In 2011, the journal Cell Metabolism published a rodent study that soon became a major topic of discussion on numerous internet sites and groups. The study attracted attention because it identified a natural substance that appeared to produce potent effects against muscle loss in rodents. This finding resulted from a technique called Connectivity mapping, used to compare gene expression patterns under varying conditions. In this case, they were examining which particular genes were turned on or off during the process of muscle atrophy. They then compared that pattern with other gene patterns in muscle cell cultures treated with natural compounds. They wound up testing 1,300 natural compounds to assess their ability to halt muscle loss. One particular compound appeared to offer potent anti-catabolic effects in the cell lines. That compound was ursolic acid. Follow-up studies with rats showed that ursolic acid prevented the muscle loss that resulted from both fasting and induced nerve damage. That latter effect is especially notable since a major theory of why we lose muscle as we age is related to a gradual loss of neuromuscular stimulation. In short, the nerve signals to muscle become far loss profound with age, leading to muscle atrophy. If ursolic acid could block that effect, it had the potential to prevent muscle atrophy related to aging. In addition, ursolic acid also appeared to interfere with the major catabolic pathway in muscle. That would mean it would also benefit a younger population engaged in resistance exercise. Muscle growth results from a balance between anabolic (building) and catabolic (breakdown) effects in muscle. If you blunt the catabolic pathway, the metabolic scales tip towards anabolism, which means more muscular growth.
More follow-up studies involving both in vitro and animal designs showed some exciting effects from ursolic acid. For example, a rodent study found that ursolic acid appeared to promote the conversion of white adipose (fat) cells to brown adipose cells. The latter often called "BAT," or brown adipose tissue is a highly thermogenic type of fat that promotes the conversion of fat calories into heat. Ursolic acid does this by increasing the production of a recently discovered myokine called Irisin. Myokines, which will be the subject of an upcoming feature in Applied Metabolics, is produced in muscle and function like local hormones. Rodents provided with ursolic acid showed elevated levels of Irisin, along with lower body fat levels. Ursolic acid also aided fat loss through the inhibition of pancreatic lipase, the primary fat-digesting enzyme in the body. When this enzyme is inhibited, you absorb fewer calories from fat in food. Ursolic acid also reduced the conversion of blood glucose into body fat by way of inhibiting another enzyme, fatty acid synthase. But that wasn't all. Ursolic acid boosts glycogen storage, which would aid workout energy since glycogen . . .