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article imageAre pomegranates the next super-food?

By Tim Sandle     Jul 12, 2016 in Food
Pomegranates could be the next super-food, at least because of its anti-aging properties. New research has shown how a chemical in the fruit, when processed by gut bacteria, helps protect muscle cells.
Specifically the process enables muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the main causes of aging. As the body ages, the mitochondria components in cells lose the ability to produce energy and begin to degrade. The degradation (termed mitophagy) affects tissues and muscles, causing weakening. There could also be a connected with neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s disease (although the direct link here is uncertain.)
This process could be reversible. French scientists have found a molecule that can re-activate a cell's ability to recycle the components of defective mitochondria. This molecule is called urolithin A. The molecule, in a sense, activates a cellular clean-up process.
Urolithin A is an urolithin, a type of microflora human metabolite of dietary ellagic acid derivatives.
Studies have been conducted in nematode worms and rodents. With worms (biologists’ favourite tool, the transparent Caenorhabditis elegans), the lifespan of worms exposed to urolithin A increased by more than 45 percent, when compared with a control group.
With mice, there was similar evidence that a robust cellular recycling process took place. With older mice, around two years of age, there was a 42 percent improved endurance when the mice were subjected to exercise tests, where the mice administered urolithin A were compared with a control group.
So what has this to do with pomegranates? Pomegranates do not contain urolithin A, but they do contain a precursor molecule. When the fruit is ingested, bacteria that inhabit the intestine convert the precursor molecule into urolithin A. This creates a degree of variability since the amount of urolithin A produced (or whether urolithin A is produced at all) depends on the composition of the gut bacteria (the microbiome.)
While the animal research has proved successful, clinical trials will be required in order to demonstrate the effects in people. To overcome the variability with gut flora, a Swiss company called Amazentis, has developed a method to deliver finely calibrated doses of urolithin A to a human subject. This substance will be used in the planned clinical trials.
Not all scientists are impressed. Paul Brookes (@PSBROOKES), for example, tweeted: "Here we go again, massive overhyping of "anti-aging" small molecule in C. elegans..."
The research, conducted at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, has been published in the journal Nature Medicine. The research paper is titled “Urolithin A induces mitophagy and prolongs lifespan in C. elegans and increases muscle function in rodents.”
More about superfood, Antiaging, mitochondria, Cells, Pomegranates
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