- by Nils Osmar. September 28, 2023. © Nils Osmar 2023.
- This post is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice.
- See full Medical Disclaimer
Urolithin A (UA) is a popular supplement in the anti-aging community. It’s marketed widely with claims that it can can slow age-related cellular decline and improve mitochondrial health.
While more human studies would be useful, there’s some reason to believe at least some of the claims. According to a study called Potential of Urolithin A to improve joint health:
“Urolithin A has been shown to improve mitophagy and mitochondrial function in several tissues affected by aging and age-associated diseases, particularly skeletal muscle . Preclinically, UA enhanced mitochondrial quality in rodent models of aging and muscle dystrophy . In independent, double-blind placebo-controlled human clinical studies, this safe and natural molecule both improved muscle strength in middle-aged adults  and muscle endurance in healthy elderly people . Our recent study published in Aging Cell, extends the benefits of UA to the joint .”
UA has also been found to improves muscle strength, exercise performance, and biomarkers of mitochondrial health in a randomized trial in middle-aged adults.
Some consider UA to be a key anti-aging supplement. But it’s also one of the most expensive. And it can be hard to verify that urolithin A supplements actually contain what they claim. There’s also been some criticism of the company which controls the distribution rights to UA for taking legal action to prevent other companies from selling and distributing more affordable versions of the supplement. So what to do?
Make it in your gut?
Fortunately, there is an alternative: we can make our own by eating pomegranates or drinking pomegranate juice. The human gut can convert compounds in pomegranate into UA, but only in the presence of L-plantarum, a natural, beneficial probiotic bacteria. Unfortunately, less than half of the population has L-plantarum bacteria in their guts.
So what to do?
Sources of L-plantarum
- We can buy L -plantarum supplements and try taking them hoping they’ll colonize our guts, but with probiotic supplements there’s often a concern about whether they arrive alive or have enough of the probiotic in question to colonize the gut.
- L. plantarum is commonly found in many fermented food products including sauerkraut, raw fermented pickles, brined olives, Korean kimchi, sourdough, and other fermented plants, as well as, some cheeses and fermented sausages.
This study suggests that eating foods such as raw sauerkraut and kimchi regularly increases L-plantarum in the human gut.
There are anecdotal reports of people making their own L-plantarum yogurt, though it dies easily if the temperature of the yogurt maker is too high. A temperature of 34C or 93.4F appears to be best.
As a side ote, there can be other benefits from increasing L-plantarum in our guts apart from increasing UA levels. According to a 2020 study,
Alterations in composition of human gut microbiome can lead to its dysbiosis. It is associated with gastrointestinal side effects during anti-cancer treatment, antibiotics administration, or infectious agents. There are studies confirming positive effect of consuming Lactobacillus plantarum 299v on intestinal microflora.
This review summarizes the current knowledge about the role of L. plantarum 299v in supporting treatment of selected diseases, such as cancer, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and Clostridium difficile infection. The immunomodulating properties of L. plantarum 299v include an increase in the level of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which reduce the risk of cancer and improve the efficacy of regimens.
The intake of L. plantarum 299v provides benefits for IBS patients, mainly due to normalization of stool and relief of abdominal pain, which significantly improves the quality of life of IBS patients. In addition, the intake of L. plantarum 299v prevents C. difficile-associated diarrhea among patients receiving antibiotic treatment. Due to the limited possibilities of treating these diseases and numerous complications of cancer treatment, there is a need for new therapeutic strategies. The administration of L. plantarum 299v seems to be useful in these cases.
What I’m doing
I’ve been experimenting with making yogurt from L-plantarum supplements, and have had mixed success. I’ve also increased the amount of raw fermented sauerkraut and kimchi in my diet, eating it daily. I once tried making a yogurt from sauerkraut starter; it did ferment nicely, but let’s just say it didn’t win any taste contests. But since I’m already eating lots of sauerkraut and kimchi, it’s likely that I have a high level of the most useful strains of L-plantarum in my gut.
This being the case, I also try to consume some pomegranate daily, in the form of pomegranate powder – using a little pomegranate jelly mixed into yogurt – and drinking a small amount of pomegranate juice – and of course eating pomegranates when they’re in season.
Not medical advice
This article is not intended as, and should not be taken as, medical advice. I’m not advising that people eat any particular diet or take any particular supplement(s), just reporting on what I’m doing. Supplements, like medications and other interventions, can have side effects; I would encourage people to research both possible benefits and side effects before starting on any supplementation regimen, and consult with a medical professional about any issues which might have a medical component. See full Medical Disclaimer
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