Researchers from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) have discovered a molecule in pomegranates that could help muscle cells protect themselves against one of the main causes of aging. The only catch: the pomegranate molecule must be converted into the anti-aging ingredient by specific microbes that inhabit the intestines—but only the intestines of some people.
Here's how it works: normal cells regularly swap out old "batteries," known as mitochondria, for new ones through a process called mitophagy. As you age, that process breaks down and faulty mitochondria begin to build up in your cells. This is what causes weakness in aging muscles along with other age-related diseases such as Parkinson's. The scientists discovered that a molecule called urolithin A is able to reboot the renewal process of mitophagy and thereby slow down cells' aging process. In a study of nematode C. elegans, a popular research subject because of the worm's 10-day lifespan, exposure to urolithin A resulted in them living more than 45% longer. In studies with two-year-old mice, the aging rodents had 42% better running endurance when exposed to urolithin A. Human studies are currently being held to test a urolithin A supplement, which would bypass the need for specific gut bacteria.