Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Kinesiology and Health

First Advisor

Jeffrey S. Otis

Second Advisor

Chishimba N. Mowa

Third Advisor

J. Andrew Doyle

Fourth Advisor

Desiree Wanders

Fifth Advisor

Brett Wong


Background: Recent estimates suggest that 7% of Americans use plant-derived nutritional supplements to treat a variety of complications and/or to improve athletic performance and skeletal muscle health. Unfortunately, these supplements are largely unregulated and understudied. For example, Moringa oleifera (M. oleifera) is a subtropical plant and is routinely used to treat inflammation, diabetes, obesity, cancer and HIV. However, the mechanism of action of M. oleifera has not been fully elucidated, thus the purpose of this study is to evaluate the role of M. oleifera as a novel ergogenic aid to improve exercise performance by driving peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma coactivator 1-alpha (PGC-1α)-dependent signaling pathways implicated in mitochondrial biogenesis and oxidative metabolism in skeletal muscle tissue. Methods: Adult male C57BL/6 mice were treated with 1.0 g of M. oleifera (N = 20) per day or vehicle control (N = 20) for a total of 5 weeks. Following 3 weeks of supplementation, half of each group (RUN) was given access to running wheels every night for 2 weeks (Remaining half = SED), distances ran were recorded daily. After treatment protocols were complete, the gastrocnemius muscles were excised and assayed for known markers of mitochondrial biogenesis, angiogenesis, endurance capacity, and capillary density using immunohistochemistry and RT-PCR. Results: Our results showed a significant increase in average distance run in the M. oleifera + SED and M. oleifera + RUN groups. This physiological trend was consistent with the molecular profile of key metabolic markers, i.e., there was an increase in levels of PGC-1α, PPARγ, SDHB, SUCLG1, VEGF, PGAM-2, PGK1, and MYLPF in the M. oleifera treated groups compared to vehicle + SED. Moreover, M. oleifera also increased CSA and decreased markers of protein degradation. Conclusions: This data suggests that M. oleifera has the potential to be an ergogenic aid via enhancing energy metabolism in adult skeletal muscle by increasing the expression of key metabolic markers, including those involved in glycolysis, oxidative phosphorylation, mitochondrial biogenesis and angiogenesis.


File Upload Confirmation