Universally known as the powerhouse of the cell, mitochondria are microscopic organelles that are essential to powering life. Found within all eukaryotic cells, mitochondria convert glucose and oxygen into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), acting as a key source of energy. This allows our bodies to perform essential functions as well as providing our muscles with enough energy to move. Unfortunately, mitochondria decline with age, impairing their ability to produce energy properly. Luckily, there are several strategies to prevent this, through exercise, diet and most effectively, dietary supplements. One such supplement is Timeline, which contains a highly pure form of urolithin A, the postbiotic most famously found in pomegranates. Regular doses of urolithin A have been proven to promote mitochondrial health and muscle endurance – and it could be an effective tool for improving longevity in the aging population.
What is cellular energy?
One of the most important processes in the human body is the conversion of glucose and oxygen into energy, known as respiration. The main source of energy comes from the mitochondria, microscopic organelles found in the cytoplasm of cells. They control the maintenance of cell life and are also the gatekeepers of cell death, making them essential to cell, and therefore our, survival. Mitochondria have evolved to control numerous processes in the body, namely cellular growth, energy production and apoptosis or programmed cell death. Interestingly, mitochondria have their own special set of DNA, known as mDNA, which is thought to be due to endosymbiosis between a bacteria that was engulfed by a cell . This made it possible a few years ago for the first ‘three-parent’ babies to be born using mitochondrial transfer therapies designed to prevent transmission of genetic disorders through mDNA .
The importance of cellular energy
While mitochondria are involved in numerous cellular functions, their most important role is in bioenergetics, producing energy using ATP. Mitochondria are so important to energy production that the first demonstration of how ATP functions in 1997 earned the Nobel Prize in Chemistry . Mitochondria oxidise sugars, fats and proteins to produce chemical energy stored in ATP. The resulting ATP is in fact an energy carrying molecule that transports the chemical energy from the breakdown of food to fuel other cellular processes. It is considered as the ‘energy currency of life’.
Energise the trillions of cells in your body. Click here to learn more about Mitopure.
Energy is required for three major tasks: to fuel metabolic reactions, to transport substances across membranes and to power mechanical work, like the movements of muscles. Energy is essential to functions like the repair, growth and maintenance of cells and tissues. It also powers our everyday movements, and it is therefore no surprise that mitochondria are highly concentrated in metabolically active tissue like our muscles.
Mitochondria and the hallmarks of aging
Longevity is a fast-paced, quickly growing industry that aims to improve health and lifespan for everyone. Longevity, or living for longer in good health, is a balance of healthspan as well as lifespan. Average life expectancy has soared in the past few centuries, with Americans that are born today expected to live to see their 78th birthday . Indeed, some experts estimate the maximum human lifespan as being between 120 and 150 years, which has so far remained out of reach . Unfortunately, healthspan has not kept pace with lifespan, and most people experience a decline in health long before they reach the maximum life expectancy. The longevity industry therefore targets aging and diseases in order to improve both healthspan and lifespan.
A major emerging issue that also affects the longevity field is the aging population, which is growing exponentially. Globally, it is projected that there will be more than 1 billion people aged over 65 by 2030. This will have wide-spread effects on healthcare, productivity and economy and is one of the major issues to be tackled within the longevity field. However, it also presents an opportunity for novel ways of approaching aging and related diseases. One such method is longevity supplements, which could prove to be an accessible and effective way to improve health and longevity in older people.
As we age, our body accumulates molecular and cellular damage that presents as the physical signs of aging as well as increased risk of age-related illness. Aging also affects our mitochondria. Unfortunately, with age we experience bioenergetic decline as our mitochondria fail to function as effectively, leaving us with reduced energy. This is due to the fact that mitochondria accumulate genetic mutations, damage to their structure and integrity and reduced energy output.
Indeed, mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the nine ‘hallmarks of aging’, which contribute to the cellular and molecular damage that is responsible for age-related disease. The hallmarks of aging determine the difference between a person’s chronological age (the number of years they have lived) and their biological age (how age has affected their body’s physical and mental function and appearance). Mitochondrial dysfunction is considered an antagonistic aging hallmark that responds to the damage of aging. Indeed, mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with age-related illness, neurodegeneration and ischemic injuries . A more common result of mitochondrial dysfunction is loss of muscle strength, which many people begin to experience during their 40s due to age-related decline in mitochondrial function and cellular bioenergetics .
Despite being essential to cell functioning and energy production, the mitochondria’s connection to aging and longevity is not fully understood. There are several competing theories linking mitochondria dysfunction to aging. One theory is that aging comes with the increased production of reactive oxidative species (ROS), which further cellular damage. ROS can cause mutations in mDNA, which increase with age in several tissues including the brain, skeletal muscle, ovaries, liver and heart to name a few. The more mutations there are, the more likely they will lead to premature aging and reduced lifespan. The processes linking mitochondria with aging remain under researched. In the meantime, what can be done to prevent mitochondrial decline and improve energy production?
Boost cellular energy with urolithin A
Along with the reduction of energy available to our muscles from mitochondrial dysfunction, our bodies undergo other changes with age. One seemingly inevitable part of aging is loss of muscle mass and weakened bones. This can lead to a condition known as sarcopenia, which impairs mobility, is linked to frailty and can prompt fall-related injuries. This debilitating condition can affect 30% of the elderly. However, an effective way of preventing this is through regular exercise. We all know the curative power of exercise on health and longevity, and regular physical activity can extend lifespan by 0.4-6.9 years! . Indeed, the CDC recommends performing two strength training sessions to make up the 150 minutes of exercise time per week to maintain muscle strength and mass.
Alongside exercise, supplements can be used to boost mitochondrial health and energy production. Urolithin A is one such supplement. Produced by the gut bacteria, urolithin A is a powerful postbiotic that is synthesized after eating certain foods high in polyphenols like pomegranates, berries and nuts. Postbiotics are health-promoting compounds that are produced as metabolic by-products by microorganisms that live in the gut. Considering that our gut microbiome varies by diet, age and genetics, people produce the postbiotic urolithin A at different rates. Specifically, people who have more bacteria from the Clostridiales and Ruminococcaceae families living in their gut can produce urolithin A. It is therefore difficult for most people to produce any or enough urolithin A from food alone. As few as 1 in 3 people produce enough urolithin A! The only way to ensure you are getting enough urolithin A is from direct supplementation .
Mitopure for mitochondrial health
This is where Mitopure comes in. Swiss company Amazentis has developed a purified form of urolithin A called Mitopure, sold as the supplement Timeline. Containing 500 mg of highly pure urolithin A, the oral nutritional supplement delivers six times the amount of urolithin A than diet alone and has been proven to promote mitochondrial health and muscle endurance. Taking the supplements for two months can improve markers of muscular strength in older adults, without any exercise. Urolithin A is also thought to benefit numerous age-related diseases by supporting mitochondrial health. It does this by improving the activity of mitochondria. It is the only compound that can increase muscle function by activating mitophagy, the selective recycling of aging and damaged mitochondria through the process of autophagy. This makes way for healthy mitochondria to grow, and it thought to be essential to antiaging .
These bold claims have been validated by research published in JAMA Network Open. Mitopure is the only clinically tested urolithin A supplement . Highly respected institutions like the Buck Institute of Aging and UConn Research Lab join the research teams studying urolithin A, confirming its place as a foundational element in promoting health and longevity. Previously, Amazentis, the company that produces Mitopure, discovered along with the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics that urolithin A can have beneficial effects on mitochondria, slowing certain aging processes. Since then, Amazentis has partnered with Nestle Health Science to develop Mitopure urolithin A supplements, available as powder and soft-gel forms.
A further study in JAMA Network Open found that the urolithin A supplement can help improve or prolong muscle activity in older people or those who have conditions that make exercise difficult. The results of the study are as follows:
- Two measures of muscle endurance were improved in the group given urolithin A supplements compared with the placebo group. Endurance was measured with exercises involving the hand and leg. Researchers measured the increase in the number of muscle contractions until fatigue using a baseline test compared with a final test taken four months later.
- Measures of distance covered during a six-minute walk were also improved between tests at baseline and after four months in both the supplement and placebo groups. However, researchers saw no significant effect of the supplement compared with the placebo.
- Using via magnetic resonance spectroscopy, measures of improvement in maximal ATP production did not change significantly between baseline and four months in either group.
Blood plasma samples were also taken from the study’s participants at the start of the study, after two months and after four months. This was to assess the supplement’s potential effect on urolithin A bioavailability, as well as biomarkers of mitochondrial health and inflammation. Urolithin A was associated with a significant reduction in several acylcarnitines and ceramides that are connected to several metabolic disorders involving mitochondria. Overall, the study showed the promising results that urolithin A can improve muscle endurance as well as reduce molecules associated with mitochondrial disorders. The trial demonstrates that daily supplementation of Mitopure is a safe and effective way for older adults to support muscle health. Urolithin A supplements could have potential to also benefit people who cannot exercise due to poor muscle health or disease.
Considering that urolithin A is naturally produced by the gut microbiome, it is considered safe to take every day for improved cellular function and muscle strength. Mitopure has been extensively evaluated pre-clinically and clinically to support its use as a nutritional supplement. Furthermore, Mitopure has been favourably reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and deemed safe following a GRAS (generally recognised as safe) filing .
Although healthy and delicious, eating so-called superfoods like pomegranate may not be enough for your gut microbiome to produce urolithin A. Most people do not have the right balance of bacteria in their gut microbiome to make the powerful postbiotic. Instead, supplements have emerged as an easy alternative to boost urolithin A levels and protect mitochondrial health through mitophagy. Mitochondria have several functions, one of which is to produce energy as well as reduce inflammation. As we age, our mitochondria stop functioning as well, leading to muscle weakening. Urolithin A has been proven to prevent this, promoting cellular energy and muscle strength as we age. The results of studies speak for themselves; after taking Mitopure urolithin A, participants’ urolithin A levels rose dramatically, peaking at about six times the levels of people who can produce urolithin A after they drank a glass of pomegranate juice. Urolithin A supplements are therefore an important antiaging tool protecting muscle strength, limiting oxidative stress and safeguarding longevity.
The information included in this article is for informational purposes only. The purpose of this webpage is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.