We all know that our muscles weaken and atrophy as we age. It’s important to note here that muscle atrophy is not the same as dystrophy, which is a genetic condition that causes muscles to weaken to a greater extent and can hamper everyday life. Difficulty walking or running, difficulty swallowing, breathing problems, and even heart arrhythmia are some symptoms of muscular dystrophy. And of course, the most common being muscular pain, for which many patients may be prescribed medical marijuana. After having studied cannabis and muscular dystrophy, reports of diminished pain and overall relaxation in the patient have been reported.
While muscular dystrophy is considered to be a disease that causes muscle atrophy, as we age, everyone goes through some amount of atrophy (which does not mean that it is a disease).
What you might not know is, the process is controlled by a protein found in the body called ATF4. ATF4 changes the structure of genes and starves muscles of the proteins they need to grow. Interestingly, researchers have discovered two compounds that could shut off ATF4 and help prevent muscle atrophy as we age.
The study fed elderly mice ursolic acid (a compound found in apple peels), tomatidine (a compound found in the skin of green tomatoes) or neither for 2 months. The researchers found that mice eating either compounds were able to increase muscle mass by 10% and muscle strength by 30% over the 2 months, equaling the abilities of young mice. The researchers have plans to replicate the study in humans. If similar results are found, it could lead to the production of supplements that will help prevent muscle loss. Until then, adding apples and green tomatoes is well worth trying.
It’s also worth noting that other studies have also found that strength training throughout the ageing process can help prevent muscle loss.
Muscle grow up until about the age of 30. Afterwards, you can lose up to 3% to 5% of your muscle mass per decade. So if you’re over the age of 30, it couldn’t hurt to add extra apples and green tomatoes into your diet. They’re good for you anyway!
Breen, Leigh, and Stuart M. Phillips. “Interactions between exercise and nutrition to prevent muscle waste during ageing.” British journal of clinical pharmacology 75.3 (2013): 708-715.
Ebert, Scott M., et al. “Identification and Small Molecule Inhibition of an ATF4-dependent Pathway to Age-related Skeletal Muscle Weakness and Atrophy.”Journal of Biological Chemistry (2015): jbc-M115.