Eating apple peels and green tomatoes may help reduce muscle aging and decay during elderly years, a group of researchers from the University of Iowa reported.

The researchers said that older adults who consume apple peels and green tomatoes for at least two months can experience the benefit, which can be attributed to the chemicals ursolic acid and tomatidine that are present in apple peel and green tomatoes respectively.

Gene alteration caused by a protein known as ATF4 is responsible for muscle wastage in the elderly but researchers said that ursolic acid and tomatidine can significantly reduce the activity of this protein, which in turn reduces muscle decay and aging. The chemicals can prevent muscle loss as they deactivate genes that the ATF4 often activates.

In a study involving mice, researchers looked at the effects of the two chemicals on muscles. By giving elderly mice with age atrophy and muscle weakness diets that either contain or did not contain 0.27 percent ursolic acid, or 0.05 percent tomatidine for a period of two months, they found that the chemicals significantly reduced age-related muscle weakness.

The researchers also found that after two months, the quality of the mice's muscles increased by 30 percent and the muscle mass increased by 10 percent.

"Based on these results, ursolic acid and tomatidine appear to have a lot of potential as tools for dealing with muscle weakness and atrophy during aging," said study researcher Christopher Adams, internal medicine professor at the University of Iowa. "By reducing ATF4 activity, ursolic acid and tomatidine allow skeletal muscle to recover from effects of aging." 

Adams and colleagues hope that the findings of the study will help determine the exact factors that cause aging in humans. They are also interested to know how the two chemicals can be used to reduce the effects of aging.

"These results elucidate ATF4 as a critical mediator of age-related muscle weakness and atrophy," Adams and colleagues reported in their study, which was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry on Sept. 3. "In addition, these results identify ursolic acid and tomatidine as potential agents and/or lead compounds for reducing ATF4 activity, weakness, and atrophy in aged skeletal muscle."

Although the benefits of the two chemicals have already been confirmed in mice, additional research still needs to be done in humans.

Photo: Jeff Kubina | Flickr

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