By Michael A. Smith, MDMitochondria are amazing cellular compartments that create energy from the food we eat and the air we breathe. They convert fats and sugars from foods we consume into cellular energy. This energy generated by the mitochondria runs every process the body needs to stay young and healthy.
In a healthy five-year-old child, nearly 100% of the mitochondria, or what many people call the “power plants,” are working well.
But as we age, free radicals and other age-related forces destroy many of our mitochondria — and leave the ones that remain working at less than optimum efficiency.
As a matter of fact, it’s been estimated that 95% of the mitochondria in a typical 90-year-old person are damaged! Additional statistics show that people over age 70 had 50% more mitochondrial damage than middle-aged persons.1
So what happens when our mitochondria become damaged and begin to malfunction? Well, first off, we become tired. Generalized fatigue is a top complaint of aging Americans. The reason for this is quite simple: If your cells lose mitochondria, there’s not enough energy to support all the things you want to do.
Mitochondrial Dysfunction Leaves You Tired and DiseasedWhen you’re fatigued, if your body doesn't have enough energy to maintain and repair itself, you become more susceptible to diabetes, heart disease, memory loss, and other health problems.
And since we all desire to live healthy, long lives, we suggest a two-fold approach to maintaining healthy mitochondria.
First, we can get our existing mitochondria to work better by increasing our intake of antioxidants, which we can get from a healthy diet and from supplements.
Antioxidants have been shown to help protect or at least delay our mitochondria from degrading and sustaining damage. However, antioxidants cannot completely stop this process.
The antioxidants we suggest include:
- lipoic acid
- ubiquinol coenzyme Q10
Second, and this is the really exciting part, we can actually get our bodies to make new mitochondria.
Making New Mitochondria with PQQGenerating new mitochondria traditionally could only occur as a result of strenuous exercise and extreme calorie restriction … until now, that is. Discovered during the 1970’s, an essential nutrient called pyrroloquinoline quinone or PQQ plays a critical role across a range of basic life functions.
As an ultra-potent antioxidant, it provides extraordinary defense against mitochondrial decay. As a matter of fact, PQQ’s chemical structure enables it to withstand exposure to oxidation up to 5,000 times greater than vitamin C.2
But the most exciting revelation about PQQ emerged early in 2010 when researchers found it not only protected mitochondria from oxidative damage, it also stimulated the growth of new mitochondria!3
PQQ has been shown to be a potent growth factor in plants, bacteria, and higher organisms. Pre-clinical studies reveal that when deprived of dietary PQQ, animals exhibit stunted growth, compromised immunity, impaired reproductive capability, and, most importantly, fewer mitochondria in their cells.4
When PQQ is re-introduced into the diet, it reverses these effects, restoring systemic function while simultaneously increasing mitochondrial number and energy efficiency.5
Taking between 10–20 mg/day of PQQ may help generate new mitochondria and round out a nutritional strategy for supporting existing mitochondria.
And remember - the more mitochondria you have, the more cell energy you’ll have and the better you’ll likely feel for many years to come.
- Ann N Y Acad Sci. 1998 Nov 20;854:202-13.
- Altern Med Rev. 2009 Sep;14(3):268-77.
- J Biol Chem. 2010 Jan 1;285:142-52.
- Life Extension Magazine® Super Sale Edition 2010/2011.
- J Nutr. 2000 Apr;130(4):719-27.
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