Boost Energy and Support Longevity
Eat your colorful plant foods because they are full of antioxidants! While you may have heard that antioxidants fight oxidative stress that can cause your cells to age prematurely, drive inflammation, and drive chronic disease, do you know where in your body that oxidative stress matters the most?
The answer is: buried deep inside every single one of your cells! Most of that good work you do making and absorbing antioxidants is to protect the electrical engines of your cells, called mitochondria. Every moment of every day, these cellular organs transfer the chemical energy from food you eat to adenosine triphosphate, or ATP– a form of power your cells can readily use. These high-powered chemical reactions generate a lot of free radicals- compounds that cause oxidative stress. So to keep the energy coming, your body is on notice: keep the mitochondria happy.
If Mitochondria Aren’t Happy, Nobody’s Happy
This isn’t the only reason to keep the mitochondria happy- they also regulate cell death. When we talk about the importance of supporting your mitochondria, this is critical. When your mitochondria take enough damage and cannot clean it up, they start a series of events that leads to orderly death of the cell they are in, called apoptosis. In short, mitochondria boot up the cell death program if they don't think they can keep doing their jobs effectively. This means that mitochondrial antioxidants reduce local damage and block apoptosis. This mechanism is great when it removes cancerous and damaged cells, but what happens when too many of your cells are starved of essential micronutrients and damaged beyond repair?
Dead, damaged, and potentially cancerous cells result. Mitochondrial health has been very closely associated with aging (and premature aging) as the health of your mitochondria appears to be directly related to your biological age. In fact, many processes that occur in mitochondria, more than just quenching free radicals, likely contribute to the youth and vitality of your cells. So, whether you are battling fatigue, trying to slow the aging process, and/or have a vested interest in cancer prevention (don’t we all!), you need your cells to work and you need your mitochondria to power and enable that work., These little cellular engines, due to an ancient biological event called an endosymbiosis, likely evolved from a type of purple sulfur-loving eubacterium or bacterium with similar metabolic machinery that contains cytochromes and ubiquinones. Just like any other organism, organ, or organism-turned-organ, they have important nutritional requirements.
Feed and Nourish your Mitochondria!
Much research into mitochondrial health has centered around cardiovascular health because poorly powered cells may lead to cardiac failure. How do we keep these engines running? You already know that reducing oxidative stress is important, so don’t neglect moderate exercise, sufficient sleep, stress management, and your environmental exposures! But putting those important lifestyle aspects aside for a moment, let's take a look at some critical micronutrients that your mitochondria could fail without. Some of these micronutrients help them make energy molecules (ATP) in an assembly line called the electron transport chain. Other micronutrients can help you make the antioxidants you need to keep your mitochondria resilient against free radical damage. Resilient cells build a resilient body, not just a healthy heart!
We rely on respiration- burning sugar in the presence of oxygen to make water, carbon dioxide, and ATP- to turn food into energy, which occurs in mitochondria. Many vitamins help to support reactions that are a part of this general process, like the citric acid cycle that turns food parts into energetic intermediates, or the electron transport chain, which makes those intermediates into ATP. For instance, to make one vital component of the electron transport chain, CoQ10, you need vitamins C, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12. In fact, all of the B vitamins boost energy production to some extent because they support mitochondrial metabolism. CoQ10, in turn, has been shown to suppress apoptosis by inhibiting superoxides (free radicals) and DNA damage!
- Vitamin B1 (thiamin, preferably thiamin pyrophosphate or TPP, the biologically active form we put in Nutreince) supports respiration reactions. It supports enzymes that break down carbohydrates and later helps turn them into ATP and helps to process important protein complexes used in the citric acid cycle. It also helps reduce cellular oxidative stress and maintains the normal structure and function of mitochondria.
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin, preferably riboflavin-5-phosphate) transports energy from the breakdown of macronutrients to the electron transport chain to load up ATP. It also supports methylation reactions by activating an important intermediate methylation enzyme called MTHFR. Working together with folate, vitamin B12, and certain amino acids, riboflavin supports methylation reactions needed to make CoQ10 and L-carnitine, both of which support mitochondrial metabolism, and suppresses the expression of genes that may be cancerous. Interestingly, riboflavin and CoQ10 may reduce migraines that are caused by an energetic deficiency in the brain.
- Vitamin B3 (preferably both niacin and niacinamide), supports the citric acid cycle much as riboflavin does. Niacin supports CoQ10 synthesis and can also act as a free radical scavenger, slowing mitochondrial aging. Due to this and other suspected mechanisms, niacin has been frequently heralded as an anti-aging vitamin!
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid, preferably pantethine, which is the biologically active form of B5) helps to move small carbon chains around that result from the breakdown of carbohydrate, fat, and protein, plays additional roles in fat metabolism, and supports certain enzyme complexes in the citric acid cycle. It also supports synthesis of the electron transport chain complex element CoQ10.
- Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine, preferably pyridoxal-5-phosphate) also helps to make CoQ10 and supports metabolic pathways in the mitochondria that produce energy; it is also important in early steps of protein processing that may liberate protein parts that can be used for energy.
- Vitamin B7 (biotin, preferably d-biotin) supports decarboxylases, important enzymes used for many reactions, including to help transform fats we eat into energy by taking the “acid” out of “fatty acid.”
- Vitamin B9 (folate, preferably methyltetrahydrofolate/5-MTHF) supports free radical scavenging (damage control) in mitochondria. Folate is important for CoQ10 synthesis and energy production.
- Vitamin B12 (cobalamin, preferably methylcobalamin) works with riboflavin and folate to support methylation reactions central to CoQ10 synthesis.
- Vitamin C (ascorbic acid, preferably ascorbyl palmitate) is a powerful antioxidant (free radical scavenger) that also supports CoQ10 production and the production of glutathione, a critical antioxidant.
- Vitamin E (α-tocopherol, preferably as the spectrum of α,β,ɣ,δ-tocotrienols and α,β,ɣ,δ-tocopherols) is also a powerful antioxidant that works synergistically with vitamin C and glutathione.
- Vitamin D (cholecalciferol- D3). Vitamin D3 and omega 3 fatty acid supplementation has been shown to improve mitochondrial health in cancer cells in rats, but research is ongoing to establish a clear mechanism for supporting our mitochondrial health.
- Oxygen. Take a deep breath. Your mitochondria use oxygen as the final acceptor of electrons during respiration to generate water, carbon dioxide, and ATP. This is why we breathe. The ancient ancestors of our mitochondria very well may have used sulfur for this same role. Oxygen is a primary source of free radical damage in the mitochondria because 1-2% of the oxygen we use for respiration “leaks” as superoxide radicals. These are most commonly neutralized with superoxide dismutase (SOD), an enzyme that may be coupled with iron, copper, zinc, or manganese.
- Iron. Cytochrome proteins in the electron transport chain use iron’s high reactivity to hot-potato electrons down the ATP assembly line. While high iron levels can cause excessive oxidative stress due to its high reactivity, iron deficiency causes a measurable stress response in mitochondria.
- Copper, another important mineral for mitochondrial health, plays a similar role as a highly reactive electron mover. Copper also is part of superoxide dismutase, an important antioxidant for mitochondria.
- Zinc. Alongside copper, zinc plays a critical role in supporting adequate superoxide dismutase levels.
- Manganese. Mice with inadequate manganese-superoxide-dismutase (MnSOD) die early, partially as a result of reduced mitochondrial activity, specifically reduced activity of the citric acid cycle enzyme aconitase and complex II of the electron transport chain, and are very susceptible to DNA damage.
- Selenium. This trace mineral may play a role in preventing mitochondria from undergoing apoptosis, though research is ongoing. Selenium supports levels of the antioxidant glutathione, found in small but meaningful amounts within mitochondria, that has been shown to improve cell survival when mitochondria are damaged.
- Magnesium. Research indicates that regulation of mitochondrial magnesium is directly correlated with energy status in the mitochondria and how likely they are to become damaged. Magnesium plays a critical role in the DNA ligase enzyme needed for replicating the mitochondrial genome, which is required to make new mitochondria. Being able to quickly increase the number of your cellular engines is important for those seeking to train muscles, especially those training to boost athletic performance, and for those seeking to reduce their risk of fatigue. In cardiovascular disease research, magnesium has been shown to play a role in reducing the risk of heart failure in those who are deficient, which could operate by a similar mechanism: boosting the energetic capacity of heart muscle cells.
Feed and Nourish your Mitochondria with Healthy Lifestyle Choices
- Diverse Diet with Smart Supplementation. Beyond choosing organic, clean produce and a diet diverse in pasture-raised or wild-caught proteins, we understand that B vitamins in particular can be difficult for the average eater to feel confident in. Consider a multivitamin, such as Nutreince, that can provide a safe, effective insurance policy for all of the nutrients listed above, supplied in their most beneficial forms!
- Soothe Stress. Toxic thoughts cause toxicity and chronic stress creates oxidative stress that can damage mitochondria. In fact, research shows that important micronutrient deficiencies that can affect mental health may partially cause problems due to the damage these deficiencies can do to your mitochondria.
- Support your Slumber. Sleep is the time your cells have for repair, and mitochondria are part of those cells. Fasting can induce mitophagy, a process of breaking down damaged mitochondrial parts and repairing them, which automatically happens to some extent if you do not eat right before bed and sleep a full night.
- Mind your Medications. If you suffer from high cholesterol, you may want to consider swapping out your statin for a cholesterol-lowering diet because statins prevent your body from manufacturing CoQ10, an important electron-transport chain support micronutrient.
- Engage in Exercise. High intensity interval training in particular (like our Zero Movement Training from The Micronutrient Miracle) has been shown to increase the number of mitochondria per muscle cell in as little as just one session!
If you’ve ever tried to drive your car with no engine and no fuel, you know the value of energy-producing mitochondria. Consider the value of balanced nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress management, and even hydration in balancing out the incredible amount of dirty, oxidative work that your mitochondria do every second of every day to generate ATP. The benefit of healthy mitochondria goes beyond healthy aging and a healthy heart to a healthy outlook- so you can get up, go out, move freely, and tackle every minute with zest. We hope you see the importance of these little cellular organs and nourish them with every bite of healthy micronutrient packed goodness!