Mitochondria are believed to be involved in human aging and mitochondrial dysfunction is now recognized as being at the core of virtually all disease states. Our mitochondria produce energy (known as ATP). These energy-producing powerhouses are found in most all cells, including those cells that make up your brain, heart, skeletal muscle, and liver. The body’s mitochondria make up ten percent of total body weight.
Certainly, loss of energy is one of the most common signs of aging and disease. Fatigue may be a sign your mitochondria are unable to keep up with your body’s energy demands. And this is when we may begin to feel the “bottom fall out”.
So, if you’re feeling old and weary before your time, here are a few tips to jump start your mitochondria:
- First and foremost, follow a nutritionally ketogenic food plan – a ketogenic diet calls for eliminating all but non-starchy vegetable carbohydrates (non-starchy vegetables include broccoli, kale, spinach, and celery) and replacing them with healthy fats and high-quality protein. When you eat this way, you convert your body’s carb burning mode to a fat burning one. This diet will significantly reduce inflammation in your body, as well as help to optimize your weight.
- Eat less – animal studies have shown that caloric restriction extends lifespan and population studies suggest that this holds true for humans, too. In the case of intermittent fasting, you keep your eating to a window of six to eight hours in a day. In other words, you can choose between having breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner, but avoid having both breakfast and dinner. Dinner should always be eaten at least three hours before going to bed. When you cut back on food consumption, fewer demands are made on your mitochondria. During a fast, malfunctioning mitochondria are destroyed, eliminating unwanted debris and certain proteins that no longer serve a purpose.
- Exercise more – the stress of physical exercise tunes up your mitochondria and activates biochemical pathways that stimulate the production of new organelles (tiny structures with specific functions within a single cell), a process known as mitochondria biogenesis. This does not mean over-exercising. Simply engaging in consistent, moderate aerobic activity stimulates your muscle cells to make this adaptation to increased energy demands.
- Take nutritional supplements that mimic the positive effects of exercise and caloric restriction:
- Resveratrol has been shown to protect against cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases, enhance antioxidant status, reduce inflammation, and, in animals, extend lifespan and retard age-related deterioration.
- Alpha lipoic acid is also important for promoting mitochondrial biogenesis. ALA is used as a general antioxidant support and to treat and prevent neuropathy and other diabetic complications. It also helps with blood sugar and weight control because it stimulates glucose uptake and increases the burning of fatty acids.
- Coenzyme Q10 is an antioxidant present in all cells and particularly concentrated in the mitochondria. CoQ10 helps to produce energy and protects the mitochondria against free-radical damage.
Following these methods to improve cellular and mitochondrial function will provide you with more energy, slow or reverse signs of aging, and enhance your health and quality of life.