Scientists are constantly on the search for the best anti-aging cure, and are now turning their attention to the mitochondria in cells. These mitochondria are small energy generators which takes nutrients, break them down, and creates energy rich molecules for the cell. Depending on the need of each cell, the mitochondria adjust in numbers accordingly; muscle cells need a lot of energy and have a greater number as opposed to neurons that transmit nerve impulses and don’t need as many. When mitochondria become old, they become less efficient and they are recycled into new mitochondria – a process called mitophagy. However, with age, this process becomes sluggish and cells end up with bad or defective mitochondria which can lead to age related health issues including muscle weakness and Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers are now looking into the effects of pomegranates in re-establishing the mitophagy process in cells to help counteract the aging process. Pomegranates not only contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, but they also consist of compounds called ellagitannins that are hydrolized to ellagic acid in the intestines or metabolized into urolithins by gut flora. It was discovered that one urolithin in particular, urolithin A, caused cells to get rid of these damaged mitochondria and in turn, increased production of healthy mitochondria to replace them. Testing on roundworms resulted in prolonged lifespan by as much as 50% and in rats and mice it improved muscle function.
Patrick Aebischer, co-author of the study, noted that urolithin A obtained from pomegranates is the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process known as mitophagy. It is also a completely natural substance which is powerful and measurable. The production of Urolithin A varies according to the flora present in the gut microbiome and varies depending on the species of animal. There are some individuals who do not produce the correct flora at all, and drinking pomegranate juice will not be of any benefit to them. However, Amazentis, a start-up company has developed a method of delivering finely calibrated doses of urolithin A which is currently being tested in the first rounds of human clinical trials in Europe.
Discovering this compound in pomegranates has opened the door to further research in anti-aging studies, using natural ingredients that are commonly available and can be extremely powerful. Although a lot more research is required, the potential of this compound is enormous in discovering the ultimate anti-aging cure.