Building muscle is no easy feat when you’ve taken that dreaded turn over the hill. That’s because age 40 is when inevitable age-related skeletal muscle decline begins. Diet and exercise can’t halt the decline, but they can change its trajectory. A recent study reports, however, that daily intake of urolithin A (UA) improves muscle strength in middle-aged adults by 12 percent after four months.
UA is a product of the gut microbiome – a postbiotic metabolite of ellagitannins. These are polyphenomic compounds present in some foods, such as pomegranates, berries, and walnuts. UA activates mitophagy, a process of mitochondrial renewal, essential for muscle strength and endurance.
The urolithin A study was funded by Swiss nutrition product company Amazentis SA, and used the group’s proprietary formulation called Mitopure. Findings validate urolithin A’s benefits for muscle and mitochondrial health, and is safe and well tolerated.
Previous reports show that Mitopure improved muscle endurance, reduced inflammation, and resulted in healthier mitochondrial function in adults 65 to 90 years old. This current study was conducted in 88 adults ages 40 to 64 years. Participants were randomized to receive daily supplementation of either 500mg or 1,000mg of Mitopure, or a placebo for 4 months. Muscle strength, exercise performance, biomarkers of healthy mitochondrial function, and inflammation in skeletal muscle biopsies were assessed at baseline, two months, and four months.
Muscle strength in the hamstring skeletal muscle and during knee flexion was significantly increased at both dosages of Mitopure. There were also improvements in aerobic endurance, physical performance and power output observed in the 1,000mg group, though not statistically significant.
The blood tests and biopsies showed a significant improvement in biomarkers of healthy mitochondrial function and reduced inflammation.
“These results are exciting because this is the first human demonstration that urolithin A repairs the mitochondria via mitophagy and can produce meaningful physiological benefits. Furthermore, the improvement in strength and exercise performance occurred in the absence of any changes to participants exercise routine,” explains co-author Dr. Johan Auwerx, of Ecole Polytechnique Federale De Lausanne University in Switzerland, in a statement.
UA may be an effective treatment for other age-related conditions, such as inflammatory bowel disease and osteoarthritis. About two-thirds of adults don’t produce UA, which is why supplementation may be beneficial.
“Mitochondrial decline is a key hallmark of aging and poor metabolic health,” adds Dr. Eric Verdin, president and CEO of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, and a member of the the Amazentis scientific advisory board. “This study is an important milestone and shows that urolithin A could be a gamechanger in our field.”
The study is published in the open access journal Cell Reports Medicine.