Molecule found in coffee boosts muscle function in older people

Written by | 6 Apr 2024 | Medicines and Therapeutics

A natural molecule present in coffee could improve muscle health and function, according to a new study. The molecule, trigonelline, also occurs in the human body, in the herb fenugreek, and elsewhere.

Scientists at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS Medicine) and Nestlé Research in Switzerland led an international collaboration which included contributions from the University of Southampton, University of Melbourne, University of Tehran, University of South Alabama, University of Toyama and University of Copenhagen.

The work, published in Nature Metabolism, builds on a previous collaborative study that described novel mechanisms of human sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is a condition where cellular changes that happen during ageing gradually weaken the muscles in the body and lead to accelerated loss of muscle mass, strength and reduced physical independence.

One important problem during sarcopenia is that the cellular cofactor NAD+ declines during ageing, while mitochondria, the energy powerhouses in our cells, produce less energy. The study team discovered that levels of trigonelline were lower in older people with sarcopenia. Providing this molecule in pre-clinical models resulted in increased levels of NAD+, increased mitochondrial activity and contributed to the maintenance of muscle function during ageing.

NAD+ levels can be enhanced with different dietary precursors like the essential amino acid L-tryptophan (L-Trp), and vitamin B3 forms such as nicotinic acid (NA), nicotinamide (NAM), nicotinamide riboside (NR) and nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN).

Assistant Professor Vincenzo Sorrentino from the Healthy Longevity Translational Research Programme at NUS Medicine said: ‘Our findings expand the current understanding of NAD+ metabolism with the discovery of trigonelline as a novel NAD+ precursor and increase the potential of establishing interventions with NAD+-producing vitamins for both healthy longevity and age-associated diseases applications.’

Nutrition and physical activity are important lifestyle recommendations to maintain healthy muscles during ageing. ‘We were excited to discover through collaborative research that a natural molecule from food cross-talks with cellular hallmarks of ageing. The benefits of trigonelline on cellular metabolism and muscle health during ageing opens promising translational applications,’ said Jerome Feige, Head of the Physical Health department at Nestlé Research.

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