If you and your friends are interested in health and wellbeing, there is one topic that should be at the core of your discussions: mitochondria.
Found in almost all the cells within your body, these little powerhouses are the source of everyone’s health and vitality. The main function of mitochondria is to create your body’s energy, however, they also play some other amazing roles in supporting your body’s health and wellbeing. If you’re ready to learn about mitochondria and impress your friends with some impressive facts, keep reading.
1. Mitochondrial health is linked to your body’s aging process
Healthy mitochondria = healthy cells, and (with around 37.2 trillion of them in your body) healthy cells enable your mind and body to function at their best. As Integrative Physician and Internal Medicine Specialist Dr. Mark Menolascino puts it, “age is just a number. It’s how your body and your cells are aging that makes the difference.”
While the main function of mitochondria is to create your body’s energy, they also play an important role in regulating cell functions that relate to the aging process. If your mitochondria are healthy, they are in a better position to support a healthy aging process. Unhealthy mitochondria, on the other hand, can speed up the aging process.
“All cells, besides red blood cells, contain mitochondria - so it’s easy to see how mitochondrial health is linked to the body’s aging process”, explains MitoQ’s Medical and Scientific Affairs Specialist Kai Man Yuen. “Most reports show that aging is usually accompanied by a decline in activity of mitochondrial enzymes, decreased capacity of mitochondria and an increase of reactive oxygen species. Therefore, it is so important to look after the powerhouse of the cell.”
2. Too much sun exposure can cause oxidative stress
The health of your mitochondria is very much linked to your lifestyle choices. A poor diet, smoking cigarettes and getting too much sun exposure are all known to negatively affect mitochondrial health. While a little bit of sun is good for us, too much exposure can lead to mitochondrial DNA damage and oxidative stress (which basically means that your body isn’t able to keep free radicals in check).
“Too much exposure to the sun can cause mitochondrial DNA damage and oxidative stress in the skin cells, which can lead to progression of other complications due to chronic UV exposure”, tells Kai Man.
“Smoking, like too much sun, contains several highly unstable free radicals that can also lead to oxidative stress. There is a fine balance between free radicals being produced and your body being able to neutralize them. Think of it like a seesaw. By having these lifestyle habits, you are tipping the favor toward the free radicals - leading to oxidative stress and impacting mitochondrial health.”
3. High-intensity exercise can damage mitochondrial DNA
While exercise is - for the most part - beneficial for our health, high-intensity workouts can damage our mitochondrial DNA. This can lead to cell death and can also send damage on to a new generation of mitochondria. To combat the harmful effects of free radical damage, many athletes take MitoQ.
“There are many benefits to high-intensity exercises”, emphasizes Kai Man. “Studies have shown that high-intensity interval training can increase VO2max (an indicator of cardiorespiratory fitness) and improve some cardiometabolic risk factors in certain populations. Because of this, there is interest in decreasing mitochondrial DNA damage. A recent study showed that MitoQ has the ability to attenuate exercise-induced mitochondrial DNA damage in both lymphocytes and muscle tissues.”
4. Antioxidants play an important role in improving mitochondrial health
If you or your friends aren’t sure where to start with looking after your mitochondria, focus on giving them the nutrition they need to thrive. Antioxidants are important because they help support the body’s response to oxidative stress against your cells – the “building blocks” of your body.
“Antioxidants can reduce the harmful effects of free radicals in one of two ways: directly reacting with the free radicals or indirectly through the inhibition of production or the increase production of intrinsic molecules that defend against free radicals”, explains Kai Man.
However, despite what you may have heard, antioxidants found within food won’t make a significant difference to mitochondrial health. To supplement your mitochondria, you need an advanced form of the antioxidant CoQ10.
“While consuming antioxidants is still very important for mitochondrial health, not being able to enter the mitochondria in meaningful amounts makes a huge difference in keeping mitochondria optimal.”
5. Mitochondria are very difficult to penetrate
While antioxidants do play an important role in fighting free radical damage, it takes more than a handful of blueberries to keep free radicals under control. To protect your cells from free radical damage, your mitochondria line themselves with a naturally produced antioxidant: CoQ10. The tricky thing about CoQ10 is that it is naturally produced within the mitochondria. Foods and supplements historically haven’t been able to enter through the mitochondria’s tough double membrane, making it difficult to provide your body with any additional CoQ10 support.
“CoQ10 can be found in the food we consume but, due to the large size and having no charge, it does not get attracted to the mitochondria, nor get in, in meaningful amounts”, explains Kai Man. “MitoQ, however, due to its miniature size and having a positive charge, is able to be attracted to the negatively charged mitochondria. Because it is smaller, it gets into the mitochondria to help neutralize free radicals at their source.
“This supports your mitochondrial health, so they can work optimally within your body. Regular CoQ10 just doesn’t get into your mitochondria in meaningful amounts and, with a lot of the reactive oxygen species being produced inside the mitochondria, it’s only logical to have MitoQ at the source to support mitochondrial health.”
Reviewed by: Kai Man Yuen/ BSc., PGDipSci., MSc.