Product Review- Ursolic Acid for Building Muscle

Oct 13, 2011
Product Review- Ursolic Acid for Building Muscle

Patrick Arnold has something you need to read regarding Muscle Growth

We here about natural compounds all the time that supposedly do amazing things. 

Sometimes the science supporting them is strong and impressive, but more often than not the support is predicated upon a few paltry studies of questionable origin (if that).  Perhaps a study from a foreign country published in a third rate journal and financed by the company that manufactures the ingredient in question. 

What I am referring to here though is definitely not one of those dubious products.

The ingredient in question is called Ursolic Acid and it actually got a lot of coverage in the mainstream press earlier this summer. The literature on this is so impressive. By impressive I mean the literature is published in fully accredited journals by authors with no conflict of interest. And the research is expansive – looking at mechanisms at the cellular and genetic level in depth.

The Study

The first and foremost study regarding Ursolic Acid is one that has garnered a lot of press lately. It was published in the very prestigious journal Cell Metabolism, and the research was performed by scientists from the University of Iowa. They used techniques to identify genes that were turned on and off by two muscle catabolic stressors – starvation and denervation (think of spinal cord injury). They then turned to a huge database of gene (mRNA actually) expression signatures from 1300 candidate chemicals and after screening for which turned the right genes on (the anabolic ones) and turned the right genes off (the catabolic ones) they came to one that stood out – Ursolic acid. The researchers then gave Ursolic acid to starved mice and to denervated mice and they found that it indeed powerfully act as an anti-catabolic. They lost much less muscle than control mice

The cool part is they went on to see if it acted as an anabolic. That is, they wanted to see what it did to normal mice on a normal diet. They feed Ursolic acid to a group of mice for 5 weeks and then found that their muscles grew around 15% bigger than a control group of mice over the same period. The muscle fibers themselves appear markedly bigger under the microscope, so this was hypertrophy going on. The muscle was fully functional as well, which was demonstrated by measuring grip strength. The Ursolic mice had a significantly stronger grip (I guess the made the mice hang on a tiny chin up bar till they dropped or something).


Now you probably think that since the mice grew bigger muscles they probably weighed more than the control mice. Such was not the case. That is because there was almost a proportional decrease in fat mass in respect to the increase in muscle mass. Essentially, the body was using the fat to fuel the energy needed to build the muscle!! That is what is known as a recomposition effect and it is seen with agents such as clenbuterol. It is not really seen with anabolic steroids though, since although “roids” are great for building muscle, they don’t really affect fat mass in such an obvious and direct manner.

The researchers finally looked at how Ursolic acid worked (I told you, this paper is extremely thorough and comprehensive). Examination of which genes got turned on and which got turned off (via examining mRNA expression signals) showed strong signals for 18 being turned on and 51 being turned off. Two of the most potent ones to be turned off were ones strongly associated with muscle atrophy – atrogin-1 and MuRF-1. The most potent one to be turned on was the one that encodes IGF-1 in muscle. The local production of IGF-1 is perhaps the single most instrumental process in the muscle hypertrophy response as it initiates the key steps of satellite cell recruitment into new myonuclei and protein synthesis via the kinase Akt.

Certainly the Cell Metabolism article was very impressive but there is other research on Ursolic acid that has been published showing some other really cool things. A 2008 study demonstrated that Ursolic acid possesses good aromatase inhibitory activity in-vitro, meaning that it can potentially help reduce estrogen production in the body and increase testosterone. It also has been shown to be anabolic on bone via stimulation of osteoblast formation. Of particular interest to me, a 2010 paper published in Bioorganic and Medicinal Chemistry showed that Ursolic acid and some of its derivatives are potent and selective inhibitors of the tissue specific cortisol elevating enzyme 11b-HSD1. And finally, if you are a drinker than you might be interested to know that a 2006 paper from Life Sciences showed that Ursolic protects the liver from toxicity due to ethanol consumption. And then there are anti-cancer, anti-oxidant, anti-viral…….the list really goes on and on.

My Recommendation

If you are interested in giving Ursolic acid a try you should be thinking about dosing the stuff anywhere from 300 to 1500 mg a day.  It is not entirely clear what an optimal human dose may be.  Currently there is only one Ursolic Acid product on the market that is dosed high enough to allow for such daily intakes and that is Epharm's Ursobolic.  In a few months we hopefully will have a better grip on what this stuff really does for bodybuilders and what dosages are most effective.

-Patrick Arnold


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