Improve Your Mitochondria Part 1: The Function of Your Mitochondria

Improve Your Mitochondria Part 1: The Function of Your Mitochondria

 Mitochondria: Are One of the most important structures of the cell, and they determine if your cells live or die!

A Mitochondrion is a membrane-enclosed organelle structure found within all cells in the human body. These structures are known as the “power plants” of the cell. The mitochondria of the cell generate the most of the cell’s supply of adenosine triphosphate, which is used by the cell as a source of chemical energy. Adenosine triphosphate transports chemical energy within the cells so that the energy can be metabolized. After the transportation of energy occurs ATP is recycled in the cell for the process to begin again.1

Mitochondria are also responsible for cellular signaling, cellular differentiation, and cellular death. Cellular signaling is communication within cells or between cells, which are done on a chemical level. Cellular signaling occurs so that the cells can maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis occurs when a system regulates its internal environment so that the system can remain stable and in control of its variables, including temperature and PH. Cellular differentiation is a process in which a normal cell determines what type of specialized cell it will eventually become. An example of this is when a stem cell differentiates and becomes a heart muscle cell. Finally, mitochondria regulate cellular death, which is very important in maintaining homeostasis in the body. Cellular death is extremely important because when cells eventually become worn out or mutate, the cells are supposed to terminate them-self in a process called apoptosis. If these cells do not terminate properly, they can cause problems in the body including the foundation for the disease known as cancer.2

There are many different supplements that can increase mitochondrial function and biogenesis. I will touch on these supplements later in the next post, first I will go over the information that pertains to mitochondrial diseases, conditions that lead to mitochondrial dysfunction, how mitochondrial health is important to heart health, and the relationship between mitochondria and the aging process.

Mitochondrial Diseases

Dysfunction of the mitochondria plays an important role in influencing human conditions and can manifest itself as many different diseases. Mitochondrial disorders usually present themselves as neurological disorders, but can manifest themselves as myopathy, diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions as well.3

The following are a list of mitochondrial diseases that are genetic in nature. The mitochondrial disease occurs because of direct mutations of the mitochondria in developing cells, which cause them to not function properly. People are born with the following conditions. These conditions include:

  • Kearns-Sayre Syndrome
  • MELAS Syndrome
  • Pearson’s Syndrome
  • Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy4

The next set of medical conditions are diseases that cause mitochondrial dysfunction. These listed medical conditions cause mitochondria not to function properly, which creates additional symptoms and ailments. It is also a possibility that these conditions, in fact, are caused by mitochondrial dysfunction in the first place, and can be tackled by supporting proper mitochondrial function. These conditions include:

  • Wilson’s Disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Barth Syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Stroke
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Diabetes5

Mitochondrial Function and Heart Health

Mitochondria are extremely important for proper energy production, and because of that they are also vitally important for muscle strength and functionality. The “heart” is considered your bodies most important muscle and requires a constant stream of energy to maintain proper health and homeostasis.6 The largest concentration of mitochondria in the body is in the heart. The average bicep muscle cell contains about forty mitochondria, where the average heart muscle cell has about 4,000!7 Your heart is an “electrical pump” that requires a massive amount of energy production and proper mitochondrial health to function properly.

The heart having a high mitochondria concentration is why heart attacks are very damaging to the heart muscle. The heart muscle requires a lot of energy and oxygen to function properly. When the heart tissue is deprived of these necessities, the heart muscle begins to die off very quickly, and extreme mitochondrial dysfunction begins.8 If a person has a heart attack, or if they are recovering from one, certain supplements that help with mitochondrial function including CoQ-109 and L-carnitine10 are important to stop further oxidative damage resulting from their poor mitochondrial function.

Statin drugs cause more damage to the heart muscle over a period of time in most people then elevated cholesterol would ever accomplish. Statins interfere with CoQ-10 production by limiting the necessary CoA cholesterol pathway that is needed to produce CoQ-10. This lack of CoQ-10 production leads to mitochondrial dysfunction, which is the cause of the muscle weakness, muscle damage, and even possible worsening of heart disease created by statin medications. It’s ironic that statins can worsen heart disease though the drug is designed to remediate heart disease in the first place.11

Mitochondria and Aging

Since the mitochondria are considered the “power plant” of the cell, some leakage of high-energy electrons in mitochondria occurs and cause oxidative stress in both the mitochondria and on a cellular level within the body. A basic explanation of oxidative stress is that is stress caused by an imbalance of oxidizing species (free radicals are an example) and antioxidants. This imbalance creates damage in cells and tissues over a long period. If the imbalance frequently occurs in the body, large amounts of oxidative stress occur and can cause shock, heart attacks, and strokes.

If your mitochondria are in poor health, more electrons leak during chemical reactions. These leaks produce a greater increase in oxidative stress. The increase in oxidative stress can cause premature aging in the human body. In addition, mitochondrial DNA is not as well protected from oxidative stress than standard nuclear DNA. Because of this more damage can occur to mitochondrial DNA from oxidative stress than standard nuclear DNA. Finally, the electrons produced during chemical reactions in the mitochondria have been known to produce more reactive oxidative species, which in turn produce more oxidative stress in the mitochondria as well. This is known as the Mitochondrial Free Radical Theory of Aging.12

It has been suggested that by increasing intake of antioxidants and mitochondrial function, one might live a longer healthier life.

  1. Jane B. Reece, Lisa A. Urry, Michael L. Cain, Steven A. Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, Robert Jackson, Campbell Biology, Benjamin Cummings, October 7, 2010.
  2. Jane B. Reece, Lisa A. Urry, Michael L. Cain, Steven A. Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, Robert Jackson, Campbell Biology, Benjamin Cummings, October 7, 2010.
  3. Beers, Mark, The Merck Manual, Merck Research Laboratories, 2006
  4. Beers, Mark, The Merck Manual, Merck Research Laboratories, 2006
  5. Beers, Mark, The Merck Manual, Merck Research Laboratories, 2006
  6. http://www.crittenton.com/keep-the-most-important-muscle-in-your-body-strong/
  7. Jane B. Reece, Lisa A. Urry, Michael L. Cain, Steven A. Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, Robert Jackson, Campbell Biology, Benjamin Cummings, October 7, 2010.
  8. Jane B. Reece, Lisa A. Urry, Michael L. Cain, Steven A. Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, Robert Jackson, Campbell Biology, Benjamin Cummings, October 7, 2010.
  9. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/coenzyme-q10
  10. http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196%2813%2900127-4/abstract
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3096178/
  12. Jane B. Reece, Lisa A. Urry, Michael L. Cain, Steven A. Wasserman, Peter Minorsky, Robert Jackson, Campbell Biology, Benjamin Cummings, October 7, 2010.
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