A new study has shown that apples and green tomatoes have a couple of naturally occurring compounds that can prevent muscle loss during a person’s later years.
Dr. Christopher Adams, professor of internal medicine with the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine, offered a statement mentioning that “Many of us know from our own experiences that muscle weakness and atrophy are big problems as we become older”.
But while this is a well known fact, this is the first study that managed to explain how muscles lose strength and mass, and why this can become an issue when people get older. Dr. Adams and his colleagues also hope that their work will be used to develop better, more efficient treatments.
The Iowa research team has discovered that a protein called “ATF4” is responsible for the muscle loss and muscle weakness often experienced by elderly individuals. ATF4 is referred to as a transcription factor with a role to play in the expression of specific genes in skeletal muscle. This process reduces the synthesis, strength and mass of muscle protein.
But the good news is that previous research conducted by the same team has found that two naturally occurring compounds that can be found in apples and green tomatoes do in fact prevent muscle loss triggered by starvation and inactivity. These two compounds have now also proven to be effective in reducing ATF4’s activity.
One of the compounds is called “ursolic acid” and is commonly found in apple peel, the other compound is called “tomatidine” and is commonly found in green tomatoes. After Dr. Adams and his colleagues discovered the ATF4 protein, they decided to test whether or not these compounds may also be used to prevent age related muscle loss.
For their experiment, the researchers selected some elderly mice that had problems with age related muscle loss, as well as atrophy. They split them in a few different groups – the first was fed a diet 0.27 percent (0.27%) ursolic acid, the second was fed a died containing 0.05 percent (0.05%) tomatidine, and the third was fed a died that did not contain either of the compounds.
Two months later, the researchers studied the physical condition of the mice. They noticed that the animals who had been fed either one of the two compounds benefited from an increase of roughly 10 percent (10%) in muscle mass, and an increase of roughly 30 percent (30%) in muscle strength. These changes mean that the muscles were so repaired that they almost resembled the muscle quality that young adult mice have.
Dr. Adams’ conclusion was that “Based on these results, ursolic acid and tomatidine appear to have a lot of potential as tools for dealing with muscle weakness and atrophy during aging”.
He went on to add that there’s a change the two compounds may be used “as tools to find a root cause of muscle weakness and atrophy during aging”.
It’s worth mentioning that ursolic acid and tomatidine are successful in preventing muscle loss because they deactivate a number of genes that ATF4 usually activates. What this means is that if an individual does not have the ATF4 protein in their skeletal muscle, they will see no benefit from these compounds.
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