How good are YOU at making energy? Our bodies require energy to function. Not only do we need energy to power physical activity like walking, swimming and cycling, but we also need it to fuel our body’s most basic processes! Even when we are sitting or sleeping, we are always burning energy as our body works to keep us breathing, keep our body temperature regulated, and keep our organs functioning.
We often think of energy in terms of calories that come from food in the form of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, which is important, but the body has a different type of energy it uses called adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Each of the trillions of cells is creating that energy every moment to sustain the foundation of good health. In this context, transforming food to energy is critical, but over time this becomes a struggle for all of us. This is because the structures within our cells that are involved in generating energy may not function as well with age. However, there is an interesting nutrient called Urolithin A that research is showing can help us improve cellular energy as we age.
The role of the mitochondria
Let’s look a little bit closer at the cell. Cells are the building blocks of the body and provide structure and function. They can be considered the smallest form of life!
Studying cells is an important part of understanding health, well-being, and even bodily decline due to disease. Changes to the genes inside the cell, known as mutations, can hinder the cell’s ability to perform processes such as dividing, removing waste and more. These mutations have been found to contribute to the development of disease, such as certain types of cancer, autism, muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, and Crohn’s to name a few (1).
When it comes to energy production in the cell, the mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, play an important role. Ninety percent of the food and air we consume ends up here, becoming the energy of the body and powering nearly all of our cellular functions. Energy-critical cells, like in the heart, may have several thousand mitochondria per cell to provide the needed power every moment.
The mitochondria generate the ATP the cell needs. The food we consume is material that can be used for creation of this energy. The mitochondria function to transform this material into something the cell can use. They carry out the breakdown of amino acids, which are needed to make protein. They are also involved in the breakdown of fats and sugars (2).
Mitochondria also have many other functions in the body, including playing a key role in life and death decisions of the cell, which are important for growth and development. They are also important for cellular communication (2). The mitochondria are involved in cell signaling related to cell death, cellular recycling, and immunity.
The mitochondrial theory of aging
Unfortunately, as we age, there is often damage to the mitochondria due to the buildup of harmful compounds (3). Because of this, the mitochondria may not function the way they once did.
There are studies being conducted on the role of the mitochondria in development of numerous chronic conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Mitochondrial dysfunction has also been shown to be implicated in chronic fatigue syndrome, autism, muscle decline, and hearing loss. The mitochondria play a role in almost every part of cellular function! The close relationship between the mitochondria and the rest of the cell is the reason why dysfunction of the mitochondria plays a role in the processes that are part of numerous diseases (4).
However, if we are able to sustain the health of the mitochondria, this is one potential way to extend life. Considering ways to improve mitochondrial quality and function is a key part of fostering longevity.
The function of Urolithin A
Isn’t it incredible that your body is built to renew itself? This includes your energy generators! Mitophagy is the body’s way of recycling damaged mitochondria to make way for new more powerful ones, (4) and exercise and calorie restriction are two ways to promote this process.
A compound called Urolithin A also induces mitophagy. Urolithin A has been found to play a key role in promoting mitochondrial function, while also removing damaged mitochondria (5). The right levels of mitophagy are important for preventing the decline of organ function with age (6).
Urolithin A is produced by the gut bacteria from polyphenols that include ellagic acid (EA) and ellagitannins (ET). Polyphenols are compounds that are found widely in plant-based foods like fruits and vegetables, grains and herbs and spices. These compounds work in the body to neutralize the effects of free radicals, which are chemicals that can cause damage to the cells if they go unchecked (7). This damage may contribute to the development of chronic disease.
Ways to consume Urolithin A
While Urolithin A is important for healthy aging, most people are not able to make enough of it (8). This is due to differences in the microorganisms in the gut (9). It has been found that some people’s bodies are not able to make Urolithin A from polyphenols in the diet because of a lack of richness and diversity in the microorganisms in the gut (8). Apart from consuming foods such as pomegranate, strawberries, blackberries, walnuts, pistachios, or pecans that our body uses to make Urolithin A, another way to consume this compound is in supplement form. I have been consistently taking Mitopure, the first clinically tested highly pure form of Urolithin A.
Even on the days we can’t exercise or eat the way we like, consuming enough Urolithin A is something we can all do every day to optimize our energy production and support our longevity! Also, be sure to find practices that fit into your schedule and leave you feeling joyful and recharged. I am extremely grateful to have found Mitopure by Timeline Nutrition, an energizing addition to my daily life. If you want to try their products, you can use the code “Serena” to receive a 10% discount off any Mitopure plan.
- National Institute of General Medicine Sciences. Studying cells. Updated March 11, 2020. Accessed October 5, 2022. https://nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/studying-cells.aspx
- Peck P. Mitochondria in Biology. University of Cambridge. Published March 26, 2021. Accessed October 5, 2022. https://www.mrc-mbu.cam.ac.uk/what-are-mitochondria/mitochondria-biology
- Chistiakov DA, Sobenin IA, Revin VV, Orekhov AN, Bobryshev YV. Mitochondrial aging and age-related dysfunction of mitochondria. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:238463. doi: 10.1155/2014/238463. Epub 2014 Apr 10. PMID: 24818134; PMCID: PMC4003832.
- Annesley SJ, Fisher PR. Mitochondria in Health and Disease. Cells. 2019;8(7):680. doi: 10.3390/cells8070680. PMID: 31284394; PMCID: PMC6678092.
- D’Amico D, Andreux PA, Valdés P, Singh A, Rinsch C, Auwerx J. Impact of the Natural Compound Urolithin A on Health, Disease, and Aging. Trends Mol Med. 2021;27(7):687-699. doi: 10.1016/j.molmed.2021.04.009. Epub 2021 May 21. PMID: 34030963.
- Fang EF, Hou Y, Palikaras K, Adriaanse BA, Kerr JS, Yang B, Lautrup S, Hasan-Olive MM, Caponio D, Dan X, Rocktäschel P, Croteau DL, Akbari M, Greig NH, Fladby T, Nilsen H, Cader MZ, Mattson MP, Tavernarakis N, Bohr VA. Mitophagy inhibits amyloid-β and tau pathology and reverses cognitive deficits in models of Alzheimer’s disease. Nat Neurosci. 2019;22(3):401-412. doi: 10.1038/s41593-018-0332-9. Epub 2019 Feb 11. PMID: 30742114; PMCID: PMC6693625.
- Cory H, Passarelli S, Szeto J, Tamez M, Mattei J. The role of polyphenols in human health and food systems: A mini-review. Frontiers in nutrition. 2018;5:87.
- Singh A, D’Amico D, Andreux PA, et al. Direct supplementation with Urolithin A overcomes limitations of dietary exposure and gut microbiome variability in healthy adults to achieve consistent levels across the population. Eur J Clin Nutr. Published online June 11, 2021:1-12. doi:10.1038/s41430-021-00950-1
- Mertens-Talcott SU, Jilma-Stohlawetz P, Rios J, Hingorani L, Derendorf H. Absorption, metabolism, and antioxidant effects of pomegranate (Punica granatum l.) polyphenols after ingestion of a standardized extract in healthy human volunteers. J Agric Food Chem. 2006;54:8956–61. doi: 10.1021/jf061674h.