In a new study from the University of Washington, researchers found an oral supplement intended to stimulate a natural body process appears to promote muscle endurance in humans.
They that the supplement, urolithin A, may help improve or prolong muscle activity in people who are aging or who have diseases that make exercise difficult.
Urolithin A is a byproduct of a person’s gut bacteria and a diet comprising polyphenols found in pomegranates, berries and nuts.
Because diet, age, genetics and disease affect the makeup of the gut microbiome, people produce urolithin A at variable rates.
The compound also is produced and sold by dietary supplement companies.
Supplemental urolithin A has been shown to stimulate mitophagy, a process that the team explained as “mitochondrial quality control.”
Mitochondria are like batteries that power the cells in your body. But over time they break down.
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 people age.
In the study, the team tested a small group of people over age 65 who were assigned to receive a placebo or a daily supplement of 1,000 mg urolithin A for four months.
They found muscle endurance was improved in the supplemented group.
Endurance was measured with exercises involving the hand (first dorsal interosseous, between thumb and forefinger) and leg (tibialis anterior, alongside the shinbone.)
The team says the result is exciting because they demonstrate that just taking a supplement for a short duration actually improved muscle endurance. Fatigue resistance got better in the absence of exercise.
Blood tests showed that the supplement improved participants’ general metabolism.
The team says that urolithin A supplements could have the potential to benefit people who cannot get the exercise they want due to poor muscle health or disease.
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The study is published in JAMA Network Open. One author of the study is David Marcinek.
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