New research suggests pomegranates may radically alter the way we view aging.

Anti-aging scientists are excited. Recent discoveries with a unique nutrient linked to pomegranates show promise to extend our lives and enhance overall quality of life. The research suggests it may support recall, energy and muscle strength.

This last one is big; it means less frailty with age. This would translate to better mobility and reduce the risk of serious falls. According to the CDC, every year 300,000 adults over age 65 are hospitalized for hip fractures, often due to falling sideways as a result of weakened muscles, or frailty.  Falls like these come with plenty of complications and speed physical decline while increasing the risk of mortality.

The excitement begins with two compounds found in pomegranates: punicaligans and ellagitannins. On their own, they are potent flavonoids with powerful antioxidant properties. During digestion, however, these two flavonoids are converted into a molecule known as Urolithin-A.

This molecule works deep within the cells. More importantly, the research shows it can restart a process linked to what some scientists believe may be the number one cause of aging.

A Molecule that Reverses Aging?

We often associate aging with wrinkled skin, gray hair, fatigue and weakness. These visual cues may be signs of aging, but the real changes happen much deeper. They start at the cellular level, in mitochondria, the cells’ energy production centers.

Cells require vast amounts of energy, or ATP, to function properly. They burn energy to fuel cell replication and growth. They burn this energy as part of metabolic processes and make muscles work. Even brain cells burn ATP to help us think and remember. Cells also need energy to protect themselves against toxins and free radicals that would disrupt their normal functioning.

Not surprising, young people have an abundance of healthy, well-functioning mitochondria. It fuels their growth. It also gives them that seemingly endless energy adults often wish they could bottle and use at will!

Yet, energy production wears down these energy centers. Creating ATP produces free radical waste by-products.  Cells naturally have a process in place to clean these up, but in time mitochondria will wear down and produce less energy.

Healthy cells recognize this. In response, they break down the worn-out mitochondria and recycle them. It’s a process called mitophagy. It removes the poorly performing energy centers and allows for new ones to form and take their place.

Constant exposure to toxins, inflammation, and illness combine to consume a lot of energy. Inflammation and illness can burn up energy as the body tries to keep everything in balance. Toxins can affect the physical structure of cells or disrupt the energy production process.

This increases the number of mitochondria that wear down. As more wear out, the body must recycle more. Of course, the energy needed to recycle them comes from where? The mitochondria!

This begins a downward spiral of reduced energy production. It also leads to a build-up of poorly functioning mitochondria and the breakdown of mitophagy. Cells then lack the energy needed to perform all the tasks they’re supposed to.

As the cells weaken, so does the tissue. Muscle tissue becomes weaker; organs don’t work as efficiently. Many scientists now believe the breakdown of mitochondrial function may be a primary cause of many conditions related to aging. Some have suggested it may even be the cause of aging itself.

That’s where Urolithin-A comes in. The research shows it restores mitophagy in cells. In fact, as professor of neuroscience Patrick Aebischer and co-author of the new study commented:

“It’s the only known molecule that can relaunch the mitochondrial clean-up process, otherwise known as mitophagy.”