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Obviously there are few individuals on this planet that would say no to the opportunity to exchange fat for muscle. Enhancing the body’s ability to utilize fat stores as a source of calories usually means a decreased diet that reduces calorie intake to a point where less calories are ingested than the body burns daily. Unfortunately, with this low calorie environment comes a “catabolic environment” in which needed daily calories also come from the breaking down of lean tissue (like muscle and connective tissue). What if it was possible to use fat stores as a source of calories without losing lean tissue during low calorie dieting? Now, imagine a magic pill that allowed you to use fat calories to build and repair lean tissue without a reduced caloric intake?
It’s Been Done Already?
In an interesting study performed at The University of Iowa on mice (1), researchers found that a natural compound found in the waxy coating of apple peels had beneficial effects upon body composition. According to Dr. Christopher Adams and colleagues, the benefits appear to be due to the administration of the apple peel compound known as ursolic acid. The project started when Adams and colleagues researched and identified 63 genes that change in response to fasting. These genes are the same in both people and mice. Then the team quantified an additional 29 genes that change their expression in muscles tissue of people who are fasting and those with spinal cord injuries. Next step is obvious, the team of researchers evaluated over 1,300 small molecules eventually zeroing in on ursolic acid as a compound that might counteract muscle atrophy (muscle wasting).
Dr. Adams’ and colleague’s research findings showed:
The study showed that effects of ursolic acid on muscle in normal mice were accompanied by reductions in their body fat, fasting blood glucose, cholesterol and fats called triglycerides.
Ursolic acid inhibited muscle atrophy in fasting mice. However, without ursolic acid, fasting in mice reduced muscle weight by 9%. Providing fasting mice with dietary ursolic acid increased their muscle weight by 7%. Metformin had no effect on muscle atrophy in fasting mice.
Ursolic acid also induced muscle growth (hypertrophy) in normal mice. Mice on a diet containing ursolic acid had larger skeletal muscles and skeletal muscle fibers and increased grip strength compared to those on a normal diet
The researchers explained these results in the mice were initiated at the gene level and were due to enhanced insulin/IGF-1 signaling in muscle and to corrections in gene signatures associated with muscle atrophy in both humans and mice (1,3). Another in study (12) confirmed that ursolic acid activates peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR)-α in vitro. Ursolic acid enhances the binding of PPAR-α to the peroxisome proliferator response element in PPAR-α-responsive genes, alters the expression of key genes in fat metabolism, significantly reducing intracellular triglyceride and cholesterol concentrations in hepatocytes. Thus, ursolic acid is a PPAR-α agonist that regulates the expression of lipid metabolism genes. Altering fat metabolism favorably at the genetic level appears to be one of the pathways by which ursolic acid reduces fat stores. In short, a very pro-lean-mass-gain/fat loss environment was induced.
Studied Beneifts of Ursolic Acid:
Augmentation of lean muscle mass by way of increased sensitivity to IGF-1 and insulin as well as inhibition of atrogin-1 and MuRF1.
Increased muscle glycogen stores thus increase muscular recovery and performance potential.
Increased bone strength by enhancing IGF-1 activity and differentiation and mineralization of osteoblasts.
By inhibiting 11-bHSD-1 decreased visceral (abdominal) fat.
Decreased estrogen levels through aromatase inhibition.
By way of pancreatic inhibition of lipase and increased lipolysis in fat cells, decreased fat storage and increase fat burning.
Decreased conversion of blood sugar to fat by inhibition fatty acid synthase.
Decreased bad cholesterol and fat stores through the activation of PPAR.
Inhibition of inflammatory cytokins, IL-6, and COX-2 specifically.
So Now What?
Ursolic Acid (UA) is not a new compound to the performance nutrition world. The positive effects of this interesting compound have been studied for years in humans, mice, rats and other mammals. The results from this research have been impressive enough that UA has been part of the Chain’d Out® formula from the beginning. (UA is naturally occurring in the waxy coating on apples…we named the whole apple peel extract “AppleActiv™”). More recently UA has been sold as a stand-alone product in the performance nutrition industry. So why not just throw some in a capsule and swear it’s the find of the century?