If you are familiar with the sports supplement industry you probably are rolling your eyes at the title of this blog. I don’t blame you, as bold claims for all sorts of plant extracts and weird natural compounds are always being made. Most of these are based on poor science done by obscure research groups from far away countries and published in 3rd rate journals. And more often than not, the researchers have connections to some group that is selling the ingredient/extract in question.
What I am referring to here though is definitely not one of those dubious products. The ingredient in question is called Ursolic Acid and it actually got a lot of coverage in the mainstream press earlier this summer. The literature on this is so impressive. By impressive I mean the literature is published in fully accredited journals by authors with no conflict of interest. And the research is expansive – looking at mechanisms at the cellular and genetic level in depth.
The first and foremost study regarding Ursolic Acid is one that has garnered a lot of press lately. It was published in the very prestigious journal Cell Metabolism, and the research was performed by scientists from the University of Iowa. They used techniques to identify genes that were turned on and off by two muscle catabolic stressors – starvation and denervation (think of spinal cord injury). They then turned to a huge database of gene (mRNA actually) expression signatures from 1300 candidate chemicals and after screening for which turned the right genes on (the anabolic ones) and turned the right genes off (the catabolic ones) they came to one that stood out – Ursolic acid. The researchers then gave Ursolic acid to starved mice and to denervated mice and they found that it indeed powerfully act as an anti-catabolic. They lost much less muscle than control mice
The cool part is they went on to see if it acted as an anabolic. That is, they wanted to see what it did to normal mice on a normal diet. They feed Ursolic acid to a group of mice for 5 weeks and then found that their muscles grew around 15% bigger than a control group of mice over the same period. The muscle fibers themselves appear markedly bigger under the microscope, so this was hypertrophy going on. The muscle was fully functional as well, which was demonstrated by measuring grip strength. The Ursolic mice had a significantly stronger grip (I guess the made the mice hang on a tiny chin up bar till they dropped or something).
Now you probably think that since the mice grew bigger muscles they probably weighed more than the control mice. Such was not the case. That is because there was almost a proportional decrease in fat mass in respect to the increase in muscle mass. Essentially, the body was using the fat to fuel the energy needed to build the muscle!! That is what is known as a recomposition effect and it is seen with agents such as clenbuterol. It is not really seen with anabolic steroids though, since although “roids” are great for building muscle, they don’t really affect fat mass in such an obvious and direct manner.
The researchers finally looked at how Ursolic acid worked (I told you, this paper is extremely thorough and comprehensive). Examination of which genes got turned on and which got turned off (via examining mRNA expression signals) showed strong signals for 18 being turned on and 51 being turned off. Two of the most potent ones to be turned off were ones strongly associated with muscle atrophy – atrogin-1 and MuRF-1. The most potent one to be turned on was the one that encodes IGF-1 in muscle. The local production of IGF-1 is perhaps the single most instrumental process in the muscle hypertrophy response as it initiates the key steps of satellite cell recruitment into new myonuclei and protein synthesis via the kinase Akt.
Now you may be thinking that I am leading up to an announcement that I am going to sell this product. In fact I actually just started selling it. I had to be the first to market with a fully dosed ursolic acid product because the research (and it goes far beyond just this one article) impressed me so much, and now I am. I am not going to twist your arm to buy it but I think if you read through this entire blog you have to be at least intrigued. Anyway, if you are interested you can go to this link http://www.epharmnutrition.com/ursobolic.php