Did she deliver her secret? No scientific mechanism, apart from a high rate of anti-oxidants, could rationally explain the reputation of anti-aging food pomegranate. Till today. Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have discovered a novel mechanism and published their results in the journal Nature Medicine. In question, a molecule contained in the fruit that, once transformed by intestinal bacteria, becomes able to fight against the effects of aging.
Mitophagy, a key process
To understand how it works, we have to go back to the mitochondria, the small energy generators that our cells are filled with. As they age, they become less effective or even dysfunctional and are then recycled, this process being called mitophagy. With age, mitophagy also alters; it becomes slower. The cells then remain with poor mitochondria and this can cause muscle weakness, sarcopenia or age-related metabolic diseases. This is where the grenade comes in. The fruit has molecules called ellagic tannins.
After ingestion, the gut bacteria transform these ellagic tannins into urolithine A. And urolithin A, precisely, would be able to restart mitophagy. “This is the only molecule that can revive the mitochondrial cleansing mechanism,” says Patrick Aebisher, co-author of the study. It is an all-natural substance, but its effect is powerful and measurable. ” And scientists have measured it.
Urolithin A extracts
At first, the researchers tested their hypothesis on the worm C. elegans, study model acclaimed in research on aging (at 8 days, he is already an ancestor). An exposure to urolithin A has extended its life by more than 45%. Then, the experiment was also successful in rodents (mice and rats) with a stroke endurance 42% higher than in the control group (not exposed to the famous molecule). “The fact that it works in two species so far apart from one another gives us hope that it works in humans, which is the end goal of our research”, adds Johan Aumerx, co-author of study. Moreover, tests on humans have already started in European hospitals. But do not rejoice too quickly.
Everyone does not have the bacteria that can transform ellagic tannins into urolithin A (so far, only one study has looked at the proportion of the population that can do this and the figure varies from 25 to 80%). That’s why the idea of the Amazentis startup is to develop urolithin A extracts to be administered directly. To date, “trials have begun on 36 patients in a French hospital to determine the bioavailability (the amount absorbed according to the dose administered) of the molecule and its effect (assessed by monitoring mitochondrial activity markers). “” Says Pénélope Andreux, research manager at Amazentis and co-author of the study.
By imagining that your intestinal bacteria are able to synthesize urolithin A, here is a little advice before detaching the pomegranate. Ellagic tannins are present in the yellow part of the fruit, the pericarp. Exit the dried seeds that do not contain (or very little). In the juice, the content of ellagic tannins depends on the type of pomegranate, the part used … To get an idea of their presence in the fruit extract that you can consume, it is better to rely on the astringent taste they are responsible for.