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Whenever the situation gets out of control, Popeye eats spinach to gain superpowers. It's been a while, but I remember him sailing his ship out of the sea on the land for miles using hand paddles. He also gets a rocket engine when Olive is far away as a hostage of Bluto and such.

enter image description here

Has it ever been addressed in-universe or out-of-universe why spinach gives Popeye superpowers? Is Popeye an alien or does he have a mutated gene for that?

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    @Valorum I remembered as well that it was also due to some scientist that misplaced his decimal point in his notes making spinach seem like some super iron food; I'm glad they mentioned that in that article as well.
    – Odin1806
    Nov 24 '17 at 17:19
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    Anyone who is thinking that Popeye is off-topic here, have a look at this: popeye.wikia.com/wiki/Rocket_to_Mars
    – Crazy Frog
    Nov 24 '17 at 17:20
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    @Odin1806 - The link above suggests that that's a myth
    – Valorum
    Nov 24 '17 at 17:23
  • @Valorum That is why I was glad they brought it up haha
    – Odin1806
    Nov 24 '17 at 17:28
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In-universe, it was mentioned on several occasions that Popeye's desire for spinach (and the enormous strength it gives him) were linked to spinach's high levels of Vitamin A.

enter image description here

Out of universe, his love of spinach (and in particular fresh and later tinned spinach) were part of an extended marketing campaign by the US government to sell more spinach, particularly to impressionable young boys, hence why he didn't start eating spinach until several years after the comic was launched, during the depression-era food crisis and why he later switched to canned spinach during the war years.


Oh, and purely apropos of nothing, the idea that spinach was the inadvertant beneficiary of a misplaced decimal place was debunked a few years back. Myth busted.

The decimal point fallacy

Now, Popeye is unlikely to have known that because he was created around 1929, featuring in his own cartoon in December 1930. A British Medical Journal paper from 1981 claimed that the fallacy of spinach being high in iron came about because the decimal point was placed in the wrong spot in the original analysis back in the 19th century, giving spinach an iron content ten times more than it was in reality.

Earlier this year, Dr Mike Sutton from Nottingham Trent University in the UK, refutes the whole argument stating that there is no evidence that a decimal point was ever placed in the wrong spot. He has even written to author of the BMJ article and says the response from the author provided no proof for the claim.

Popeye didn't eat spinach for iron

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  • Another story I remember hearing was that someone measured the iron content in spinach that had been taken from a tin, and that's what caused the tainted results. The spinach had absorbed some metal from the tin. Now I can't seem to find any evidence that this was an actually circulating story though, so someone might have made it up on the spot.
    – Mr Lister
    Nov 24 '17 at 22:24
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    This doesn't answer the question in any meaningful way. Why does vitamin A make him extra strong? Reading this you'd think it was adrenaline or something. It's an essential vitamin. It doesn't make people stronger.
    – Brythan
    Nov 25 '17 at 5:15
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    Why is Olive Oyl so.... fat? Is this the modern version, or something?
    – RonJohn
    Nov 25 '17 at 5:30
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    @Brythan - Because the comic was written in a time when Vitamin A deficiency (and its relevant conditions like night-blindness and vision loss) were a genuine fear; downstate.edu/peds/Karp/historicalnutrition.html. The entire point is that you tell kids that vitamins are a superfood.
    – Valorum
    Nov 25 '17 at 8:19
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    Another version of the iron content story is that the measurements were correct, but taken from dried plants while spinach as used in food is 90% water and that*s what caused the moved decimal point.
    – Pahlavan
    Nov 25 '17 at 22:06
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Spinach is healthy. Popeye eats a lot of spinach; it's his favorite food. So he is incredibly healthy and strong, especially right after he eats some.

It's as simple as that. Popeye explains in his song:

I'm strong to the fin-ich,

'Cause I eats me spinch.

As to whether he's an alien or mutant or something:

I yam what I yam, and that's all I yam.

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    Your last sentence won my heart.. :)
    – Crazy Frog
    Nov 24 '17 at 17:14
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    This doesn't answer the question in any meaningful way. Why is he strong because he eats his spinach?
    – Valorum
    Nov 24 '17 at 17:16
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    @Valorum Because "[s]pinach is healthy".
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 25 '17 at 10:11
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    @wizzwizz4 - That's just restating the question.
    – Valorum
    Nov 25 '17 at 10:39
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    @Valorum I don't see that anywhere in the question. Also, this is an in-universe answer where the other is an out-of-universe answer. In-universe, spinach has these properties.
    – wizzwizz4
    Nov 25 '17 at 10:46
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When I was a kid, I read that he gained the power by petting a magic bird and spinach reactivated his strength. I couldn't find a whole lot of support but Mental Floss does cover this (at the bottom).

However, in the animated version, Wimpy gained super strength through spinach at least once so it probably depends on the writer.

http://mentalfloss.com/article/54568/15-things-know-about-popeye-his-85th-anniversary

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