Mitochondria-Fundamental to Life and Health.
Strategies to Improve Mitochondrial Function
Pick the right mother. Sorry, couldn’t resist, but starting out with optimal mtDNA certainly helps.
Optimize nutrient status to limit oxygen and high-energy electron leakage in the ETC. As the greatest source of oxidative stress and damage to mtDNA, this is perhaps the most powerful antiaging strategy we can provide our patients.
Decrease toxin exposure. This is obviously true for virtually every disease, but because of the huge metabolic activity of the mitochondria, they are especially susceptible.
Provide nutrients that protect the mitochondria from oxidative stress.
Utilize nutrients that facilitate mitochondrial ATP production.
Build muscle mass. Even those with mitochondrial damage, such as that found in Parkinson’s disease, can increase ATP production through strength training.15
Of course, the order of these priorities can be argued, but the basic need is clear and I recommend all of them, especially the critical natural health products at the dosages required to accomplish the goals. The foundation begins with a good multivitamin and mineral. They should be high quality with 2 to 3 times the recommended daily intake for most nutrients, especially the B vitamins. Of all the mitochondrial supportive nutrients, at the top of my list are (in order of my preference—which I am sure is debatable) CoQ10, α-lipoic acid plus acetyl-l-carnitine, resveratrol, NAC, and vitamin E. Also of value are coconut oil, pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ), Ginkgo biloba, proanthocyanidins, and melatonin.
There are many reasons to recommend CoQ10. As can be seen in Figure 3, CoQ10 carries the high-energy electrons through the ETC. Deficiency means not only decreased ATP production but also increased electron loss causing oxidative damage. CoQ10 is also an important intramitochondrial antioxidant right where those ROS are being produced. It is not surprising that research has shown a strong correlation between a species’ ability to produce CoQ10 and their longevity.16 Clinical research on supplemental CoQ10 is positive and growing17 (100 mg QD).
α-Lipoic Acid + Acetyl-l-Carnitine
These nutrients have been used together to increase mitochondrial ATP production in several animal models, including elderly animals in particular.18 Human research is starting to show the same benefits.19 (200 mg of α-lipoic acid and 500 mg of acetyl-l-carnitine BID.)
The good news keeps coming on resveratrol—wine lovers rejoice! (Of course, there are several other “food” sources.) Resveratrol increases mitochondrial ATP production, protects from ROS, up-regulates sirtuin 1, and so forth.20 It even clears β-amyloid from Alzheimer’s disease cells.21 Human studies are now confirming animal studies showing improved mitochondrial functional at surprisingly reasonable dosages.22 (150 mg QD.)
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
As I discussed in my glutathione editorial in IMCJ 13.1, the key role of NAC is to increase intracellular glutathione, which is then pumped into the mitochondria. This glutathione is critical for protection of mitochondria from oxidative damage. (500 mg BID.)
Not surprising to find extensive cell and animal research showing that the antioxidant vitamin E protects mitochondria from oxidative stress. The human research is not as strong and unfortunately is almost all with a single member of the vitamin E family. Nonetheless, there are promising early results.23 (Mixed tocopherols 500 IU QD.)