This distinctive molecule is the probable reason for pomegranates' anti-aging effect.

By Gillie Houston
Updated May 24, 2017
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While pomegranates have long been touted as an anti-aging superfood, there's been very little scientific evidence to back up that claim... until now. A team of researchers at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) has potentially uncovered the molecule that makes the seedy fruit such a nutritional powerhouse.

Published in the journal Nature Medicine, the results suggest that this distinctive molecule has anti-aging properties. Transformed by the microbes in the gut, the molecule gives muscle cells the ability to protect themselves against a major cause of aging, according to Science Daily. While the human testing period is still underway, the scientists had "amazing" results in rodents and nematodes.

According to the researchers at EPFL, as the body ages, the mitochondria that help to power the cells begin to slow down and malfunction, which results in the weakening of muscles and bodily tissue. However, the new data shows that a compound called Urolithin A, which is produced when pomegranates interact with the gut, can boost a bodily process called "mitophagy," or the recycling of worn-out mitochondria. "It's a completely natural substance, and its effect is powerful and measurable," says study co-author Patrick Aebischer of the pomegranate's key molecule.

Initially the EPFL team tested out this theory on worms, which had their short lifespan increased by upwards of 45 percent when exposed to this process, compared to the control group. After the success in the worm test group, they tested the effectiveness of pomegranate intake on mice. Overall, the mice exhibited "a significant reduction in the number of mitochondria," and older mice had 42 percent more endurance during exercise than their fellow older mice who hadn't consumed any of the powerful fruit.

While researchers are just beginning human tests, they do caution that the effect of pomegranate intake on the body likely varies from person to person based on how much urolithin A they are able to produce in their gut. However, for those who can produce larger amounts of the compound, pomegranates just might be the key to a longer, more youthful life.