Supercharging your Mitochondria

December 18, 2008

Mitochondria III:  Supercharging your Mitochondria 

Competency # 4 ACTIVITY                       Reference:   Nutrition Action Health Letter, December 2008 

 Mitochondria are basically where aging happens.   We learned that exercise is a magic potion for making mitochondria multiply.  But there is another story to tell.  This story starts with the Department of Defense asking Mark Davis at the University of South Carolina to study the chemical quercetin.  The army wants strong soldiers with the ability to have extra endurance and strength.  

Dr. Davis started by giving mice a dose of quercetin of 850-1,700 mg a day in human equivalents.  (Apples have about 200 mg per pound)  Aside from eating 4 pounds of apples a day, you can’t get that much from food by yourself. But guess what happens to mice when they got that much quercetin?  The number of mitochondria increased 30% within a week.  And the mice got more endurance on their treadmills along with that change.  That means they were burning more energy, or had more energy to burn.  

Either way.  The implications for us humans are huge.  This could be a way of raising your metabolism, or rate of burn.  That could help get rid of those extra calories and pounds, while using a natural compound found in apples, onions, grapes, capers….. And the benefits of quercetin didn’t stop there.  When the army took a bunch of young kids and exercised them like crazy (3 hours a day of intense bike riding) and then exposed them to cold and flu viruses, they got less colds. 

 So guess who’s out there pedaling quercetin?  Lance Armstrong of course.  (Pedaling…. Of course) There is a product on the market that he is selling that has quercetin in it.  I won’t sponsor any product so you’ll have the find the name on your own.  I’m an apple guy. But that’s not the only hint about nutritional supplements that might help supercharge your mitochondria.   There is also beginning evidence that lipoic acid and carnitine, two chemicals that are used by mitochondria as specific elements in their metabolism of energy, both increased the ability of rats to exercise by 100%.  And that was with geriatric rats.  So Andrew Weil has jumped on that band wagon and he’s selling a product that claims to make your mitochondria healthier.  It has carnitine and lipoic acid in it.  Despite no human studies yet…..   I can’t wait. 

 WWW: What will work for me.  Well, I want to keep doing the Macarena until I’m 90 so I need to keep my mitochondria happy.  Exercise is a sure fire bet.  But quercetin is very interesting.  I ate an apple for lunch.  Three more, and who knows what will happen.  Realistically, this is a new topic to follow.  I’m interested.  We are down to the nitty-gritty of burning energy.  We’ll stick with it .   

Written by Dr. John E. Whitcomb, MD, Brookfield Longevity, Brookfield, WI (262-784-5300)