Mitochondria in cells play a huge role in the health and immune system of a human body. They are the power producers of the cell. Therefore the health of the mitochondria affect every single cell, tissue and organ in our body. The main function of mitochondria is to metabolise or break down carbohydrates and fatty acids to generate energy. Many scientists seem to think that the DNA damage of particularly the mitochondria is the main reason for aging processes and as a result of this damage the oxygen levels are reduced in the whole cell which is a problem. As this situation continues, the DNA in the cell nucleus will be damaged as a result, which might lead to the destruction of the whole cell. The cells in the heart muscle have especially large amounts of mitochondria and heart disease does begin with damage in them. Apoptosis, cell death happen naturally when the cell is damaged or no longer necessary. During this process, the cell contents are reabsorbed and the components can be reused for other purposes. This process also works as a mechanism for the regulation of cell numbers and a natural defence system for the removal of faulty cells. If apoptosis system is impaired, the result is too much growth, problems that can be seen in for example cancer.
As we get older, mitochondrial density and quality decline naturally. However, the speed of these changes can be accelerated greatly by wrong diet, lack of exercise, many medication or excessive stress. You can also prevent this damages very efficiently when you eat right and exercise.
As well as the heart, also nerve cells in the brain contain very large amounts of mitochondria and the damage there quickly leads to chronic fatigue. Therefore tiredness might not be a sign of depression, for example, but a sign of problems with energy production in the cell level. Damage in mitochondria has also been linked to many other health conditions such as anxiety, atherosclerosis, Alzheimers, stroke, dementia, diabetes, early aging, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, muscle pains and neuropathic pain, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, cancer and TIA.
Diabetes and metabolic syndrome are very harmful for the function of mitochondria and that way these conditions do cause early aging. Mitochondria function with diabetics might be just 50% of the function with healthy people and so the cells of a person with diabetes are not getting enough energy. Just insulin resistance as such is very damaging to mitochondrial health. Metabolic syndrome increases free radicals in your body so much that this leads to mitochondrial damage.
Many medication also cause damage in mitochondria. This is the case especially with all statins, which is why statins also speed up the aging processes. Most common problems that this damage causes are feelings of weakness and tiredness, muscle weakness and pain, burning sensation in lower limbs, changes in personality and problems with memory.
With the right diet and exercise you can prevent these mitochondrial damages. As sugar, trans fats or too much omega 6 fatty acid, lack of antioxidants, inflammation in the body, many drugs and alcohol as well as food additives are known to be harmful for mitochondria, a nutritious diet low in carbohydrates is very beneficial. Fasting also stimulates autophagy and mitophagy, the process of culling the old, dysfunctional mitochondria. So the ancient wellness practice of intermittent fasting essentially gets rid of the old mitochondria and at the same time stimulates new growth.