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Urolithin A, a compound derived from walnuts and pomegranates, restores aging muscles.

Mitochondria are the key organelles responsible for cellular energy production. Mitochondrial dysfunction, a hallmark of aging, occurs over time as reactive oxygen species damage vulnerable mitochondrial membranes and energy production becomes less efficient. A consequence of mitochondrial dysfunction is the loss of muscle mass and strength. Findings from a recent study suggest that urolithin A, a compound derived from walnuts and pomegranates, promotes mitophagy, increases muscle strength, and improves performance.

Urolithin A is a metabolic byproduct of ellagic acid, a bioactive compound found in walnuts and pomegranates. Bacteria in the human gut break down ellagic acid to produce urolithins. Scientists have identified about 20 urolithins, but the most studied of these is urolithin A, which exerts potent anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties.

Mitophagy is a type of autophagy, an intracellular program involved in the disassembly and recycling of unnecessary or dysfunctional cellular components, that selectively targets mitochondria. It helps ensure that the body’s cells are metabolically efficient and ultimately serves as a trigger for mitochondrial biogenesis, the process by which new mitochondria are produced. Failures in mitophagy are associated with several chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and Alzheimer’s disease

The study involved 88 healthy adults (40 to 65 years old) who had overweight. The investigators randomly assigned two groups of the participants to receive either 500 or 1,000 milligrams of urolithin A daily for four months. Another group received a placebo. Before and after the intervention, the investigators measured the participants' muscle strength, aerobic endurance (VO2 max, peak oxygen consumption), physical performance, and markers of inflammation, mitochondrial function, and mitophagy.

They found that compared to participants who took the placebo, the participants who took the urolithin A supplement exhibited a roughly 12 percent increase in muscle strength following the intervention. The participants who took the urolithin A also showed improvements in aerobic endurance, physical performance, and mitochondrial function and had higher levels of proteins involved in mitophagy and mitochondrial metabolism in their muscle tissue.

These findings suggest that urolithin A increases muscle strength, improves performance, and promotes mitophagy and mitochondrial function. Walnuts are excellent sources of urolithin A. See the story below to read about how eating walnuts reduces the risk of premature death and promotes longevity.

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