We know one substance the athletes in Rio might test positive for: pomegranate.
Alright, it may not be a popular physical enhancer, but only because news that a type of compound found in pomegranate that could play an important role in strengthening muscle cells was only recently discovered.
The Asian superfruit produces urolithins, which come from an anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective component of pomegranate. Urolithins are said to slow the aging process by stimulating repair or renewal of mitochondria, the parts of cells that convert food into energy.
The protective substance is manufactured via gut bacteria from polyphenols (a powerful antioxidant found in many fruits & veggies) called ellagitannins, which are naturally present in pomegranates.
Studying the effects of urolithins on rats and mice, researchers documented improved muscle strength in mice (with no added mass). The rodent’s grip strength increased by 9%.
Inexplicably, mice who received urolithins were found to randomly start exercising 57% more than the controlled mice. The running endurance improved for both mice and rats by 42 and 65%, respectively.
The findings fall in line with previous studies that have proven regularly eating pomegranate could have a protective effect against neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers are just beginning to understand the properties of urolithins and their role in improving mitochondrial function and muscle function. Currently, they’re being subjected to various clinical trials that will gauge their value to humans.
The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine.