Dietary supplement Urolithin A can improve muscular endurance

The onset of age and disease impacts the body in many ways. One of which is the manner and efficiency of cellular breakdown and regeneration in muscle tissue. A recent study shows that oral ingestion of Urolithin A leads to advancements in muscle endurance and fatigue resistance. Researchers and the medical community are optimistic that this new research will aid individuals who cannot regularly exercise due to age or disease in cellular and muscular functions.

Significance of Urolithin A

Urolithin A is naturally a byproduct of the proper combination of an antioxidant-rich diet and the good bacteria in the gut. The compound, which can be bought in pill form from health stores, is also naturally occurring in pomegranates, strawberries, blackberries, and various nuts including pistachios, walnuts, and pecans. For humans however, due to the onset of age or certain diseases, the production of Urolithin A occurs irregularly. While ideally, the body would naturally produce the compound, it can also be a dietary supplementation.

Urolithin A is a naturally occurring compound found in pomegranates, berries, and nuts. (Photo by Laura Beutner on Unsplash)

The importance of Urolithin A in the body centers around a particular process of cellular breakdown and regeneration known as mitophagy. 

“Mitochondria are like batteries that power the cells in your body […] But over time they break down. The process of mitophagy recognizes this failure and proactively tears down the mitochondria, reducing it to elemental components that a cell can reuse. But with aging, mitophagy becomes less efficient and your body accumulates this pool of failing mitochondria. It’s one way that muscles become less functional as we age,” explains David Marcinek in a statement. Marcinek is the lead author of the study and a professor of radiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Study Components

In a recent study, researchers examined a study group of 66 individuals over age 65. All research group individuals had an average or below-average capacity to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP production happens in the mitochondria, the cellular powerhouse, to perform cellular metabolic functions

Randomly, the study group was divided into two categories. One subcategory received a placebo for four months. The other subcategory received 1,000mg of Urolithin A daily for four months. 

Results of the Study

At the beginning of the study, researchers speculated that the addition of the Urolithin A oral supplement would stimulate mitophagy with greater efficiency, and individuals would see advancements in muscle operation and more ATP creation.

Researchers found that two muscular tests supported their initial hypothesis. However, the other two test results remained relatively the same in both study subcategories.

A comparison of improvements in muscular endurance between the forefinger and thumb as well as the muscles along the shinbone showed improvements following ingestion of the Urolithin A supplement. However, advancement in mileage increased over a 6-minute walking period, and improvements in ATP production showed no significant difference between those taking the placebo and those taking Urolithin A.

Although only half of the tests showed significant improvements in test subjects taking Urolithin A, researchers find the results promising because leaps in muscular endurance and performance happened in a short amount of time after taking the supplement.

Future Research Benefits

Researchers remain hopeful that a continuation of cellular and muscular studies will show more evidence of metabolic improvements with supplementation of specific compounds. Those contributing to this particular study of Urolithin A and the onset of more efficient mitophagy, along with an increase in ATP generation think this new insight will help individuals get over the initial challenge of starting an exercise routine.

“Just getting them over that point where exercise is possible – a walk around the block or climbing some stairs – might help a person build their own health,” adds Marcinek.

An increase in the ability to begin an initial exercise routine will hopefully promote a continuation of physical activity that leads to greater muscular strength and endurance for individuals over the years despite other physical diseases or setbacks.

This study is published in JAMA Network Open.

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