Mitochondria are tiny compartments found within cells that carry out vital biological functions. They operate like batteries, generating chemical energy by converting energy in food into energy that the cell can use. These autonomous organelles which live inside our cells and house their own genomes, have been identified as significant participants in the role of aging. Over time as they become more and more dysfunctional, many age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes steadily develop.
It is evident that mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) obtains mutations much faster than the DNA in the nucleus. One idea behind this is the presence of ROS (reactive oxygen species), also known as free radicals in the mitochondria. These are created when mitochondria produce energy and can cause damage to the mtDNA. As the damage progresses, the mitochondria are unable to produce energy efficiently and become dysfunctional. This could lead to aging and eventually death.
An experiment was performed by a group of Swedish researchers who mutated a gene in mice, so that the mtDNA would produce more mutations at a faster rate. This was achieved by modifying the enzyme DNA polymerase-g that copies mtDNA. As expected, the mutant mice who had more mutations in their mtDNA showed signs of aging at 25 weeks, which is normally seen in older mice. These mice only lived for less than a year compared with the normal lifespan of 2 to 3 years.
As people age, the mitochondrial DNA become damaged and more mutations occur. It is therefore important to treat and prevent mitochondrial dysfunction.
There are twelve factors that are believed to cause Early Onset Mitochondrial Dysfunction (EOMD) and if interceded on time, can possibly reverse EOMD. They are:
- Decreased lipolysis:
Lipolysis is defined as the breakdown of fats and lipids by way of hydrolysis to release fatty acids. Insulin and estradiol play a role in decreasing lipolysis. This is evident when there is weight gain, especially intra-abdominal fat gain.
Lipolysis can be treated by replacing T3, HGH, testosterone, DHEA and hydrocortisone in the body and at the same time decreasing insulin and estradiol.
Insulin can be decreased by limiting carbohydrate intake, omega 3 oils, chromium, lipoic acid, niacin, berberine and metformin. Estradiol can be decreased by replacing progesterone and losing weight.
Regular exercise is remarkably effective in enhancing lipolysis.
- Decreased fatty acid metabolism
Fatty acid metabolism can be increased using niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, lipoic acid and pyruvate. Low intensity exercise is also beneficial.
- Nutritional deficiencies
Each individual requires different dietary supplements suited to their specific needs in order to enhance their nutritional deficiencies. It is important that the correct supplements are recommended on a case by case basis.
Different types of stress have an effect on one’s health. Prolonged emotional stress has the biggest impact on EOMD. It is vital to reduce the stress inducers and modulate the person’s stress response. The administration of I-tyrosine, 5-HTP and I-dopa can impact an individual’s stress response. Other stress factors are over-eating, excessive exercising and chronic pain.
Mitochondrial function can also decrease by the superfluous intake of stimulants, processed foods and alcohol.
- Sleep deprivation
Most people require 6-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
- Hormonal deficiencies
Adequate hormonal function needs to be maintained in order to achieve optimal mitochondrial function.
- Drugs, toxicity and infections
Specific medications such as statins, beta-blockers, retroviral medications and SSRI’s (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors; which are antidepressants), can suppress mitochondrial function. These drugs include NSAID’s, cocaine, azides, amphetamine and antiviral nucleoside analogues.
Environmental toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, fungicides and air pollution are known to decrease mitochondrial function. Animal studies have also shown adverse effects from certain processed foods such as hydrogenated fats.
Chronic infections also decrease mitochondrial function.
Hypoxia occurs when the body or part thereof is deprived of adequate oxygen supply. Cigarette smoke is known to cause hypoxia, as well as improper breathing, where there is an over reliance on chest wall breathing and hyperventilation.
- Decreased methylation
Impaired methylation in individuals stems from defective folic acid or B12 metabolism, or as a result of chronic toxicity, specifically from mercury poisoning.
Ischemia is defined as an inadequate blood supply to a part of the body or an organ, especially the heart muscles. By strengthening the endothelial function through therapies and improved circulation, EOMD can be repaired in individuals over the age of 50.
Omega 3 oils, curcumin, boswellia and ginger are recommended supplements that can help reduce inflammation. Hydrocortisone is also known to reduce inflammation, and hence reverse mitochondrial dysfunction.
Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar level, is a result of a deficiency of glucose in the bloodstream. It can result from diets too high in simple carbohydrates, irregular eating habits and chronic stress situations. Hydrocortisone is known to reverse hypoglycemia.
For more information on mitochondrial dysfunction, contact our clinic.