Among the most important mechanisms for increasing mitochondrial* concentration and activity are:
- High caloric intake and sedentary lifestyles cause an increase in production ofadvanced glycation end products (AGEs). Glycated proteins in turn not only increase diabetes, heart disease and cancer risk, they also cause increased rate of shrinkage of the hippocampus leading to memory loss and neurodegenerative diseases.
- Exercise intolerance can be a symptom of mitochondrial dysfunction or disease.
- Low fat diets are generally associated with high (often simple) carbohydrate diets, and are a major cause of recent increased rates of obesity, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases in Western societies.
- Probably the most powerful mediator for increased mitochondrial biogenesis (new formation) and activity is exercise. Exercise regularly (on at least 4 days/week, totalling at least 7 hours/week), and include short bouts of intensive exercise, such ashigh intensity interval training (HIIT).
- Ketogenic (high healthy fat, low carbohydrate) diets are strongly associated with neuroprotective effects through its effect on increasing cellular concentrations of, and energy outputs by, mitochondria. Healthy fats include coconut oil, rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, nut oils and avocado oil.
- Caloric/dietary restriction. This should include regular overnight (12-16 hour) fasts, preferably with exercise at the end of the fast, where the first meal of the day (e.g. breakfast or lunch) is consumed within 30 minutes of completion of exercise.
- Every day, consume plenty of vegetables and to a lesser extent fruits (aim for no more than 3 portions a day, but only 2 if you have sugar handling issues) from all six colour groups (blue/purple, red, orange, white/tan, green and yellow) in order to provide diverse phytonutrients including those that protect against mitochondrial damage and excessive oxidation.
- A range of 10 key opinion leaders in the functional medicine arena, including ANH-Intl executive coordinator, Meleni Aldridge, were interviewed on their views regarding specific nutrition and lifestyle interventions for healthy mitochondria, aging and energy production. Out of the information gathered from the 10 interviews, a new IFM 'Healthy Aging Core Food Plan' has been created. In summary, the top 12 super foods for eating and drinking your way to healthier mitochondrial function are: avocado, spinach, seaweed, pomegranate, blueberries (all berries), broccoli (and all cruciferous vegetables), grass-fed buffalo/beef, wild Alaskan salmon, almonds, coconut oil (virgin, organic), olive oil (cold pressed, unfiltered/cloudy, extra virgin), green tea. Mangoes almost made it on to the list, and would certainly have done so if the list were not limited to 12!
- Specific nutrients that have been demonstrated to be highly protective of mitochondria while preventing inflammasome activation include: resveratrol (derived from red grape skin or Japanese knotweed), curcumin (from turmeric root), quercetin (from citrus peel) and cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cabbage, etc), and stewed apples with added cinnamon.
- B vitamins and coenzyme Q10 (notably the reduced form, ubiquinol) are among the key cofactors required for energy production via the Krebs cycle and electron transport chain.
*Mitochondria are known as the powerhouses of the cell. They are organelles that act like a digestive system that takes in nutrients, breaks them down, and creates energy for the cell.