Urolithin A is a compound formed by gut bacteria by transforming polyphenols like ellagitannins. Consumption of foods rich in Ellagic Acid and ellagitannins increases the production of urolithin A in the body since both are its precursors. Urolithin A has been a subject of interest for scientists for over two decades in terms of its potential benefits for the human body.
Recent research has shown that urolithin A can help improve mitochondrial health. The way it helps mitochondrial health is by removing damaged mitochondria from the body through a process called mitophagy.
Urolithin A is unique in the fact that not everyone is capable of producing it naturally in their body. Urolithins A is produced in the stomach. However, some people’s microbiomes lack the bacteria that produce the substance.
Urolithin A supplements can ensure that those who cannot make urolithins A on their own can have the substance replenished in their system for all the necessary processes. Even the people who have microbiomes capable of producing urolithin A can benefit from urolithin A supplementation.
Urolithin A is important for many processes in the body. One of the most important processes that urolithin A participates in is recycling faulty mitochondria during aging. Urolithin A helps in the recycling process that takes uses faulty mitochondria to replace them with new healthier ones.
Urolithin A Sources
Urolithin A is not actually found in any natural food sources that can be consumed. The precursors of urolithin A are called polyphenols which are abundantly found in vegetables and fruits.
When humans eat polyphenols, some of them are absorbed directly into the small intestine. The rest of the polyphenols are degraded in the digestive system by bacteria into a range of compounds. Some of these compounds are helpful for the human body, one such compound being Urolithin A.
Urolithin are a class of compounds that are still widely under investigation, but two of the members of this class, urolithin A and B are well studied. Among these, urolithin A is the most widely researched type in humans.
Ellagitannins and ellagic acid are the polyphenols that make urolithin A. These polyphenols are found in a range of food sources, including the following:
• Oaken barrel-aged spirits and wines
• Brewed Tea
When you consume ellagitannins and ellagic acids from these food sources, your body makes urolithin A if your stomach has the right biome for urolithin A production.
Benefits of urolithin A
Since urolithin A is found in a range of tissues, it is theorized that it will impact many organs and systems in mice, cells, worms, and humans. Some of the benefits of urolithin A have been discussed in this section in detail.
One of the most important benefits of urolithin A is that it helps with a process called mitophagy.
During the cells’ lifecycle and replication, some mitochondria deteriorate and become damaged. For the healthy cells to emerge, these damaged mitochondria must be replaced with healthier ones.
Mitophagy is a common process that happens in our bodies. During this process, damaged mitochondria are discarded to make room for healthy ones. This process is essential for the overall health of the cells because it helps get rid of faulty parts of the cell and helps promote healthy mitochondria.
Aging causes cells to deteriorate and cause mitochondrial dysfunction in the cells. That happens because mitophagy becomes inefficient as the human body ages. That, in turn, allows an accumulation of the damaged and dysfunctional mitochondria.
When dysfunctional mitochondria accumulate, species of reactive oxygen also build-up, resulting in increased inflammation. Inflammation can be a root cause of a range of disorders and diseases as well.
Furthermore, people’s ability to convert the precursors into urolithin A also diminishes with age.
The image above shows the changes in metabolic profiles and how metabotypes experience changes with age. It shows that, as age progresses, a person’s metabolic profile changes significantly. Inconsistent and ineffective mitophagy is partially responsible for these changes.
Urolithin A has proven itself to be significant in maintaining energy, even as the person ages.
In a study conducted in 2016, the authors concluded that urolithin A increased lifespan when given to worms and muscle function when given to aged mice. Such studies led to further investigation, resulting in human studies.
A lot of questions surrounding urolithin A are still unanswered. It is still unknown whether urolithin A helps people whose diet does not include enough ellagitannin and ellagic acid. Further research is needed to be done to determine how urolithin A helps people with different metabolic profiles.
Neuroprotection Against Cognitive Diseases
Another benefit of urolithin A is its ability to slow down the onset of cognitive diseases by reducing brain inflammation.
A study has explored the impact of polyphenols – the precursors of urolithin A – in pomegranate juice on Parkinson’s disease. The study was done on laboratory mice who were given rotenone to induce Parkinson’s Disease. Pomegranate juice was used to measure whether increased urolithin A levels would improve neurodegenerative disorders.
The researchers concluded that treating rats with pomegranate juice results in significant neuroprotection from the adverse effects of Parkinson’s Disease. It also improved the dehydrogenase activity of mitochondria and α-synuclein aggregation while providing significant protection to the brain against oxidative damage.
The study also showed that urolithin A was distributed throughout the brain.
Another study showed that pomegranate also provides neuroprotective action against Alzheimer’s disease.
A 2021 meta-study has shown that urolithin A can work as a potent anti-inflammatory agent in animal studies. Urolithin A has also shown an ability to provide anti-inflammatory benefits in preventing immunometabolic diseases.
In the review, several studies showed that urolithin A provided anti-inflammatory action in various parts of the body such as kidneys, body fat, heart, and brain. Urolithin A provides relief by improving mitochondrial functions in these parts, reducing cytokines in various tissues, minimizing ROS, mitigating Akt/NFkB/MAPK signalling, and inducing autophagy.
The meta-study showed that urolithin A has a lot of potential for working as a potent anti-inflammatory treatment for a lot of ailments. More specific research needed to be done to determine how to realize this potential in the best way.
As mentioned before, urolithin A helps improve mitophagy and mitochondrial health, two significant hallmarks of aging. Having looked at the extensive benefits of urolithin A in improving these hallmarks, it can be concluded that the supplement can be a candidate for anti-aging aid. The evidence for its anti-inflammatory also helps make its case for an anti-aging drug.
Studies need to be conducted to explore the anti-aging benefits of urolithin A. The current research on the subject is inadequate and incomplete.
Frequently Asked Questions
Following are a few of the key frequently asked questions about urolithin A.
- Is it safe to consume urolithin A?
No obvious side-effects of urolithin A have been noted until now. None of the studies that have included human supplementation of urolithin A has reported any noticeable side effects.
It is still better to consult your physician or healthcare provider before you start taking these supplements. They might be able to guide you better about any safety concerns you might have about these supplements.
- How much urolithin A should I take?
The amount of urolithin A you should consume depends on your diet and how much polyphenols you take naturally. It also depends upon your specific goals from this supplementation.
According to the Food and Drugs Administration of the United States, urolithin A is safe for consumption in the form of dietary supplements in the range of 250 grams to 1 gram per serving. As long as your desired dosage falls within this range, you can take your supplements safely.
- Can I take urolithin A supplements if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?
None of the human studies on urolithin A has so far explored the impact of the supplements on pregnant or breastfeeding women. While the supplements could be fine for the short term, it is better to err on the side of caution in the absence of reliable studies and refrain from taking these supplements if you are breastfeeding or pregnant.