Mitochondria—they’re the microscopic powerhouses hiding within most cells that have huge consequences for our health, especially when it comes to aging.
If you remember back to your early years of biology class, chances are you might recall learning about these organelles, which are often equated to little energy factories.
It makes sense that these cellular powerhouses have such an impact on how we age, considering they’re responsible for energy production and that mitochondrial function is connected to inflammation, a common factor in all chronic diseases.
Whenever mitochondria produce energy (in the form of ATP) they also produce a byproduct called ROS (reactive oxygen species, a type of free radical). Some ROS is normal, but as we age mitochondrial quality and quantity naturally decline. Mitochondria end up producing less ATP and more ROS, which contributes to damage and inflammation that can snowball throughout the body. Aside from the natural aging process, there are other things that send mitochondrial function in a bad direction, like smoking, stress, lack of sleep, environmental pollution like mold and smog, and eating a diet rich in refined sugar and flour that causes blood sugar imbalances and insulin resistance.
We’re discovering more and more ways, though, to support mitochondria as we age, and some of them are easier than you might think.
Diet, of course, is one major step that I tell all my patients about. Because certain nutrients like B vitamins, vitamins C and E, iron, magnesium, selenium, and many more, are part of producing ATP within the mitochondria and fighting free radical ROS (think antioxidants), a nutrient-dense diet is key to better aging and mitochondrial support. Supplements can also be helpful, like CoQ10 and resveratrol, that are harder to get high quantities of from food.
Intermittent fasting, calorie restriction, and exercise are other ways to build stronger mitochondria. And of course, we need to eliminate the things that are causing them to decline to the best of our ability, like toxins in our air, water, and food (by using filters, buying organic and regenerative foods, and eating a low-glycemic diet) and work on successfully managing stressors in our lives.
My good friend Dave Asprey is so hopeful about all we’re learning on aging that he plans to live to be 180. He joined me last week on The Doctor’s Farmacy to talk about the latest biohacking techniques for optimal aging, supporting mitochondria, cleaning up our cellular debris, and so much more.
I hope you’ll tune in to hear more about what you can do to age better, starting today.
Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD