The anabolic effect of tomatidine versus that of ursolic acid
We recently wrote about tomatidine, a substance in tomato plants that resembles anabolic steroids. Today we read another publication about this fascinating stuff. It seems that tomatidine works in the same way as ursolic acid, a similar substance in apple skins, which has been shown (in a human study) to reduce fat mass, slightly increase lean body mass and boost muscle strength. The dose at which all these wonderful effects take place is five times lower with tomatidine than with ursolic acid...
Over a period of two months, researchers at the University of Iowa gave prematurely aged mice either standard feed, or feed that consisted of 0.27 percent ursolic acid, or feed that consisted of 0.05 percent tomatidine. The mice were of an age that they would start to lose muscle mass.
Both tomatidine and ursolic acid increased the lab animals' muscle mass and strength.
Neither of the plant steroids led to an increase in bodyweight, as the figures above show. That would suggest that tomatidine and ursolic acid reduce fat mass – and lo and behold, that's exactly what the researchers observed in their lab animals.
Tomatidine and ursolic acid had almost precisely the same effect in the mice's cells, the researchers discovered. To start with both substances decreased the activity of the gene ATF4. ATF4 regulates the functioning of a group of other genes which control muscle breakdown.
Click on the figure above for a larger version.
However, tomatidine and ursolic acid not only have an anti-catabolic effect but also a direct anabolic effect, the researchers explained. "The pro-growth effects of ursolic acid and tomatidine in young adult skeletal muscle - i.e. hypertrophy and recovery from atrophy - are associated with activation of mTORC1, a well established mediator of muscle growth," they wrote.
"In addition, the mTORC1 inhibitor rapamycin prevents ursolic acid- and tomatidine-mediated hypertrophy in cultured myotubes."
"In light of the current results, ursolic acid and tomatidine represent potential agents and/or lead compounds for medical treatment of age-related muscle weakness and atrophy," the researchers wrote. "In addition, because ursolic acid and tomatidine naturally occur in food, they could potentially comprise or contribute to nutritional products aimed at preserving strength and muscle mass during aging."
"If ursolic acid- and tomatidine-based approaches are found to be safe and effective in humans, they could possibly be used alone, together, or in combination with physical therapy and other nutritional and pharmaceutical approaches."
J Biol Chem. 2015 Oct 16;290(42):25497-511.
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