cheap refractometer that may be mastered for a few minutes – to test a wide range of foods. Such refractometers in our tests were operated by the second-year Southern Federal University students (n=5-15) who were not familiar with the basics of refractometric tests prior to the instructions and practical training that took only 10 minutes to master the RZ-116 ATC/ RHB-90 ATC/ RHB 10 ATC and RND-025 ATC models of portable refractometers. Another group of 5-15 students (referred to as the expert group) run organoleptic tests for comparison, with the only exception for the methyl/ ethyl alcohol distinguishing tests, since they are highly unsafe and ineffective in the case. No inter-/ intra-group communication was allowed for the operators during the tests, and no one operator was given an access to the test data obtained by the others. The food samples were tested in identical containers numbered on a random basis a few minutes prior to the tests. The test data processing mathematical statistics tools computed the first-category error rate i.e. the probability of a fake food being tested as natural food; with the differences of the test data arrays rated meaningful by the Student t-test (p <0.05).
Results and discussion. Benefits of the peptides-based dietary supplements have been verified by our own experimental data and other study findings that demonstrated positive effects of short peptides (composed mostly by 3-4 amino acids) on DNA with gene expression control aspects [1-8], as demonstrated by Figure 1 hereunder. We should underline the lipid peroxidation process intensity regulation benefits of the short peptides in this context.

Figure 1. Functionality control benefits of the biologically active peptides

We run the following fake foods detection tests under the study.

Test 1 was designed to detect fake strong alcoholic drinks – i.e. those containing methyl instead of ethyl alcohol. Note that densities of the both agents and their aqueous solutions are virtually the same and, hence, hydrometer tests of their mixtures are ineffective – as well as any organoleptic test method – for the reason that the tastes and smells of both agents are the same. As for the refractive indices of the agents, they are different and may be effectively tested. Thus the refractive indexes of the 40% ethyl alcohol and methanol solutions are 1.355 and 1.3419, respectively (note that refractive index of a 17% ethanol solution in water is the same as the latter). The stronger is the alcohol solution the higher is the difference in the refractive indices. Operators were instructed to make tests of 10 alcohol samples. The refractometric tests proved highly dependable for the lethal alcohol detection purposes as 100% of the admixtures were detected by the tests.
Test 2 was run to detect fake honey in the samples including the water-diluted natural product; sugar-based fake honey; and mixtures of the latter with natural honey.
Test 3 detected counterfeit juices, with the operator required to distinguish natural apple juice from apple nectars and fake juices with sugar, citric acid and dyestuffs (“brown sugar”).
Test 4 was used to detect counterfeit edible vegetable oils, with the operator required to distinguish natural linseed oil (refractive index n=1.487) and natural hemp oil (n= 1.478) from counterfeit oil made by dilution of the natural oil with cheaper refined sunflower oil having the refractive index of 1.473.
And Test 5 was run to detect fake butter which is normally produced using palm oil and/or margarine. Molten milk fat, palm oil and margarine have the refractive indices of 1.4637, 1.4545 and1.4690, respectively, with the palm oil admixtures tested with the lower indices and margarine admixtures with the higher indices than natural product.
Conclusion. The error rates in refractometric and organoleptic tests are estimated at 0-15% and 25-45%, respectively, with this statistically significant difference giving the grounds to recommend the refractometric method for the food safety and quality assurance programs. Our experimental test data and findings of the relevant study reports showed that the analyzed short peptides and their bioactive compositions (including pinealon, cortexin, noopept etc.) may be recommended as dietary supplements alternatives to pharmacological drugs for the physical and mental performance, stress tolerance, learning ability, competitive performance and health improvement and active longevity assurance purposes.


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Objective of the study was to summarize the many years’ experience in the in-house studies on the development of optimal algorithms for using modern ergogenic aids to improve the results in elite sports, as well as enhance the healthcare effect of trainings in amateur sports (based on the nutrients approved by WADA).
Methods and structure of the study. During the experiment, we analyzed the effects of more than 20 biologically active peptides on the body of athletes and representatives of population groups, the vital activity of which is associated with the influence of various adverse environmental and professional factors. We described the authors’ express test developed on the basis of a refractometric analysis and designed to detect food adulteration, and proved its higher efficiency in comparison with the organoleptic method.
Results of the study. The perspectives of using peptide-based biologically active food additives is confirmed by a major impact of in-house experimental studies and literature data indicating the ability of short peptides (mainly consisting of 3-4 amino acids) to interact with DNA, thus regulating gene expression, which results in a large number of positive effects on the human body. An important aspect of the mechanism of action of short peptides is their effect on the intensity of lipid peroxidation.
Conclusion. The analysis of the experimental data on the mechanisms of action and effects of the studied peptides and their complexes (such as pinealon, cortexin, noopept, and many others) suggests the possibility of using biologically active food additives based on short peptides as a safe alternative to pharmacological drugs in order to increase physical working capacity and mental performance, stress tolerance, learning ability, sports records while maintaining health and achieving active longevity.