Are you getting enough urolithin A? Why superfoods may not be the answer to longevity

Urolithin A is a powerful antiaging agent, but not everyone’s body is making enough – so what can be done?

Superfoods are often touted as the answer to health questions and the secret to long life, but the reality is that if your gut is not in the right condition, those benefits may be going in one end and out the other without really helping at all – this why scientists in Switzerland developed Mitopure, a urolithin A supplement.

Longevity.Technology sponsored content: Rather than getting to the heart of the matter, it’s time to get to the gut. There are about one hundred trillion microorganisms that call the human gastro-intestinal tract home; most of these are bacteria, but they also share the space with viruses, fungi and simple, single-celled organisms called protozoa. To complicate matters, different people host different microorganisms as a result of their genetics, diet, age, antibiotic use and even how they were delivered as a baby.

A microbiome that is diverse and balanced is more capable and resilient, but because the key to how we use certain nutrients may rest on the composition of our microbiome, it can mean that beneficial compounds such as polyphenols are running a gauntlet of whether they can be harnessed by the right microorganism.

The microbiome produces postbiotics, health-promoting compounds that are created as metabolic by-products by our gut microorganisms. One of these that is garnering a lot of interest in the longevity space is urolithin A, a powerful postbiotic synthesised by the microbiome from polyphenolic compounds in pomegranates, berries and nuts and leading to pomegranates taking centre stage in the superfood line-up.

Urolithin A is a metabolite generated by the gut microbiome from types of polyphenol called ellagitannins; urolithin A can act as a potent antiaging agent, playing a role in helping cells to replace worn-out mitochondria, which provide the body with energy and reducing inflammation. When muscles weaken as people age, it’s often because their mitochondria are no longer working properly; research, including clinical studies in people, indicates that urolithin A can slow and even reverse this deterioration, boosting mitochondria and muscle health.

Urolithin A is a powerful antiaging agent, but not everyone's body is making enough – so what can be done?
Pomegranates are delicious, but can they deliver optimum levels of urolithin A?

So, having the right levels of urolithin A seems to be a longevity no-brainer, but research has shown that few people actually produce enough urolithin A, even when they are drinking glasses of 100% pomegranate juice.

Tests on 100 volunteers in Chicago showed just 12 of them had detectable levels of urolithin A in their blood; this climbed to 40% when all the volunteers drank the pomegranate juice, but that still left 60% of the volunteers with none or very little urolithin A [1].

Anurag Singh MD, PhD, and the Chief Medical Officer of Amazentis, a company committed to delivering the health benefits of urolithin A said of the research: “We were really surprised by this finding. Given the importance of urolithin A to mitochondrial and cell health, we didn’t expect that so few healthy people across different ages would have enough. The others are really missing out [2].”

Research to date suggests that there is no magical single bacterial strain needed to naturally metabolise urolithin A – rather it is likely to be a complex cocktail of many. Delving further, the scientists discovered that the people who could produce urolithin A had a greater proportion of a bacterial class called Firmicutes; specifically, they had lots of bacteria from the Clostridiales and Ruminococcaceae families, with  one of the species found to be enriched in producers was Akkermansia [1].

In order to help everyone produce enough urolithin A, regardless of the composition of their microbiome, Amazentis has developed a purified form of urolithin A called Mitopure, which they market as the supplement Timeline. Timeline contains 500mg of Mitopure urolithin A and within a few hours of swallowing it, the levels of urolithin A in all 100 volunteers had shot up – peaking at about six times as high as those who could produce the compound after they drank the pomegranate juice.

“These results show that a nutritious diet just isn’t enough,” says Dr Singh. “Without the right gut microbiome, people won’t get all the health benefits and that creates a huge gap in our current approaches. One solution is direct supplementation. It can solve the non-producer problem and help everyone to access these important anti-aging benefits [2].”

Pomegranates don’t work for everyone when it comes to urolithin A production, and those with the optimum microbiome might not want to have a regular intake of sugary juice drinks; of course, pomegranates are delicious and are rich in vitamins K, C, and B6, as well as folate and potassium. They are also high in polyphenols and antioxidants which can prevent oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals. So, keep up with the pomegranates, but when it comes to boosting your urolithin A levels, consider supplementation.

A spokesperson for Timeline told Longevity.Technology: “Superfoods are often presented as superheroes, but our research shows that Nature can need a helping hand sometimes. Urolithin A is key to mitochondrial and cell health, but many people just don’t have enough, and a nutritious diet just isn’t enough. Without the right gut microbiome, people won’t get all the health benefits; we’ve addressed that with Mitopure. Our supplement can solve the non-producer problem and help everyone to access these important antiaging benefits.”

Photograph: Amazentis

Energise the trillions of cells in your body. Click here to learn more about Mitopure.

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