The findings showed that when we drink pomegranate juice, our body produces Urolithin A — a molecule.
When this molecule gets transformed by microbes in the gut, it enables the muscle cells to protect themselves against ageing and also increases the muscle mass.
As we age, our cells increasingly struggle to recycle the mitochondria — powerhouse of cells — and are no longer able to carry out their vital function and thus gets accumulated in the cell.
This degradation affects the health of many tissues, including muscles, which gradually weaken over the years and leads to age-related various diseases.
Urolithin A has been found to re-establish the cell’s ability to recycle the components of the defective mitochondria.
“It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy,” said Patrick Aebischer, President, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne — a research institute in Switzerland.
“It’s a completely natural substance, and its effect is powerful and measurable,” Aebischer added.
For the study, the team tested their hypothesis on the nematode C.elegans – roundworm – which is considered elderly, after just 8-10 days.
The lifespan of worms exposed to urolithin A increased by more than 45 per cent compared with the control group.
In the rodent studies, older mice, around two years of age, exposed to urolithin A showed 42 per cent better endurance while running than equally old mice in the control group.
However, pomegranate itself doesn’t contain the miracle molecule, but rather its precursor, the researchers said.
Depending on the species of animal and the flora present in the gut microbiome, the amount of urolithin A produced can vary widely.
For those without the right microbes in their guts, urolithin A are not produced, they noted.
“For urolithin A to be produced in our intestines, the bacteria must be able to break down what we’re eating. When, via digestion, a substance is produced that is of benefit to us, natural selection favours both the bacteria involved and their host,” explained Chris Rinsch, CEO of Amazentis — a life sciences company in Switzerland.
Rinsch also said precursors to urolithin A are found not only in pomegranates, but also in smaller amounts in many nuts and berries.