A (green) apple (or tomato) a day keeps muscle atrophy away – study

© Filip Klimaszewski
A chemical found in green tomatoes and the peel of green apples may put degrading processes in elderly people’s muscles on hold, a recent study shows. It takes around two months for the new diet to take effect.

The well-known saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” may have finally received scientific verification, as researches from the University of Iowa say they have discovered that ursolic acid in apple peel and tomatidine in green tomatoes both fight ATF4 protein, which is to blame for mass and strength loss in old age.

The study, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, says that as people grow old, ATF4 accumulates in the body and interferes with gene formation, hindering healthy proteins from nurturing muscles. This leads to muscle atrophy and overall weakness. 

The discovery may inspire new diet and therapy plans for seniors that could allow them to stay active and lead a longer quality life.

“Based on these results, ursolic acid and tomatidine appear to have a lot of potential as tools for dealing with muscle weakness and atrophy during ageing,” Christopher Adams, professor of internal medicine and lead author of the study said, as reported by The Daily Mail. “These problems have a major impact on our quality of life and health.”

The group of scientists carried out tests on older mice to discover the mechanisms of ageing, and can now say with certainty that ursolic acid and tomatidine “significantly reduce age-related deficits in skeletal muscle strength, quality and mass.”

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The study showed that it took only two months for the mice’s muscle mass to increase by 10 per cent and muscle quality to go up by 30 per cent.

“Many of us know from our own experiences that muscle weakness and atrophy are big problems as we become older,” Adams added. “By reducing ATF4 activity, ursolic acid and tomatidine allow skeletal muscle to recover from effects of ageing.”