Imagine your body containing trillions of tiny power plants, tirelessly working to convert food and oxygen into energy so your cells can optimally carry out their job as the building blocks of our bodies. This is your mitochondria, intracellular organelles which are the “powerhouses of the cell”. When we take care of our mitochondria, our mitochondria take care of us; therefore maintaining and supporting optimal mitochondrial function is essential for metabolism, cellular energy creation, and so much more.
It’s difficult to overstate the impact mitochondria have on how you feel. Serving as central hubs for metabolic reactions and generating ~95% of the cell’s energy by creating ATP (adenosine triphosphate), mitochondria power most of our cells’ biochemical reactions. ATP cannot be stored, so it has to be replenished every second. There are literally quadrillions of mitochondria in your body, responsible for providing your tissue and organs with energy. The cells that demand the most energy—for example, in the heart or the brain—have the highest amounts of mitochondria.
Fasting and (healthy) feasting: How to support your mitochondria
We know that healthy mitochondria means a healthy body—but how much of that is within our control? It turns out, a significant amount.
Returning to the metaphor of mitochondria as power plants, supplying our cells with crucial energy: As with an actual power plant, the working conditions can impact the quality of output and production. Consistently poor diet, lack of exercise, and free radical damage are just some of the stressors that can wear down even the healthiest mitochondria and lead to mitochondrial dysregulation.
A healthy, balanced diet is one of the most important factors in maintaining the health of your mitochondria, which thrives on a diet high in quality protein and omega 3s, B vitamins, healthy fats, antioxidants, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Ultra processed foods, sugar, and starchy carbohydrates impair mitochondrial function by triggering increased production of free radicals and causing oxidative stress.
Caloric restriction and intermittent fasting have also been shown to be beneficial to mitochondrial health. Calorie restriction increases cellular antioxidant defenses which in turn provide protection to mitochondria (and other cellular components) from oxidative damage and age-related decline. Levels of key metabolic factors such as NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide), a critical coenzyme involved in hundreds of cellular processes, and sirtuins, which are NAD+-dependent enzymes (described in more detail below), also increase and become more active in response to calorie restriction, triggering reactions and signaling pathways that preserve mitochondrial health and function.
SIRT3, NMN, and mitochondrial health
Sirtuins are a family of proteins that regulate cellular health and help regulate cellular homeostasis—essentially maintaining equilibrium and balance within the cell so it can function in a state of relative constancy. As mentioned above, they rely on NAD+ to function. Three of the seven sirtuins (SIRT3, SIRT4 and SIRT5) are primarily localized in mitochondria. Of these, sirtuin 3 (SIRT3) has been extensively studied for its role in energy homeostasis (a biological process by which our cells balance energy production and expenditure) and has been demonstrated to regulate basal ATP levels. SIRT3 is the major deacetylase (important regulators of gene expression and enzyme activity) present in mitochondria and plays a critical role in maintaining mitochondrial function by deacetylating a wide variety of mitochondrial enzymes involved in metabolism. Activation of SIRT3 has also been shown to improve mitochondrial protection from stressors and promote mitochondrial biogenesis (synthesis of new mitochondria).
It is now known that levels of NAD+ decline universally by as much as 50% every 20 years, which has been shown to have a deleterious effect on the activity of sirtuins. Mitochondrial sirtuin levels have also been shown to decline with age, which is where NAD+ precursors such as NMN (nicotinamide mononucleotide) become vitally important as a support for mitochondrial function—as with Signal, Elysium’s NMN supplement. Signal combines NMN with the SIRT3 Metabolic Activation Complex to synergistically activate SIRT3, in order to help maintain overall mitochondrial health and promote optimal cellular energy production and utilization. Learn more about the science behind Signal here.
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