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The impact of Urolithin on ageing and human health

Magdalena Marvell, our resident Nutritionist, discusses how exercise and a nutritionally balanced diet are key when avoiding age-related metabolic diseases.

As we age, a slow decrease in muscle mass and strength is normal, but factors such as diet and exercise play a role in determining the rate of decline. To counteract this, exercise and a nutritionally balanced diet are key in preserving muscle health and avoiding age-related metabolic diseases. What if we could accelerate the process of gaining muscle strength and save money on gym expenses?

Mitochondrial dysfunction, linked to the deterioration of skeletal muscle and sarcopenia, is a factor in ageing. As we age, our cells experience a decline in their ability to clear out damaged mitochondria through a process called mitophagy. This leads to a buildup of damaged mitochondria and an increase in reactive oxygen species, which can contribute to inflammation1.

Mitophagy is a process in which the body removes damaged or old mitochondria (small structures in cells that produce energy) to keep the cells functioning properly. Think of it like cleaning out your closet – the body is getting rid of what it no longer needs so that the cell can continue to work optimally. This process is important for maintaining good health, especially as we age.

Enhancing mitochondrial health could support better muscle health as we grow older.
Previous research has shown that long-term Urolithin consumption can increase muscle endurance in older adults. The recent study by Singh et al. confirms these results in middle-aged adults. Urolithin A (UA) is a byproduct of certain plant foods, such as pomegranate, berries, and walnuts, that is produced by gut flora.

It is classified as a post-biotic. When consumed, some polyphenols are directly absorbed in the small intestine, while others are converted by digestive bacteria into other substances, some of which can be beneficial. For instance, specific types of gut bacteria can break down ellagic acid and ellagitannins into urolithins, which may enhance human health. Not everyone’s gut bacteria can efficiently convert food into urolithin A, with some producing low levels of the substance.

The study showed a connection between the levels of urolithin in urine and certain groups of gut bacteria. Further research is necessary to clarify the process by which ellagic acid and ellagitannins (polyphenols) in food turn into urolithin A.

According to research polyphenols: ellagic acid and/or ellagitannins can be found in the following dietary sources: pomegranate, strawberries, blackberries, camu-camu, walnuts, chestnuts, pistachios, pecans, brewed tea, and oaken barrel-aged wines and spirits2/3.

The selective degradation of mitochondria (the removal and recycling of dysfunctional mitochondria) by autophagy plays a crucial role in enhancing mitochondrial health.
The study by Singh at al. shows the ability of Urolithin to activate this process.

A recent study suggests that in overweight or obese, sedentary and physically unfit middle-aged adults, taking oral Urolithin at an adequate dose and for a sufficient period of time may: enhance muscle strength, boost mitophagy proteins in human skeletal muscle and various other mitochondrial indicators, improve exercise performance and aerobic capacity and be a valuable solution for individuals experiencing mitochondrial dysfunction4.

References:
1. sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1471491421001180
2. doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.05.096
3. doi.org/10.1080/10408390802064404
4. nutrition-evidence.com/article/35584623?term=35584623

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