As a lover of pomegranates—I could sit for hours just picking them apart seed by seed—I was excited to learn about a recent discovery that makes this superfruit even more super. Scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) and the company Amazentis have discovered that a molecule in pomegranates (when transformed inside the body—specifically the gut—after you eat them) enables muscle cells to protect themselves against one of the major causes of aging.
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The premise of the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, is that with age, the cells in our bodies struggle to salvage energy-supplying mitochondria (powerful cells that experts argue that the number and functionality of the mitochondria in a person’s body can determine their lifespan) and therefore become deteriorated. This process results affects the health of many tissues, including skin and muscles, which weaken with time.
Findings show that the molecule found in pomegranates converts to something called urolithin A inside the body. “Urolithin A is a molecule highlighted by scientists that can keep mitochondria healthy,” says celebrity nutritionist Paula Simpson. “The aging process is characterized by sluggish cellular metabolism (including the mitochondria). It is proposed that dysfunctional mitochondria are the cause of accelerated aging and chronic disease.”
Simpson adds that although this is very preliminary research and based on an animal study (clinical trials on humans are now underway), researchers can continue to look at how pomegranates may offer anti-aging benefits, which is very interesting. “The downside to this study is the fact that certain strains of microbes must be present in the gut to convert the precursor ingredient found in pomegranates.” Needless to say, if your body doesn’t contain these strains, you won’t benefit.
But, there are so many nutritional benefits of eating the plump pink fruit, so either way, you’re getting something good. “Pomegranates offer a rich source of antioxidant polyphenols and have grown in popularity due to their reported health benefits,” says Simpson. “Clinical studies have shown that pomegranates, when ingested orally, may offer photo-protective, antimicrobial and collagen-stimulating properties in human skin.”
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