Mitochondrial Support & Wellness/Longevity
Some of the most talked-about science relating to longevity in the last 15 years has been the study of mitochondia and mitochondrial wellness. If you remember your biology classes at all, you will recall that mitochondria (singular: mitochondrion) are the "powerhouses" or "fuel-furnaces" of the cell. They are the organelles which supply (cellular) energy. The Krebs cycle, or citric acid cycle, is the process by which these furnaces generate energy. The energy molecule, which may be considered the "energy currency" of the cell, is adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short. It is the end-product of the cellular respiration processes. Every single cell in the body contains these organelles, and the amount in each cell varies according to the individual energy requirements for that cell. Cardiac cells contain thousands of mitochondria, for instance, while some other cells contain merely dozens.
A largely accepted pathology today for disease states is that of inflammation in the body. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes-related neuropathies, and even Parkinson's disease seem to all have at their root inflammation and the attendant damage to tissues, whether blood vessels, nerve cells, or the muscular system. In fact, current medical science points to free-radical damage and low antioxidant status as a prime factor in the evolution of Parkinson's disease, and that by simply raising that status one may lessen the degenerative symptoms dramatically. Inflammation and free-radical damage also occur at a cellular level, and since the mitochondria power the cell, damage to these little furnaces is inevitable, and affects breakdown and "aging" of the cell and thus tissues and organs. Protection and repair of the mitochondria is possible, science has shown, and the results and ramifications are truly exciting.
As might be expected, supporting your mitochondria nutritionally is best achieved with a veritable who's-who of the most powerful antioxidants out there. One of the first studies published for this area was from UC Berkeley professor of molecular and cell biology, Bruce Ames. According to Ames, mitochondria are the "weak link in aging" and that deterioration of them is an important cause of aging. A primary cause of this deterioration is free-radical damage. Ames discovered that with the use of two nutrients, alpha lipoic acid and acetyl l-carnitine, aging mitochondria could be literally rejuvenated. The carnitine metabolite helps shuttle fats into the cell to be burned as energy and the alpha lipoic acid, a compound normally produced by the mitochondria, is a very powerful antioxidant, preventing and repairing the oxidative damage caused by free-radical electrons. The combination of the two, Ames said, made old rats "get up and do the Macarena." Twenty-eight month-old rats (old) received both nutrients in their food and water and after one month began exhibiting not only outward signs of youth, but performed increasingly better in cognitive tests. They acted more peppy and energetic. Supplementation improved both spatial and temporal memory, and reduced the amount of oxidative damage to RNA in the brain's hippocampus, an area important in memory. Ames also found that the combination of lipoic acid and acetyl l-carnitine improved mitochondrial activity and thus cellular metabolism, and increased levels of various chemicals known to decline with age, including ascorbic acid, an antioxidant. A conclusion was that of making a 75- to 80-year-old person act middle-aged.
Along with this now-classic combination, other nutrients may support mitochondrial health. As mentioned above, the stronger antioxidants come into play here. Many of these compounds support each other, and also support production of other antioxidant compounds. These substances have multiple mechanisms by which they work their magic. Regular readers of these newsletters will know about glutathione's importance for health and longevity. N-acetyl-cysteine, only partly by virtue of being a glutathione precursor, is a profound cellular protector. Resveratrol has been shown to induce mitochondrial biogenesis. This increase in mitochondrial content also may reduce ROS (reactive oxygen species) in the cells, further extending cellular lifespan. The famous antioxidant Coenzyme Q10, legendary for its role in creating cellular energy via the Krebs cycle, assists mitochondrial function at the most basic level. Two other nutrients which support total mitochondrial health via their cellular energy support are D-Ribose and NADH (Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide). Both of these compounds are part of ATP production and cycle in the cell, and thus profoundly help preserve mitochondrial function. Conditions with particular benefit here will include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and especially congestive heart failure. Omega-3 fatty acids, important for so many bodily systems, do support cellular health as well. These fats help to maintain fluidity/permeability of cellular membranes, allowing for passage of nutrients and wastes in and out of the cell.
In addition to certain nutrients, there are lifestyle measures one may implement which may help mitochondrial wellness. Exercise, in particular interval and strength training, has been shown to increase mitochondrial function. Naturally, a healthy diet will assist as well. This translates to avoidance of processed foods, fried foods, and especially white sugar, which creates stiff, inflexible tissues and inflammation. Lots of fruits and vegetables of a rainbow palette indicating antioxidant compounds such as anthocyanins, lutein, and other carotenoids, will further help your cells. "You are what you eat" never gets old!
Availability & Selection
Evergreen Nutrition carries all of the nutrients/supplements mentioned above. Most of these are located in our Antioxidant section, and can be found singly or in formulas. An especially powerful formula is Top 10 Healers from Source Naturals. It packs ten of the most well-researched and critical antioxidant nutrients at a very reasonable price.
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