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Maintaining cellular health involves preserving the functionality of cell structures (specifically, mitochondria). With all structures working at their best, the cell is able to perform its numerous jobs efficiently and effectively. Mitochondria are key structures within your cells that, when damaged, can compromise overall cell function. Here’s how they play their part…
Parts 1 & 2 quick review:
Part 1: The Aging Story – Biological vs. Chronological Age
In Part 1 it was established that there are two types of aging – biological aging and chronological aging. Chronological aging refers to how old you are in years and biological aging refers to the age of your body systems. When it comes to staying young, it has little to do with your chronological age and everything to do with your biological age.
The way in which you measure biological age?
By looking at the health of your cells, which is represented by the presence of cellular damage and the functionality of certain cell structures. The side effects of aging – gray hair, memory loss, etc. – are outward indicators that cellular damage is racking up and cell function is declining.
As such, it was suggested that to slow the aging process would require steps to be taken to:
- Protect the body from cellular damage, and
- Promote cell function
Part 2: Aging & Oxidative Stress
In Part 2 you learned that a major culprit of cellular damage is oxidative stress. So to protect your cells (and your body) would mean preventing the very thing that causes oxidative stress – an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to counteract their potentially damaging effects. To do so would require minimizing your exposure to sources of free radicals and boosting your internal defense system.
But what about promoting cell function?
Now this is where mitochondrial health comes into play:
The Mighty Mitochondria
The other aspect of maintaining cellular health involves preserving the functionality of cell structures (specifically, mitochondria). With all structures working at their best, the cell is able to perform its numerous jobs efficiently and effectively. The mitochondria are key structures within your cells that, when damaged, can compromise overall cell function. But before we delve into the mechanisms by which damaged mitochondria impede the day-to-day operations of your cells, let’s first discuss their main function.
Mitochondria are present in nearly every cell of the body. Their main role is to convert energy from food into a form of energy that the cell can use. This form of energy is called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and is used to drive numerous cellular processes.
Without enough ATP around, our cells eventually stop working which means our heart stops pumping, our muscles stop contracting and our brain stops thinking. Thus, without mitochondria, ATP production stops and life ceases to exist.
The number of mitochondria in a cell can range from one to several thousand depending on the cell’s function as well as its metabolic activity. Cells that are metabolically active such as liver, kidney, brain, and muscle cells all have higher energy requirements and therefore have more mitochondria to generate sufficient ATP.
Unfortunately, the ATP production process comes with a hitch – the creation of free radicals (oxidative stress). During the conversion of nutrients (for example, glucose) to ATP, free radicals are generated. Under normal conditions, only small amounts of free radicals are generated and can be dealt with before damage is done.
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The problem occurs when the free radical load is increased, either because of too few mitochondria doing the work or because the mitochondria around are not working properly. This leads to damage of both the mitochondria as well as other parts of the cell.
The ensuing damage to both the cell’s energy producing machinery (the mitochondria) and its outer layer (the cell membrane) leads to a decrease in energy production and further increases in the free radical load. As damage mounts, cell function declines or cell death occurs leading to disruption of overall health.
So to keep your cells in good working order, you must preserve the health of your mitochondria.
Mitochondrial Health & Cell Function
Promoting peak mitochondrial function requires a continuous recycling and regeneration process of these structures throughout the lifespan. The purpose of this process is two-fold:
- To enable the reorganization and elimination of mitochondrial components (in other words, to get rid of any non-working parts and replace with new functioning parts) and,
- To respond to changes in energy supply and demand by altering the number of mitochondria available to the cell (more mitochondria means more energy can be produced).
This process requires the interplay between mitochondrial biogenesis (making new, healthy mitochondria), mitophagy (selective removal of damaged mitochondria) and fusion/fission (joining and dividing of mitochondria) – forces that govern the rate of mitochondrial turnover.
Failure to maintain a dynamic balance between these processes can contribute to a decline in cellular health, eventually leading to the noticeable changes in body function that we generally associate with aging.
The reason – impaired quality control of these processes results in accumulation of damaged mitochondria that may generate more free radicals and produce ATP less efficiently.
The Effects of Aging on Mitochondria
If you remember back to Part 2: Aging & Oxidative Stress, it was mentioned that a natural deterioration process takes place as you age and contributes to the decline in cell function. Unfortunately, as a part of this process, the recycling (mitophagy) and regeneration (biogenesis) of mitochondria becomes less efficient.
This impairment of the quality control process has the potential to slow mitochondrial turnover and can lead to an accumulation of modified lipids, proteins and DNA – all of which can negatively impact the performance of existing mitochondria.
Defective mitochondrial biogenesis, as a result of the normal aging process, is intimately associated with a decline in mitochondrial number and functionality. And fewer, less efficient mitochondria can mean bad things for your cells.
Since the functional purpose of biogenesis is to help maintain mitochondrial quality and to secure sufficient ATP production, finding ways to activate this system could help with:
- The maintenance of energy production (meeting the cells energy demands)
- The prevention of endogenous oxidative stress (excessive free radical production by the mitochondria)
- The promotion of healthy aging (by maintaining cellular health)
So in order to promote health as you age, and thus preserve your youthful vitality, high numbers of high-functioning mitochondria (specifically in cells that have high energy requirements) are needed.
How do you make more mitochondria? How can you promote mitochondrial efficiency?
The answer – making more mitochondria requires the activation of mitochondrial biogenesis and promoting mitochondrial efficiency requires ample protection from oxidative stress.
Promoting Cellular Health as You Age
So now that you know WHAT can disrupt cellular health as you age (oxidative stress and the disruption of mitochondrial function) and HOW both factors impede peak performance of your cells, it’s time to talk solutions. Specifically, the innovative solutions offered by LifeVantage.
These solutions are the topic of discussion in the last two articles in this five part series. Learn all about how LifeVantage’s groundbreaking Protandim Nrf2 Synergizer protects your cells from oxidative stress in Part 4: The Nrf2 Solution.
The series ends with Part 5: The NRF1 Solution, which covers the ins-and-outs of how LifeVantage’s newest and revolutionary product, Protandim NRF1 Synergizer, works to activate mitochondrial biogenesis. Together, these two solutions offer a novel way to keep your cells functioning at their peak well into your older years.