Scientists are constantly searching for substances that are capable of blocking lean mass loss. Loss of lean mass is a serious problem in several medical conditions, including cancer and HIV-wasting diseases. It is also a primary cause of the feebleness and loss of mobility in many older people. Over 90% of people in nursing homes aren't there for mental problems, but rather because they are too weak to perform normal functions, such as dressing and even feeding themselves. They often have lost most of their mobility because of a lack of muscle mass. One way to deal with this loss of lean mass is by providing anabolic drugs. This route, however, is problematic. For example, human growth hormone therapy is capable of reversing many of the negative physical changes that occur with age, especially in those who are deficient in the hormone. On the other hand, no one knows the long-term effects of growth hormone, and providing it to older people may cause some serious side effects. The same is true for anabolic steroid drugs. While these drugs without question build and maintain muscle mass, there is also the possibility of side effects. Thus far, testosterone therapy in men shown to be deficient in the hormone has proven safe and effective. The former notions that testosterone causes prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease have largely been discounted by ongoing research. The ideal way to maintain muscle mass would be to supply a safe, natural method.
Scientists developed a special screening system to detect the presence of potential anabolic compounds in natural foods. After screening thousands of compounds, they discovered a substance in apple peels called ursolic acid that showed remarkable anabolic potential. The substance proved to be a potent stimulant of lean mass accretion in rodents. While the goal of this research was to find a natural substance that would prevent atrophy and loss of muscle mass under both aging and pathological conditions, it wasn't long before ursolic acid was being sold as a "muscle-building" supplement to bodybuilders. Whether it works or not isn't yet established, since no randomized controlled studies have yet been published to prove its efficacy.
Even with the discovery of the anabolic potential of ursolic acid, the scientists weren't through. More recently, they found another natural anabolic substance, this time in green tomatoes. The substance is called tomatidine, and works in two ways. First, it directly promotes the activity of mTOR, a protein that is pivotal in the muscle protein synthesis process. mTOR activity is also promoted by amino acids, particularly the branched-chain amino acid, leucine. Tomatidine is classified as a steroidal alkaloid, which is produced from a parent compound called alpha-tomatine. In tomatoes, a-tomatine provides a defense against fungi, bacteria, viruses, and predatory insects. When tomatoes are consumed by animals, the a-tomatine is broken down by stomach acid and then is converted into tomatidine . . .