Dr. Christopher Adams of the University of Iowa said muscle atrophy, or muscle wasting, caused by aging, injury, cancer and heart failure makes people weak and fatigued, prohibits physical activity and predisposes people to falls and fractures.
Muscle atrophy affects more 50 million Americans annually, including 30 million elderly.
Muscle atrophy causes many problems for patients, their families, and the healthcare system in general -- exercise helps, but it's not enough and not possible those who are ill or injured, Adams said.
Using the systems biology tool the Connectivity Map, the research team identified tomatidine and discovered it stimulated growth of cultured human muscle cells.
The research team found healthy mice given supplements containing tomatidine grew bigger muscles, became stronger and exercised longer, but the mice did not gain body weight.
"Green tomatoes are safe to eat in moderation. But we don't know how many green tomatoes a person would need to eat to get a dose of tomatidine similar to what we gave the mice," Adams said in a statement. "We also don't know if such a dose of tomatidine will be safe for people, or if it will have the same effect in people as it does in mice."
The findings were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
[University of Iowa]
[Journal of Biological Chemistry]
2014: The Year in Music [PHOTOS]