New research has found that apples and green tomatoes have naturally occurring compounds that prevent age related muscle loss.
A team of researchers from Iowa have offered proof of the existence of a protein responsible for muscle weakness and muscle loss in an individual’s later years. But the compounds in apples and green tomatoes have been shown to reduce the protein’s activity.
Dr. Christopher Adams, senior study author and professor of internal medicine from the University of Iowa, the Carver College of Medicine, gave a statement saying that “Many of us know from our own experiences that muscle weakness and atrophy are big problems as we become older”. He and his colleagues are hopeful that their research will help field experts develop new, more efficient treatments.
The study marks a great achievement as no one has been able to explain until now how muscles lose mass and strength and why this becomes an issue once people get older. The process is well known, but its mechanisms aren’t.
The unfriendly protein is known as “ATF4”. The researchers describe it as a transcription factor which has an influence on the expression of some genes found in skeletal muscle. This in turn reduces the synthesis, mass strength of muscle protein.
In the past, Dr. Adams and his colleagues also identified two (2) naturally occurring compounds that prevent muscle loss caused by starvation and inactivity. One of them is know as “ursolic acid” and can be taken from apple peel, the other is known as “tomatidine” and can be taken from green tomatoes.
After the discovery of the ATF4 protein, they thought they’d test the above mentioned compounds to see if they could also prevent muscle loss caused by aging.
For their project, the researchers picked out a number of elderly mice who suffered from age related muscle loss and atrophy. They split their subjects in several groups, some of which were put on a diet containing the one (1) of the two (2) compounds, and some of which were put on a diet lacking the two (2) compounds. Ursolic acid was given in an amount of 0.27%, whereas tomatidine was given in an amount of 0.05%.
After two months of feeding their subjects the same diets, the researchers looked at the condition that the mice’s muscles were in. The subjects who were given either of the two (2) compounds saw an increase in muscle mass of about 10 percent (10%), and an increase in muscle strength of about 30 percent (30%).
The change was so significant that it basically restored the muscle quality to that seen in young adult mice.
Dr. Adams concluded 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 and his colleagues also speculate that they may be able to use the two (2) compounds “as tools to find a root cause of muscle weakness and atrophy during aging”.
So far, they know that ursolic acid and tomatidine work by deactivating a set of genes that the ATF4 protein usually activates. Their tests have also proven that mice who did not have ATF4 in their skeletal muscle saw no benefit from ursolic acid and tomatidine.
The study was published earlier this week, in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
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