Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Apples may do more than just keep the doctor away by Jerry Brainum

A new study, just published in the journal Cell Metabolism is almost certainly going to generate some excitement in the world of muscle. But before I go any furthur in describing just what this study disclosed, it's important to note that the study involved mice, not humans. As such, the findings may or may not have relevance for human physiology. Only human studies will be able to confirm this. The study involved a search for natural compounds that would reduce the process of muscle atrophy. Muscle atrophy involves the loss of muscle mass, and a loss of muscle with aging is a major problem related to mobility and general health. This loss of muscle with aging is called sarcopenia.

    The study used a technique called connectivity mapping, which compares gene expression patterns in cells under varying conditions. The researchers conducting the study determined which genes are turned on or off in human muscle undergoing atrophy. They then compared that pattern with other gene patterns in cultured cell lines treated with many natural compounds. One such compound, ursolic acid, appeared to block muscle atrophy in the cell lines treated with the substance. A series of follow-up studies found that the compound protected against muscle loss induced by both fasting and nerve damage. The latter is particularly applicable to aging muscle, since one theory of muscle loss with age involves a lowered neuromuscular connection.But the aspect of the studies most likley to excite bodybuilders is that mice who received treatment with ursolic acid developed larger and stronger muscles compared to mice who didn't get the compound.
 So how did ursolic acid prove to be anabolic in rodents? It appears to work by increasing cellular receptors for insulinlike growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and insulin itself. Both are anabolic hormones often used by competitive professional bodybuilders as anabolic injectable drugs.The mice that received ursolic acid didn't gain weight, but also didn't get fat. In fact, it appeared to reduce bodyfat levels, and also lowered blood glucose levels, cholesterol, and triglycerides in the mice who got the compound.
    Ursolic acid is found naturally in apple peels. It's also used in the production of cosmetics. Other research shows that it has cancer preventive effects. Besides apples, it's also found in basil, bilberries, cranberries, peppermint, rosemary, lavender,oregano, thyme, hawthorn, and prunes.However, the richest natural source is apple peels. This may be the factor in apples that other research has shown to have cancer preventive and other health benefits. If human studies confirm the muscle building and muscle loss prevention effects of ursolic acid, it could be the most exciting new future supplement aimed at those seeking to develop larger muscle mass. It would also prove useful for older folks, who often lose muscle because of a lowering of levels of IGF-1, along with insulin insensitivity. One company, Sabinsa, is already selling ursolic acid to treat hair and nails. I've seen a company online selling capsules of ursolic acid that contain 58.5 milligrams of ursolic acid per capsule. But the stuff is pricey at $80 for only 33 capsules. The powder form is even more expensive at $300.Most of the available ursolic acid seems to emanate from China, which means it is of suspect quality. I would say it would prudent to wait for some human confirmation of the muscle effects of ursolic acid before ingesting it--unless you are taking it for your hair and nails.

Adams, C et al.mRNA expression signatures of human skeletal muscle atrophy identify a natural compound that increases muscle mass.Cell Metab 2011;13:627-38.   

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The Applied Ergogenics blog is a collection of articles written and published by Jerry Brainum over the past 20 years. These articles have appeared in Muscle and Fitness, Ironman, and other magazines. Many of the posts on the blog are original articles, having appeared here for the first time. For Jerry’s most recent articles, which are far more in depth than anything that appears on this blog site, please subscribe to his Applied Metabolics Newsletter, at www.appliedmetabolics.com. This newsletter, which is more correctly referred to as a monthly e-book, since its average length is 35 to 40 pages, contains the latest findings about nutrition, exercise science, fat-loss, anti-aging, ergogenic aids, food supplements, and other topics. For 33 cents a day you get the benefit of Jerry’s 53 years of writing and intense study of all matters pertaining to fitness,health, bodybuilding, and disease prevention.


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