New research on mitochondria has shown that “frail mitochondrial DNA equals frail people”. More specifically, researchers from the McKusick-Nathans Institute of Genetic Medicine of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD found that mitochondrial DNA content varies according to age (less mitochondrial DNA in older age), sex (yes, women have more than men) and mitochondrial DNA even has an inverse relationship to frailty and a direct relationship to life expectancy. This paper was published in February of 2015.
Mitochondria are the powerhouses within each cell and there are between 10 and several thousand mitochondria per cell, depending on what the power needs of a cell type are.
Each mitochondrion has its own mitochondrial DNA contained in 2 to 10 small circular chromosomes that regulate the 37 genes necessary for normal mitochondrial function.
In order to track mitochondrial DNA and its relationship to frailty and old age, the Johns Hopkins University researchers accessed data from two large clinical trials. One study was the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS), which took place between 1989 and 2006. The other one was the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study spanning from 1987 to 2013. Blood tests were available on participants from both studies that allowed determinations of mitochondrial DNA.
In multi ethnic groups it was apparent that mitochondrial DNA content was dictated by the age of a person.
Frailty was defined as a person who had aging symptoms including weakness, a lack of energy compared to the past, activity levels that were much lower than before and loss of weight. When persons with frailty as defined by these criteria were identified in the two studies, they were found to have 9% less mitochondrial DNA than nonfrail study participants.
Another subgroup were white participants; when their bottom mitochondrial DNA content was compared to the top mitochondrial DNA content, the researchers found that frailty was 31% more common in the bottom DNA content group. This means that white people are more prone to frailty and they should take steps early on to prevent this.
Mortality data were also examined and it turned out that those study participants who had the highest level of mitochondrial DNA lived 2.1 years longer on average than those with the lowest level of mitochondrial DNA.
The study also found that women in the two clinical trials had 21% more DNA in their mitochondria on average than men.
Prevention of DNA loss from mitochondria
The study did not suggest any preventative steps against mitochondrial DNA loss. But there is ample evidence in the literature that this can be achieved through supplements that can both help multiply mitochondria as well as stimulate the metabolism of mitochondria. Lifestyle changes are also effective.
I am not supporting the specific brands of supplements mentioned in the Dr. Whitaker link, but find the common sense explanations useful, as they explain what the supplements do.
You may find the scientific data too tedious to delve into, but let this list be of help for you to preserve your health and your vitality:
- Mitochondrial aging is slowed down by ubiquinol (=Co-Q-10, I take 400 mg per day). Co-Q-10 repairs DNA damage to your mitochondria.
- Another supplement, 20 mg of PQQ (=Pyrroloquinoline quinone) per day stimulates your healthy mitochondria to multiply. Between the two supplements you will have more energy as optimal mitochondrial function is ensured.
- There are simple lifestyle changes you can make: eat less calories as this will stimulate SIRT1 genes, which in turn stimulates your cell metabolism including the mitochondria.
- Resveratrol, the supplement from red grape skin can also stimulate your mitochondria metabolism. Exercise more and regularly as this will also stimulate your mitochondria to multiply similar to the effects of PQQ. I take 500mg of trans-Resveratrol once daily.
- Alpha-lipoic acid is an anti-oxidant that counters the slow-down of mitochondrial metabolism. I recommend 300mg per day.
- L-arginine is an amino acid that is a precursor of nitric oxide (NO). I prefer taking NO as the NEO-40 supplement where nitric oxide is directly released into your system. I take 1 lozenge of Neo-40 twice per day.
There are many write-ups about mitochondrial supplements. Here is an article that I found some time ago in the life Extension Magazine.
Caution is needed to discern between salesmanship and science regarding mitochondrial support, but this blog should start you off in the right direction.