Pomegranates have long been held as a superfruit, and over the past few years have become quite the mainstay in popular diets. But researchers at Switzerland’s École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne have discovered that a molecule inside pomegranate seeds changes once it hits the microbes living in the gut. This change has beneficial effects on aging in humans; specifically it strengthens muscle cells by protecting themselves against the effects of aging. The findings were recently published in the journal Nature Medicine.
The pomegranate fruit itself has a long history; its use can be dated as far back as 4,000 BCE. It’s a difficult fruit to eat because its interior is mostly comprised hundreds of seeds, each surrounded by a pulpy sac filled with juice. Many people don’t eat the seeds and discard them after sucking out the juice, but in order to reap the anti-aging benefits, the seeds need to be eaten in their entirety.
The science behind the anti-aging properties of the pomegranate have to do with a process called mitophagy, which is simply the renewal of old metabolic cells. As we age, this process of renewal slows down and contributes to aging muscles and muscle weakness. The mitochondria are where cell respiration and energy creation take place, and mitochondria that aren’t working properly may contribute to age-related diseases, such as Parkinson’s.
Also found within a pomegranate seed are ellagitannins molecules, which transform into a compound called urolithin A once inside the gut. However, not all people have the proper gut bacteria to allow this change to happen, so these individuals might not be able to benefit from the anti-aging effects of pomegranates. The study’s researchers believe urolithin A is the only compound that can help reboot the recycling processes of mitochondria, which in turn can help prevent aging and strengthen muscles.
Other Anti-Aging Foods that Boost Aging Muscles
If pomegranates aren’t your thing, there are other food options that may also help slow down the aging process. The following five foods are superfoods in their own right and should be incorporated into at least a few meals each week. Do they help strengthen muscles like pomegranates? Who knows, but there are many other benefits to these foods, so eating them will certainly contribute to feelings of wellness and vitality.
- Olive oil
- Red wine (in moderation)
- Dark chocolate
Dongryeol Ryu, et al., “Urolithin A Induces Mitophagy and Prolongs Lifespan in C. elegans and Increases Muscle Function in Rodents,” Nature Medicine, 2016; doi:10.1038/nm.4132.