Mitochondria are complex, interconnected structures within human cells that are responsible for producing the chemical energy we need to survive. These cellular “power plants” may be microscopic, but the role they play in maintaining our health is tremendous! Unfortunately, our delicate mitochondria are quite susceptible to harm from unhealthy dietary and lifestyle factors. A growing body of evidence indicates that cumulative damage sustained by our mitochondria may promote the development of chronic diseases. However, exciting new research indicates that it is possible to restore mitochondrial health through targeted lipid and antioxidant supplementation. Read on to learn why optimal mitochondrial function is so essential for health and how you can nutritionally support the function of your cellular “power plants”!
Mitochondria: In Sickness and in Health
Mitochondria play many vital roles within our bodies. They produce ATP, the energy “currency” of our cells, through the oxidation of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats from food. This energy “currency” is used to produce muscle contractions, generate nerve impulses, and to synthesize the countless complex molecules needed by the body, including hormones and neurotransmitters. Importantly, mitochondria also modulate the cellular response to oxidative stress, and regulate communication between cells and tissues. When our mitochondria are functioning properly, we have abundant energy, an efficient metabolism, a healthy brain, and a strong immune system. However, when mitochondrial function becomes impaired, widespread physiological dysfunction occurs. In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated in many of the diseases we face as a society today, including chronic fatigue syndrome, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular disease.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is a debilitating illness characterized by two principal signs: very poor stamina and ongoing fatigue. A growing body of research indicates that mitochondrial production of ATP, the energy “currency” of the body, is impaired in people with CFS. (1) An ATP deficit explains why CFS patients experience severe fatigue – energy production is reduced at the cellular level within their bodies!
Metabolic Syndrome and Diabetes
Pancreatic beta-cells require optimal mitochondrial function to produce insulin, a crucial hormone that regulates blood sugar. Impaired mitochondrial function reduces the secretion of insulin and increases levels of fatty acid metabolites, such as fatty acyl CoA and diacylglycerol, that disrupt insulin signaling. Through these mechanisms, mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. (2)
Neurodegenerative Disease and Mental Health Disorders
The brain has an extremely high energy demand and subsequently, a great need for mitochondria. Mitochondrial dysfunction, therefore, has significant implications for brain health. A growing body of research indicates that when mitochondrial function goes awry, neurodegenerative diseases and mental health disorders may result. (3)(4)(5) Mitochondria are also responsible for initiating apoptosis of damaged cells and proteins in the brain; however, mitochondrial dysfunction may lead to uncontrolled apoptosis and neurodegeneration. (6)
Research suggests that mitochondrial dysfunction may also contribute to depression and bipolar disorder by impairing neurotransmission and neuroplasticity, two vital ATP-driven processes that occur in the brain and are essential for its normal function. Neuroplasticity refers to the ability of the brain to repair and reorganize itself in response to inputs from the environment, thoughts, behaviors, and emotions. (7) Mitochondrial dysfunction deprives the brain of the ATP it needs to fuel these processes, ultimately reducing neuroplasticity and increasing the risk of brain dysfunction and mental health disorders.
Several lines of evidence indicate that mitochondrial dysfunction plays a vital role in cardiovascular disease. Damaged mitochondria cannot combat oxidative stress, leading to an accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the heart and vasculature; this alters the structure and function of the cardiovascular system and promotes the oxidation of circulating lipids, leading to atherosclerosis. (8)
Impaired mitochondrial function has significant implications for energy production, insulin signaling, and blood sugar control, and the health of the brain, heart, and immune system. What could be the underlying cause of mitochondrial dysfunction in such a diverse array of body systems? A growing body of research points to oxidative stress as the culprit.
Oxidative stress: A Key Cause of Mitochondrial Dysfunction
Oxidative stress, an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the body’s ability to counteract their harmful effects with antioxidants, is a critical factor in the development of mitochondrial dysfunction. Our bodies experience oxidative stress through dietary and lifestyle factors such as a high-carbohydrate diet, exposure to environmental toxins and pathogens, and a sedentary lifestyle. (10) Regarding diet, consumption of a diet high in refined carbohydrates is associated with significant oxidative stress. (11) A low fruit and vegetable intake also promote oxidative stress by depriving the body of plant-based antioxidants such as polyphenols. (12) Environmental toxins such as pesticides, BPA, and heavy metals are another important source of oxidative stress that we encounter in our daily lives. (13)(14)(15) Finally, a lack of physical activity also promotes oxidative stress because it deprives the body of the stimulus for producing antioxidant enzymes. (16)
The free radical production induced by these dietary and lifestyle factors can quickly overwhelm our natural antioxidant defenses and proceed to damage our cells and mitochondria. This has severe implications for the many physiological processes in our bodies that rely on mitochondrial-produced ATP to function correctly. To protect our cells and correct mitochondrial dysfunction, it is crucial that we combat oxidative stress. Fortunately, a growing body of research indicates that nutritional and antioxidant support can correct mitochondrial oxidative damage and significantly alleviate the symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction. Here at ProHealth, we have combined mitochondrial-supportive nutrients and antioxidants into one unique product, Mitochondria Ignite with NT Factor.
Mitochondria Ignite with NT Factor Repairs Damaged Mitochondria
Mitochondria Ignite with NT Factor is a unique nutritional and antioxidant supplement that supports the repair of damaged cell membranes and restores healthy mitochondrial function. It contains a wide array of nutrients, including phospholipids, glycophospholipids, nutrients, probiotics, vitamins, minerals, and plant extracts.
The membranes of cells and organelles, such as mitochondria, are composed primarily of lipids. Reactive oxygen species (ROS), produced during the oxidative stress response, damage membrane lipids. ROS alter the structure and function of cells and mitochondria, impairs energy production, and adversely affects our health. NT Factor is a lipid replacement therapy (LRT) that helps to correct oxidatively damaged membranes. It contains lipids specially designed to match the human cell membrane and antioxidants, which protect the lipids from oxidation in the gut; this ensures that the lipids arrive at cells intact, where they can be used to repair damaged membranes and restore normal cellular and mitochondrial function.
Several scientific studies have demonstrated that lipid replacement therapy successfully restores membrane integrity and can alleviate symptoms of mitochondrial dysfunction.
- Supplementation with NT Factor was found to significantly reduce fatigue and increase mitochondrial function in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic Lyme disease. (17)(18)
- In an animal study, supplementation with NT factor prevented DNA deletions associated with aging. (20)
- Supplementation with NT Factor increases “good” HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein A-1 levels and decreases triglycerides in patients with cardiovascular disease. (21)
Mitochondria Ignite with NT Factor also contains probiotics, prebiotic fibers to support the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, and an array of vitamins and minerals that assist in the mitochondrial production of energy. These ingredients work synergistically to enhance the absorption and utilization of nutrients and provide cells with the substances they need to function optimally.
The importance of well-functioning mitochondria in the maintenance of our health cannot be overstated. While there are unfortunately many factors in our modern-day lives that promote oxidative stress and adversely impact mitochondrial function, the good news is that simple nutritional and lifestyle adjustments can make a significant difference in our mitochondrial health. By eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, avoiding environmental toxins, engaging in regular physical activity, and supplementing with lipids and antioxidant such as those found in Mitochondria Ignite with NT Factor, we can take the health of our mitochondria into our own hands and create a foundation for lifelong health!
* Lindsay Christensen is a health writer and researcher with her B.S. in Biomedical Science and an Emphasis in Nutrition. She is currently pursuing her M.S. in Human Nutrition, with the intention of becoming a Clinical Nutritionist. Lindsay’s passion for natural health and wellness has been driven by her own experience in recovering from a serious chronic illness. She blogs about chronic illness recovery and her nature-inspired approach to nutrition and healthy living on her website, Ascent to Health.