The claim: New research from the University of Iowa reveals a compound found in green tomatoes provides potent muscle building potential, helps protect against age-related muscle loss, and boosts fat loss.
The research: Researchers zeroed in on a compound, tomatidine, in green tomatoes that stimulates growth of cultured muscle cells in humans by generating changes in gene expression. When added to the diet of mice, tomatidine grew bigger muscles and increased the strength and endurance of the mice. Most notably, the tomatidine prevented and treated muscle atrophy. In addition, while the mice developed larger muscles, their overall body weight did not change due to a corresponding loss of fat. “Fat loss was a beneficial side effect of the increased muscle mass,” says study researcher Christopher Adams, MD, PhD, associate professor of internal medicine at UI Carver College of Medicine.
What it means: The results of this study show promise for treating obesity as well as age-related muscle loss known as sarcopenia. “Sarcopenia reduces strength and endurance, impairs activity and quality of life, and leads to falls and fractures,” says Dr. Adams. “Unfortunately, at present, we do not have any effective way to prevent or treat sarcopenia.”
The bottom line: More research is needed to develop tomatidine for people, says Dr. Adams. And it's impossible to say how many green tomatoes a person would need to eat to experience the same benefits. “But we are optimistic that tomatidine can be used in nutritional products that help protect muscle mass and function during aging,” Dr. Adams says.