Life Extension Magazine August 2013
Three-Step Strategy to Reverse Mitochondrial Aging
By Michael Downey
Have you ever wondered how long you’re going to live? The potential answer can be found in the energy-producing cellular powerhouses called mitochondria.
According to a growing number of cell biologists, the number and functionality of the mitochondria specifically determine an individual’s life span.1-3
When we’re young, we are relatively protected against mitochondrial deterioration. As we age, however, changes within our cells lead to the destruction of mitochondria—paving the way for aging and disease.4-8
In 2007 scientists made a remarkable age-reversal discovery:
Damage to mitochondrial DNA becomes permanent a decade after mitochondrial dysfunction begins—and in the early stages, this damage remains reversible.9
In this article, you’ll learn about a 3-step program aimed at restoring your body’s vital mitochondrial health:
Step 1: Boost your body’s natural mitochondrial DNA defenses with CoQ10.
Step 2: Stimulate the creation of new mitochondria with PQQ.
Step 3: Support your body’s mitochondrial defense system with shilajit.
This strategy to reduce damage to existing mitochondrial DNA and create new mitochondria—is essential to inhibit a destructive cycle believed to be a root cause of aging.
Why We Need Mitochondria
Found inside the body’s cells, mitochondria are responsible for producing our primary source of energy, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP provides at least 95% of the cellular energy that powers all living functions.
Unfortunately, a byproduct of this energy generation is the formation of a huge stream of free radicals.4-7 Free radicals are molecules that possess a free electron—a property that makes them react with other molecules in volatile and highly destructive ways.10-12
Free radicals attack the structure of our cell membranes, creating metabolic waste products that disturb DNA and RNA production, interfere with the synthesis of protein, and destroy important cellular enzymes. Vital tissues and molecules decay under the assaults of free radicals.10-14 In addition, free-radical disruption of cell mechanics creates mutant cells, which are linked to cancer and cellular aging.15,16
Mitochondria are the easiest targets of free-radical injury for two reasons:
- They are located exactly where these free radicals are produced, and
- They lack most of the antioxidant defenses found in other parts of the cell.17,18
Evidence strongly indicates that over time, accumulated damage to the DNA of the mitochondria in particular leads directly to metabolic disorders (such as diabetes) and degenerative disorders (such as Alzheimer’s).4-8,19-23
Mitochondrial dysfunction is primarily seen in organs and tissues that have a high demand for energy—explaining why cardiovascular tissue and brain neurons are among the most susceptible.24
When we’re young, we are largely protected against mitochondrial deterioration because our bodies produce substances to defend mitochondria from the onslaught of free radicals. However, as we age, that protection wanes, setting us up for a destructive cycle that accelerates aging and disease. As a result of this rapidly accelerating process, mitochondria in the cells of elderly people are mostly dysfunctional, whereas young individuals have virtually no mitochondrial damage.8,25-27
The Mitochondrial Theory of Aging
Over time, there are three devastating changes within our cells that lead to the destruction of mitochondria—paving the way for aging and disease:4-7
- The rate of cellular production of two free radicals—superoxide anions and hydrogen peroxide —significantly increases, attacking mitochondria the most.
- At the same time, intracellular levels of endogenous antioxidants that help prevent the harmful effects of free radicals decrease. There’s also a reduction in activities of free radical-scavengers that neutralize free radicals before they can attach themselves to other molecules. These decreases diminish the mitochondria’s normal defenses.
- The accumulated oxidative damage to the mitochondrial DNA and other mitochondrial components (as well as the cell as a whole) leads to decay of the mitochondria—and from that decay, the release of even more free radicals!
According to the mitochondrial theory of aging, this ever-increasing spiral is—in itself—an aging process.4-8, 25,26 In fact, a growing number of cell biologists have suggested that the number and functionality of the mitochondria can specifically determine an individual’s longevity.1-3
Based on this body of scientific evidence, scientists determined that a key to slowing—and even reversing—a “natural” aging process would be a substance aimed at revitalizing youthful mitochondrial protection from free radicals.27
They discovered this mitochondrial solution in a substance that may already be in your nutrient regimen…coenzyme Q10.
Coenzyme Q10 Protects Mitochondria
Scientists have established that coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an essential nutrient for normal mitochondrial function (namely, the production and transfer of energy).28-30 When CoQ10 levels fall, mitochondrial dysfunction skyrockets.28 Studies have found that boosting CoQ10 levels via supplementation increases mitochondrial electron transport—whether the cells are deficient in CoQ10 or not.29,30
CoQ10’s ability to protect the vital mitochondria helps put an end to the vicious cycle that underscores a critical aspect of pathological aging. In fact, research with laboratory models has suggested that CoQ10 may be one of our most potent anti-aging nutrients. Studies have found that when cells or organisms are deficient in CoQ10, mitochondrial oxidative stress increases and aging is accelerated.28,31 However, supplementation triggers a significant slowing down of the aging process and an extended life span.32,33
One study showed that rats supplemented with CoQ10 experience a 24% increase in maximum life span and an 11.7% increase in average life span.34 In human terms, based on today’s life expectancy of 78.5 years, this mean increase translates to a more than 9-year increase in life span!35
CoQ10 also seems to work via a multi-targeted set of epigenetic mechanisms that not only slow aging—but that also protect against a variety of mitochondria-related diseases.36-38 Epigenetic mechanisms involve changes in gene function that do not relate to changes in gene structure.39 Studies have shown that CoQ10 protects against neurodegenerative diseases40-42 and mental health disorders,43 enhances lung function,44,45 guards against the effects of elevated glucose in diabetes and metabolic syndrome,46-48 and offers impressive defense against cardiovascular disease, one of the primary diseases of aging.49-51
Animal studies demonstrate that supplementation with CoQ10 reduces oxidative stress and reduces the buildup of amyloid-beta plaque (associated with Alzheimer’s disease)40-42,52,53 —resulting in a significant improvement in cognitive performance and memory.53
In human studies, 4 weeks to 6 months of CoQ10 supplementation at 60-300 milligrams a day was shown to improve cardiac systolic function and ejection fraction.49,50 One study showed that 8 weeks of CoQ10 supplementation at 300 milligrams a day improved heart-muscle systolic function by enhancing both mitochondrial performance and endothelial function.50 And in a 5-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial among elderly individuals, CoQ10 combined with selenium slashed the death rate from cardiovascular disease by more than half!54 In fact, the authors of one study recognized CoQ10 as a “scientific breakthrough in the management of chronic heart failure.”55
CoQ10 offers a powerful way to help slow—or even reverse—a natural aging process by restoring youthful mitochondrial protection from free radicals.27,56