Pomegranate Metabolite Improves Mitochondrial and Muscle Function?


Urolithin A, a metabolite found in pomegranates and other nuts, may enhance muscle strength and endurance in aging populations, according to new preclinical study results.

Photo © iStockphoto.com/&#169 Alexei Zaycev

Photo © iStockphoto.com/&#169 Alexei Zaycev

Urolithin A, a metabolite found in pomegranates, may enhance mitochondrial function and muscle strength in aging populations, according to new preclinical study results announced by biotech company Amazentis SA (Lausanne, Switzerland). Based on the promising early findings, Amazentis says it will move forward with clinical research on urolithin A.

Writing in Nature Medicine, researchers found that urolithin A from pomegranate improved mitochondrial activity in Caenorhabditis elegans nematodes and improved exercise capacity in two mouse models of age-related muscle decline. Urolithin A is generated by gut microflora as a metabolite of ellagitannins, a class of compounds found in fruits and nuts.

“We are excited to publish the first data that demonstrate the effects of this gut metabolite on mitochondrial and muscle function,” said Johan Auwerx, one author of the study. “We believe this research is a milestone in current anti-aging efforts, which have previously focused on traditional pharmaceutical modalities, and illustrates the opportunity of rigorously tested nutritional bioactive agents that we consider to have outstanding potential for human health.”


Study details

Researchers explained that urolithin A improves mitochondrial function by stimulating mitophagy, which recycles damaged mitochondria to permit healthy mitochondrial function. In the C. elegans nematode model, urolithin A was found to prevent accumulation of dysfunctional mitochondria. The metabolite also “prolonged normal activity during aging in C. elegans, increasing mobility and pharyngeal pumping, while maintaining mitochondrial respiratory capacity,” researchers wrote.

Additional beneficial effects were found in rodents. In a model of young rats and two different mouse models of age-related decline in muscle function, urolithin A was found to improve exercise capacity. Based on the nematode and rodent models, researchers concluded that urolithin A may offer benefits to mitochondrial and muscle function, especially in aging populations.

“Mitophagy declines in cells as we age, and the reduction in mitochondrial function in the muscles of the elderly is thought to be one of the main causes of age-related muscle impairment,” said Patrick Aebischer, one author of the study and co-founder of Amazentis. “We believe our research, uncovering the health benefits of urolithin A, holds promise in reversing muscle aging.”

With the promising preclinical study results under its belt, Amazentis is evaluating urolithin A in a first human clinical trial. Results are expected in 2017.

“We believe that this discovery will open the door to a new approach for managing muscle decline by rejuvenating mitochondria,” said Chris Rinsch, PhD, one author of the study and CEO and co-founder of Amazentis.


Read more:

Ingredient Spotlight: Pomegranate

Superfruit Stars: Where Are They Now? Acai, Gogi, and Pomegranate

Whey Protein’s Role in the Healthy-Aging Market


Michael Crane
Associate Editor
Nutritional Outlook Magazine


Ryu D et al., “Urolithin A induces mitophagy and prolongs lifespan in C. elegans and increases muscle function in rodents,” Nature Medicine. Published online July 11, 2016.

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