Mitochondria are tiny double membrane-bound organelles found in almost every cell of all organisms except bacteria. Known as the “powerhouse of the cell” they are primarily responsible for converting the air we breathe and the food we eat into energy that our cells can use to grow, divide and function. Given this, it is no surprise that cells which require the most energy, such as those in the brain, heart, liver and muscle, have the highest number of mitochondria in them (liver cells can have over 2,000). The only cells in humans which do not contain mitochondria are our red blood cells.
In addition to producing energy, mitochondria are responsible for many other tasks including producing cell signalling molecules, regulating vital calcium levels, producing body heat and killing off cells that have become unviable.
The most popular theory about the origin of mitochondria is that they were once bacteria which were engulfed by more advanced single-cell organisms. These bacteria survived that process and formed a symbiotic relationship with the organisms. This provided an energy production advantage that has persisted through the evolution of more complex organisms, right to this very day.
Some of the strongest evidence for this theory is that mitochondria contain their very own tiny DNA sequence which is completely separate from that of the cell they are located in.
Mitochondria produce energy by turning glucose and oxygen into a chemical called ATP. ATP carries energy in its chemical bonds that the cellular machinery can use to function and grow. Once these bonds are broken and the energy is released, ATP is recycled by the mitochondria back to its active form to be used again. It is estimated that there is only around 250 grams of ATP in the average adult body, but due to this constant recycling, that same adult will go through their bodyweight in ATP every day.
Researchers have even calculated that elite marathon runners can burn through their own bodyweight in ATP in a single 2-hour race!
When mitochondria produce ATP, they produce by-products known as free radicals. These free radicals are mostly highly-reactive oxygen compounds which, if not kept in check, can react with (oxidise) and damage other parts of the cell such as the mitochondrial membranes and the cell’s DNA. When this happens, mitochondria can become inefficient at producing energy, DNA can become corrupted, and the cell cannot perform its various tasks as it should. This “oxidative stress” can cause a person to suffer from low energy levels and can lead to potentially serious health conditions. It is also thought to be a major contributor to the aging process itself.
Thankfully there are several different types of natural antioxidant molecules inside mitochondria (and the rest of the cell) which neutralize these harmful free radicals and protect the cellular machinery from damage. When we are young and healthy, our mitochondria produce lots of energy and we have plenty of natural antioxidants to fight free radical damage. However, as we age our mitochondria begin to decline in function and they produce less antioxidants to fight oxidative stress. We don’t have the energy we once had, it takes longer to recover from illness or injury and the visible signs of aging start to appear. The same happens in many health conditions too, which can lead to low energy levels and can even cause cells to start to die off as they become too damaged. This is especially important in the cells of our vital organs such as our brains, hearts and livers; and can lead to serious health conditions which significantly impact our quality of life.
CoQ10 is the most important of the natural antioxidants in our cells, and it also plays a vital role in the energy production process itself. As we age, our natural coQ10 reserves diminish leading to lower energy production and increased free radical damage.
Although we can take coQ10 supplements, next to none of it gets inside our mitochondria where it is needed most. This is because mitochondria produce their own coQ10 so they do not absorb it from the outside. Thankfully, scientists found a way around this problem when they discovered MitoQ.
MitoQ is CoQ10 with a special positively charged molecule attached. This positive charge allows MitoQ to be attracted to, and transported inside, negatively charged mitochondria. This unique property provides our mitochondria with a huge energy and antioxidant boost and significantly reduces oxidative damage like no other antioxidant can. Our mitochondria can get on with their job of producing energy and neutralizing free radicals meaning our cells are able to repair themselves and get on with their numerous tasks and functions.