Everything you need to know about mitochondria
Power plants to our cells
Mitochondria is the powerhouse of our cells and is what gives us the energy we need on a daily basis. These specialized cell structures can be found in almost all of our cells in different proportions, and are primarily responsible for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) i.e. the basic energy currency required to power the chemical reactions in our body.
Our bodies need a constant supply of energy in order to function properly and to maintain our health and internal balance. This is where mitochondria come in. It produces energy by breaking down the food that we eat - carbohydrates, fats and proteins, into glucose, and then converts this into a chemical called ATP (the energy source of a cell). This conversion process requires the presence of oxygen and is known as aerobic or metabolic respiration.
The number of mitochondria present in a cell depends on the metabolic requirements of that cell and can range from a single large mitochondrion to thousands of smaller organelles. For example, your muscle cells require large amounts of energy to perform various day-to-day movements from something as simple as standing and walking, to more strenuous activities like working out in the gym or dancing.
Thus, this energy will need more mitochondria present to allow for quick responses to this constant demand. Cells that transmit nerve impulses (neurons) on the other hand, do not need as much energy. The only cells in our body that do not contain mitochondria are our red blood cells, as they do not need to produce energy. If a cell feels it is not getting enough energy to survive, more mitochondria (or ATP) can be created.
Why do they matter?
The health of our mitochondria determines the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) they can produce, which provides the energy to drive many of our cell’s processes - including jobs central to healthy aging. Healthy mitochondria translate to optimal cell and tissue performance, and our overall good health.
Loss of mitochondrial function is often a sign of aging and age-related health problems, whereas maintenance of mitochondrial fitness is linked to increased healthspan and longevity. Conversely, unhealthy mitochondria mean low energy and an unhealthy body.
In addition to producing energy, mitochondria are also responsible for other important tasks that include cell growth, cell signalling, cell differentiation, regulating vital calcium levels, producing body heat, and also cell death when they have become unviable.
Without robust mitochondria, cells cannot do as much work as we need them to. To achieve higher levels of performance, we must optimize our mitochondria, the powerhouse of our cells, to keep up with our energy demands.
Within each cell, the mitochondrial network is constantly reshaping itself to adapt to our lifestyle and environment/s. Unfortunately, as we age, our mitochondrial and its performance will tend to decline, hence affecting the ability of our cells and tissues to do everything they need to do.
Risks of Mitochondrial dysfunction
In summary, the condition of our mitochondria is closely related to our state of health. After all, a healthier cell will live longer. One of the benefits of aerobic exercise is that it improves your body's ability to make ATP rapidly using the respiration process. This is why exercise is regarded highly when it comes to retaining or increasing your energy levels.
It is as our cells die and replicate that we age. Several factors can cause the malfunction of mitochondria, including micronutrient deficiencies, environmental impacts, medications and infections as well as genetic defects within our mitochondrions.
Mitochondrial Dysfunction can lead to:
- Early aging
- Muscle pain and weakness
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Huntington’s disease
- Migraine headache
- Parkinson’s disease
When mitochondria produce ATP, they produce by-products known as reactive oxygen species (ROS) which are harmful free radicals. These free radicals are highly reactive oxygen compounds which, if not kept in check, can circulate or active reactive nitrogen compounds which may cause damage to certain genes in the cell’s DNA.
When this happens, not only will the person suffer from low energy levels, it can lead to potentially serious health conditions. Your mitochondria will slowly become inefficient, your DNA corrupted, and the cell/s involved will not be able to perform its primary tasks and become vulnerable to degenerative diseases and susceptible to aging.
Depending on your age and the antioxidants in your body, you may be able to fight this damage. But the older you are, the fewer antioxidants you have, your ability to fight this oxidative stress will decline.
We won't have the energy we once had, it takes longer to recover from illness or injury, visible signs of aging start to appear, and it can even cause cells to start to die off as they become too damaged. For cells in our vital organs such as our brain, heart, and liver, this is especially serious, as it will significantly impact our quality of life.
How to Improve your mitochondria health
Healthier mitochondria = healthier you.
There are a string of things you can do to try to maintain your mitochondrial health. If you are health conscious, you are probably already doing them.
Make sure you get plenty of sleep, engage in aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week, and replenish your body with foods that are high in antioxidants. One form of exercise that is highly efficient in training your mitochondrial health is high-intensity interval training, which is a form of intense cardiovascular exercise that aims to get the heart-rate pumping in a short amount of time. It involves alternating your heart rate between a steady "rest" state and short periods of intense anaerobic exercise.
At Miskawaan Health Group, we offer Mitochondrial Health & Training through our Gecko Plus machine, which is a non-invasive form of high altitude training, or Intermittent Hypoxic–Hyperoxic Training (IHHT).
IHHT is a new non-invasive method for mitochondria regeneration. As an innovative therapy, IHHT is simulated altitude training combined with increased oxygen inhalation, which when used together, causes cells to become more efficient while reducing the production of free radicals.
Learn more about MHG's Mitochondrial Health & Training treatment sessions here.
Make an appointment
To make an appointment for your Mitochondrial Health & Training treatment, or for our other comprehensive diagnostics or treatments, please fill in the following form or contact us directly at [email protected] (Hong Kong clinic) or [email protected] (Bangkok clinic).