Could Your Mitochondria Hold the Key to Health and Longevity?

health hotline article mitochondria key to longevity

You may not be familiar with mitochondria and the role they play in your overall health, but you should be. The health of your mitochondria could be the key to how well (or poorly) you age.

Commonly referred to as the “powerhouse” of cells, mitochondria are specialized structures found within almost every single cell of the human body (cells with high-energy needs, like those in the liver, muscles, and brain, can contain thousands of mitochondria). Their main function is to generate large amounts of energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that is required to power nearly every function and biochemical process that happens in our bodies. It has been estimated that an average adult body contains 10 million billion mitochondria, making up about 10 percent of our body weight, and that a healthy person produces their weight in ATP every day. ATP cannot be stored, so the mitochondria must stay in good working order to continuously create energy.

Mitochondria also store calcium for cell signaling, or communication among cells, and mediate cell growth and death, including apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

Based on these and other responsibilities, you may be starting to understand just how important mitochondria are to the function and health of your entire body. And with their residence in the majority of the body’s cells, it’s no wonder that you can start feeling off if your mitochondrial health isn’t optimal. Mitochondrial dysfunction is commonly cited as a primary cause of age-related decline, while optimal mitochondrial health is associated with longevity.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Poor Health

One of the main symptoms of poor mitochondrial function is fatigue. In fact, according to an article published in the journal Integrative Medicine, “Loss of function in mitochondria, the key organelle responsible for cellular energy production, can result in the excess fatigue and other symptoms that are common complaints in almost every chronic disease.” And the accumulation of malfunctioning and damaged mitochondria is believed to play a central role in aging, with both animal models and human tissues showing an increase in dysfunctional mitochondria with age. Research has also demonstrated that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a specific role in the pathophysiology of two very common health problems we are seeing today, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and it has been implicated as a cause in neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and Alzheimer’s disease.

The mitochondria are especially susceptible to nutrient deficiencies, environmental toxins, and oxidative damage, especially the oxidative damage created within the mitochondria as a byproduct of ATP production.

How To Support Mitochondrial Health

The good news is that there are supplements, as well as lifestyle changes, that have been shown to be very effective at supporting mitochondrial health and function. They include:

B-Complex Vitamins

The B vitamins are integral to mitochondrial energy production and are essential for maintaining normal mitochondrial function. A deficiency in any of the B vitamins has a harmful effect on mitochondria structure and function by interrupting normal energy production, leading to an accumulation of toxic byproducts in the mitochondria and increasing oxidative stress. A deficiency in certain B vitamins can also lead to reduced glutathione levels, one of the most important endogenous antioxidants that protects mitochondria from oxidative damage. Try supplementing with a high-potency B-complex supplement that will provide balanced doses of each of the B vitamins.


Coenzyme Q10 (also known as CoQ10, ubiquinone, or ubiquinol) is required for the generation of usable energy by the mitochondria of our cells. In other words, CoQ10 actually helps the mitochondria to take raw energy from the foods we eat and turn it into ATP, which is the energy our cells can use. Overall, CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant required by every mitochondrion and every single cell in the body to operate. CoQ10 also acts as an “intramitochondrial” antioxidant, protecting mitochondria from the oxidative damage created by the production of ATP. Try supplementing with 200 mg of CoQ10 daily.

Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA)

Researchers have actually labeled alpha lipoic acid a “mitochondrial nutrient.” This is a well-deserved title, since ALA has been shown to improve the structure as well as the function of mitochondria. In addition, ALA appears to increase antioxidant levels, restore vital enzyme activity, prevent oxidative damage due to aging, and even improve age-related memory decline. When taken with other “mitochondrial nutrients” like acetyl-L-carnitine and coenzyme Q10, ALA seems to work even better at decreasing oxidative mitochondrial damage and improving mitochondrial function. And for individuals suffering from neurodegenerative health problems, ALA may help to boost mitochondrial and cognitive function at the same time. I recommend supplementing with 100200 mg of alpha lipoic acid daily, taken on an empty stomach to increase bioavailability.


A scientific review titled “Mitochondrial Protection by Resveratrol” points out how the bioflavonoid resveratrol seems to mimic the protective health effects of a calorie-restrictive diet. In animal studies, resveratrol intake has been shown to enhance mitochondrial biogenesis, which can be defined as the growth and division of preexisting mitochondria. Treatment with resveratrol led to an increase in mitochondrial content of liver, skeletal muscle, and blood vessel cells in particular. Regarding human research on the benefits of resveratrol, a small 2017 study reveals that resveratrol may be a treatment candidate for mitochondrial diseases. This study demonstrates for the first time that low-dose resveratrol improves mitochondrial respiratory dysfunction in the human skin cells of patients with mitochondrial diseases. To get the benefits of this potent antioxidant, try supplementing with 500 mg daily.


Recent research from Japan found that the amino acid taurine is essential for mitochondrial protein synthesis and that a deficiency leads to a significant decrease in protein transcription, or production. Thousands of different proteins are either produced within the mitochondria or are transported into the mitochondria to carry out various functions, including maintaining mitochondrial structure. The researchers also found that when the cell was taurine deficient, part of the mitochondria collapsed, preventing the proteins produced outside of the mitochondria from entering, leading to a pile up of proteins with nowhere to go. Eventually, they broke down and created toxic aggregates inside the cell. Sufficient amounts of taurine are also needed to protect the mitochondria from excessive oxidative damage. The recommended dose of taurine is between 500 to 2,000 mg daily. The main source of taurine in the diet is meat, so supplementation may be especially helpful for vegans and vegetarians.

The Ketogenic Diet

Ketogenic diets have been shown to drastically improve mitochondrial function. A ketogenic diet, or keto diet, is a very low-carb diet plan that helps the body burn fat for energy, instead of relying on carbohydrates. When the body starts to burn fat, it also produces more ketones, and once ketone levels in the blood reach a certain level, the body is said to enter a state known as ketosis. According to a 2016 animal study, a ketogenic diet was able to reduce oxidative stress while boosting mitochondrial function after traumatic brain injury. A scientific article published in the Journal of Lipid Research points out that research-to-date has demonstrated the ability of a ketogenic diet to improve both mitochondrial function and cellular metabolic function, while also helping to maintain cellular homeostasis. In addition, data collected from clinical and preclinical studies shows that diets that restrict glycolysis, increase fat burning, and put the body into ketosis enhance mitochondrial respiration.


Mitochondrial health isn’t only about what you put in your body each day, it’s also about what you are doing with your body. Exercise is one of the best physical ways to give your mitochondria a major boost. Research is revealing that being physically active can positively affect the body down to the cellular level, including the tiny mitochondria within them. A study published in 2017 in Cell Metabolism found that exercise in both men and women improved age-related decline in muscle mitochondria. The specific exercise regimen used in the study was high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which was shown to improve skeletal muscle, mitochondrial respiration, and aerobic capacity. So if you were looking for one more reason to start or stick with an exercise program, the health of your mitochondria is certainly a good one.

Mitochondrial health isn’t exactly a common topic these days, not even in the health world, but it should be. Mitochondrial health corresponds to overall health, the development and progression of many chronic diseases, and how well we age. The good news is that with exercise, dietary changes, and supplements, the health of your mitochondria can get a serious boost and you can start improving your health, for today and the future!

References available upon request