Maye Musk has a lot of energy, as she tells it, and wants to live to age 98—at the very least.
The 73-year-old model and registered dietician with two master’s degrees—most famously known as Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s mom—just moved to New York City three months ago, she told Forbes at a late September breakfast event in a luxe Times Square hotel. We’re gathered in honor of Timeline Nutrition, which sells powder and pills that claim anti-aging properties and for which Musk recently signed on as a spokesperson. The compound allegedly “revitalizes mitochondria” (the cellular workhorses that convert food into energy in humans) but the evidence to back this claim is still preliminary. While the company has proven to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that its products are safe to ingest as dietary supplements, more research is needed to support its other claims, since supplement manufacturers don’t have to prove their products work.
Asked if she feels a difference from her five-month regimen taking Mitopure, the brand name for Timeline’s supplement, Musk says “I haven’t noticed,” adding, “It’s happening in the cell.” She says she keeps a “flexitarian” diet, meaning she’s vegetarian at home, monitors her alcohol intake, and exercises regularly. “I don’t try to sell something if I don’t believe it.” When reached for comment on whether Musk receives money from her son—the world’s richest person as of press time—and if she’s a spokesperson to make additional income, public relations representative Remi Barbier tells Forbes: “This has nothing to do with Elon Musk. Maye has her own life and her own career. I don’t find this question very appropriate.”
With her signature swept back, white pixie haircut, and elegantly attired in a cream sweater with matching cape, paired with gray plaid pants featuring a red side stripe, Musk is the picture of fashionable aging and health. A glossy photo spread provided by Timeline shows her with a pomegranate, packets of Mitopure, and donning a custom-made Lingua Franca cashmere sweater proclaiming “I <3 Mitochondria” that typically runs $400, which the retailer said she was gifted. At the Times Square hotel breakfast event, she occasionally takes a sip of coffee from a white mug with matching saucer while relaying her experience with Timeline’s Mitopure products. (Musk disclosed that she’s receiving financial compensation and free product as a spokesperson; representatives for the company declined to disclose how much she’s being paid.) Mitopure is available in 500 gram packets meant to be mixed into yogurt or smoothies or, alternatively, as pills; a one-month supply will set you back $100.
Mitopure is the result of what Timeline parent company, the Swiss-based Amazentis, says is over a decade of clinical research that they claim demonstrates a connection between the supplement and “revitalized mitochondria” and a “boost” in muscle function.
The secret ingredient in Mitopure? A compound known as Urolithin A, which in some people is naturally created by gut bacteria after eating foods containing what are known as ellagitannins, like pomegranate. According to Timeline’s website, a packet of Mitopure contains six times as much Urolithin A compared to what gut bacteria produce after drinking eight ounces of 100% pomegranate juice. When ingested, Timeline says Urolithin A stimulates a process called mitophagy, a fancy scientific term for renewing mitochondria, the performance of which scientific research has shown will slow as a person ages. Taking Mitopure, the company says, can “help address age-associated cellular decline.” While it is true that mitochondrial activity declines as people age, it’s not yet clear whether Urolithin A can slow or even reverse that process, although some studies in mice suggest the possibility.
Research, according to Timeline and parent Amazentis, is its key to demonstrating that its product works as advertised. The company has completed five clinical studies—two linked directly on Timeline’s website—between 2012 through 2020. “We’re taking the science that is normally used for developing pharmaceuticals and applying it towards natural products,” Amazentis chief executive Chris Rinsch says. However, the company’s product is not going through the same rigorous approval process as is required for pharmaceuticals. A study published in 2019 found the compound was safe to ingest (a secondary outcome showed an effect on a biomarker of cellular health, but was limited to a duration of four weeks), while a study published in 2021 found a person would need to consume 6 glasses of pomegranate juice in order to get the same amount of Urolithin A in their diet compared to taking the supplement. The company is conducting ongoing studies to learn more about how Urolithin A impacts older patients.
The first study had 60 participants, while the second one had 100 participants. Amy Stephens, a New York-based sports nutritionist who works with Olympic and NCAA athletes, was critical of the sample size, saying the company would “need thousands of participants” in order to prove its claims. “I don’t think you can get revitalized mitochondria from a jar,” she says, adding, “People who might take something like that are seeking to be healthy, right? But they might overlook a healthy diet and exercise.”
Timeline Nutrition touts the compound “has been favorably reviewed by the FDA” on its website, but Mitopure’s “generally recognized as safe” designation is not the same thing as FDA approval. The designation is “kind of meaningless,” says Elisabeth Anderson, head of science communication at Michigan State University’s Center for Research on Ingredient Safety. “They submit their ingredients and the data around their ingredients to the FDA, and the FDA says ‘yup, this is safe.’ It’s not anything super special.” Anderson says companies highlight the FDA designation to help consumers feel more comfortable with products that have scary-sounding ingredients. “The FDA is not reviewing the product itself,” she cautions. “They’re looking at the ingredients and if what the company is saying is true. They’re not doing any research [on efficacy.]”
Despite the small-scale research, the company’s product has convinced investors, the list of which reads like a who’s who of pharma-world bigwigs betting on the company’s prospects: Nestlé Health Sciences, Andre Hoffman of Roche Holding, Pierre Ladolt of Novartis, and billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss, whose net worth Forbes estimates at $5.9 billion. (Hoffmann and Landolt are cofounders, too.) It’s helmed by chief executive and third cofounder Rinsch, who holds a cell and molecular biology PhD from the University of Switzerland at Lausanne, along with Dr. Anuragh Singh, an immunologist and former global director of Nestlé Health Sciences, who serves as the company’s chief medical officer and oversees Mitopure’s clinical studies.
Rinsch declined to disclose funding raised to date, citing investor confidentiality, but did reveal that Amazentis is seeking $43 million for its ongoing Series D fundraising round. The company further claims that Timeline, launched in June 2020, has done “millions” of dollars in sales to “thousands” of customers.
Musk says she is happy to keep taking Mitopure. “I’m hoping to live longer than my mom, and she lived to be 98. If this is going to continue to repair my mitochondria, I’m hoping that this will be the new anti-aging supplement to take.”
Additional reporting by Katie Jennings.