Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Aging
Mitochondria are the energy factories for our cells. With the exception of red blood cells, each of our cells has between 200 and 2,000 mitochondria, and they’re responsible for producing roughly 90 percent of the energy we use to live and grow.
When these important structures fail, our cells generate less energy, which can injure and even kill the cells. Chronic fatigue and the low energy symptoms of many diseases may be attributed to mitochondrial dysfunction.
How Do Mitochondria Work?
Each mitochondrion produces energy by mixing glucose, the fuel we get from food, with oxygen to form ATP, which serves as the body’s energy currency. They need specific nutrients to perform this task, and the speed at which they do it is called your metabolic rate.
The more mitochondria you have and the more efficiently they use oxygen, the faster your metabolic rate.
What Causes Mitochondrial Dysfunction?
Free radical damage is the leading cause of mitochondrial dysfunction. Since the mitochondria actually produce free radicals in the process of making energy (free radicals are a by-product of combustion) are located on the outer surface of the cell, they are especially susceptible to free radical damage.
Other causes of mitochondrial dysfunction include:
- Thyroid hormone problems
- Exposure to toxins, especially mercury
- Chronic infections
- Medications like statins that deplete CoQ10, which is crucial to the mitochondria
Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Free Radical Damage
The oxygen you breathe can also contribute to the production of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules atoms that pair with healthy molecules to encourage oxidation, a process that can damage or even kill the cells. Antioxidants fight against free radical damage by preventing oxidation.
You can envision this process by thinking of an apple. A sliced apple will turn brown when exposed to the air. Un-sliced, the skin protects it from turning color. Free radical damage from the sun, air and other pollutants will cause the apple to turn brown when its skin is removed.
Your own skin is just as susceptible to free radical damage. Mitochondrial dysfunction most frequently occurs when the cells are exposed to these free radicals.
Health Risks of Mitochondrial Dysfunction
As the mitochondria suffer free radical damage, their energy production may become impaired. This damage can kill the mitochondria, causing the cell to malfunction and eventually die.
Damaged and poorly functioning mitochondria may cause chronic fatigue and can increase your risk for certain health complications, including:
- Seizures Decreased Brain function & Memory
- Diabetes & Obesityiver & Kidney disease
- Liver & Kidney disease
- Heart & Vascular disease
- Difficulty swallowing
- Loss of motor control
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Muscle weakness and pain
- Vulnerability to infections
- Problems with vision & hearing
- Developmental problems & poor growth Chronic Inflammation
Treatment for mitochondrial dysfunction can reduce your risk of developing the above health conditions, as well as deliver a natural increase to your energy level and improve your overall sense of well-being. Treatment for the condition often includes anti-aging therapy and nutrient supplementation, as well as a series of dietary and lifestyle changes.