Mind thy mitochondria! has been a silent battle cry for me for many years now. We’re composed of 65 to 90 trillion cells (scientists are still arguing about this number) and at the heart of each one of those cells is the mitochondria.
We want healthy vigorous mitochondria! I call them my "little molecular geniuses" and I like to do all I can for them.
Mitochondria, also known as the "powerhouses of the cell," play a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. These tiny organelles are responsible for generating the energy that our cells need to function properly and when they’re not functioning properly, it can lead to a wide range of health problems. With an estimated number of between 65 to 90 trillion cells in the human body, the health of our mitochondria is of paramount importance.
The more energy a tissue or organ demands for proper function, the more mitochondria its cells contain, and mitochondria are especially abundant in the cells that make up our hearts, brains, and muscles.
“The more energetically demanding a cell is, the more mitochondria they have, and the more critical that mitochondria health is, so there’s more potential for things to go wrong,” says Andrew Moehlman, postdoctoral researcher who studies neurodegeneration at the US National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. According to some estimates, each one of our neurons can have up to 2 million mitochondria!
How does the state of our mitochondria influence our health?
Cognitive function: The brain is one of the most energy-intensive organs in the body, and healthy mitochondria are crucial for maintaining optimal cognitive function. Mitochondria in the brain produce the energy needed for neurotransmitters to function properly and for nerve cells to communicate with each other. When mitochondria are damaged or not functioning properly, it can lead to cognitive decline and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.
Longevity: Mitochondria play a critical role in the aging process. As we age, the number and function of mitochondria in our cells decline. This leads to a decrease in energy production and an increase in cellular damage, which can accelerate aging. By maintaining healthy mitochondria, it is possible to delay aging and improve overall longevity.
Muscle health: Mitochondria are particularly important for muscle health. They produce the energy needed for muscle contraction and are responsible for maintaining muscle mass. When mitochondria are damaged or not functioning properly, it can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue, and muscle wasting.
Organ health: The organs that have a high-energy demand, such as the heart, liver, and kidneys, are particularly mitochondria-dense. Healthy mitochondria are crucial for maintaining optimal organ function. When mitochondria are damaged or not functioning properly, it can lead to organ dysfunction and failure.
What can we do to help ensure healthy & robust mitochondria over a life-time? Oh so much!
In addition to the ketones produced endogenously through a ketogenic diet, exogenous ketones can also be consumed to improve the health of the mitochondria. Exogenous ketones are ketones that are taken in the form of supplements, such as ketone esters or ketone salts. These supplements can raise blood ketone levels quickly and efficiently, providing an alternative energy source to the body.
Exogenous ketones have been shown to improve mitochondrial function, increase mitochondrial biogenesis and protect existing mitochondria from damage. They have also been found to increase the production of PGC-1alpha, a protein that regulates mitochondrial biogenesis, leading to the formation of new mitochondria. This increased number of mitochondria improves energy metabolism and helps protect against age-related declines in mitochondrial function. Furthermore, exogenous ketones can help to support the brain and cognitive function, particularly in individuals with neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and traumatic brain injury.
Medium Chain Triglycerides (MCT’s)
MCTs have been shown to enhance exercise endurance by increasing mitochondrial biogenesis and metabolism. In a study published in the Journal of Lipid Research, researchers found that MCT supplementation led to an increase in the number of mitochondria in skeletal muscle cells, leading to improved endurance exercise performance.
MCT’s are a type of fat that have been found to have several potential health benefits, including improving mitochondrial health. MCTs are metabolized differently than other types of fats, they are rapidly absorbed and taken directly to the liver, where they are converted into ketones. These ketones can be used as an alternative energy source for the brain and other organs, particularly in people with conditions such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and other neurological disorders. Additionally, MCTs have been found to increase the production of a protein called PGC-1alpha, which is a key regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis, the process of creating new mitochondria within a cell. This increased production of PGC-1alpha leads to the formation of new mitochondria, which improves energy metabolism and can help protect against age-related declines in mitochondrial function. MCTs also have been found to protect existing mitochondria from damage and improve their function, which further enhances overall mitochondrial health.
Another way to support healthy mitochondria is through the use of L-theanine, an amino acid found in green tea. L-theanine has been shown to prevent neuronal loss and mitochondrial failure by improving dopamine, GABA, and serotonin levels in the central nervous system via antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuromodulatory properties. A study from The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry also found that dietary L-theanine supplementation increased the fatigue-resistant, antioxidant capacity, mitochondrial biogenesis, and function in the skeletal muscle of mice.
Endurance exercise is a powerful way to increase mitochondrial biogenesis. When we engage in endurance exercise, such as running, cycling, or swimming, our muscles work harder and require more energy. To meet this increased energy demand, the body responds by increasing the number of mitochondria in the muscle cells. This allows the muscles to produce more energy and perform better.
The process of mitochondrial biogenesis is triggered by a specific signaling pathway known as the PGC-1α pathway. When endurance exercise is performed, the PGC-1α pathway is activated, leading to the production of new mitochondria. Studies have shown that endurance exercise increases the expression of PGC-1α in muscle tissue, which in turn leads to an increase in the number of mitochondria. This increased mitochondrial density leads to improved energy production and improved endurance exercise performance. Additionally, endurance exercise also improves the function of existing mitochondria, leading to a more efficient energy production and better endurance. This is why regular endurance exercise is considered to be beneficial for overall health and well-being.
Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) is a nutrient that has been found to have several potential health benefits. One of the most well-studied effects of PQQ is its ability to increase mitochondrial biogenesis, which refers to the process of creating new mitochondria within a cell. Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell, responsible for producing the energy needed for the cell to function properly. By increasing the number of mitochondria, PQQ may improve energy metabolism and help protect against age-related declines in mitochondrial function.
PQQ has been found to activate a protein called PGC-1alpha, which is a key regulator of mitochondrial biogenesis. By activating PGC-1alpha, PQQ leads to the expression of genes involved in the formation and function of mitochondria. This increased expression leads to the formation of new mitochondria, which in turn improves energy metabolism and helps protect against age-related declines in mitochondrial function. Additionally, PQQ has been shown to protect existing mitochondria from damage and improve their function, which further enhances overall mitochondrial health.
NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) is another supplement that has been shown to support healthy mitochondria. NMN stimulates the production of NAD+, a molecule that is crucial for the proper functioning of mitochondria. NAD+ levels decrease as we age, leading to a decline in mitochondrial function. Increasing NAD+ levels through supplementation can delay aging and speed up regeneration. In a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers found that NMN supplementation improved mitochondrial function and increased the lifespan of mice.
CoQ10 (ubiquinone) is a crucial component in the production of energy at the level of the mitochondria. CoQ10 is found in every single one of our mitochondria, and organs that are particularly mitochondria-dense, such as the heart and liver, have an even greater need for it. CoQ10 can be obtained through diet by eating organ meats such as liver, which are one of the best natural sources of CoQ10. Additionally, taking CoQ10 supplements have been found to improve the health of mitochondria, it is an antioxidant that is important for the production of energy in the body.
Remember to "mind thy mitochondria" and take care of your little molecular geniuses!