Plus, my accessible, affordable, natural anti-aging secrets
They say that age is just a number. But when I tell you that “you’re only as old as you feel,” I mean it very literally.
How you feel—whether it’s wracked with fatigue or brimming with energy—is always your best barometer for what’s really going on behind the scenes. It also reveals your body’s “age” a lot more accurately than any calendar could.
And, well… I don’t have to tell you that some people get “old” a whole lot faster than others.
The question is, why? The quest for the answer has been dogging researchers for centuries now. But in recent years, modern anti-aging medicine has delivered what might be the best explanation yet.
It turns out, the secret to successful aging lies within your mitochondria.
Good things really do come in small packages
I’ve covered this subject in passing before, but let’s start with some definitions, as a quick refresher: Mitochondria are tiny organelles inside your cells that serve as microscopic power plants.
They use the food you eat and the oxygen you breathe to churn out a chemical called adenosine tri-phosphate (ATP)—your most elemental form of energy. This is the fuel that keeps your body running at the most basic level.
It’s no doubt an important job. ATP keeps many of your basic functions firing on all cylinders—everything from hormone generation to digestion. It keeps your heart beating and your brain thinking. It facilitates every biochemical reaction and every vital biological function imaginable.
Cells that require the most energy to operate—in your skeletal and heart muscles and in your brain, for example—are especially packed with ATP-generating mitochondria.
But when your mitochondria begin to falter, your whole body suffers. And constantly feeling run down, tired, and worn out is just the beginning of the problems you’ll encounter.
That’s because any dysfunction in this department sets off a dangerous cascade of events—one in which mitochondria become their own worst enemies.
What happens when mitochondria go haywire
You see, even when they’re functioning correctly, mitochondria serve as the primary source of oxidative stress within your body. As a reminder, oxidative stress occurs when the body is overwhelmed by the production of free radicals and is unable to regulate them.
And basically, free radicals are the inevitable byproduct of ATP production, or the energy produced by our mitochondria. They’re essentially the leftover waste product from various chemical reactions in the cell. But when they build up, they can wreak havoc in your body.
And unfortunately, mitochondrial DNA is particularly vulnerable to their damaging effects.
Damaged mitochondria generate more free radicals, creating an unstoppable downward spiral. This vicious cycle is the crux of what’s called the “free radical mitochondrial theory of aging.” And it could help to explain why getting older is so often synonymous with chronic disease.
There are multiple factors that influence the fate of your health as you get older, obviously. But at the end of the day, a growing number of experts believe that it all boils down to your mitochondria.
Both the numbers and the functioning of your mitochondria decline with age. This deterioration leads to decreased ATP (or energy) output. And when your mitochondria can’t keep up with your body’s energy demands, it leads to some serious problems.
Fatigue, for starters. And not just run-of-the-mill tiredness, either. Mitochondrial dysfunction is one of the main factors behind chronic fatigue syndrome—a truly debilitating condition.1
Muscle atrophy and age-related sarcopenia have also emerged as natural consequences of poor mitochondrial function.2 And the heart muscle is especially susceptible to the resulting energy deficit. (In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction is a defining characteristic of heart failure.3)
But this is just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, research has linked deteriorating cellular power centers not only to heart disease, but to diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer.4 And that’s just a short list of the age-related problems with roots in mitochondrial dysfunction.
At this point, it should be crystal clear as to why mitochondria are quite possibly the most essential weapon against aging you have. Which raises the question… how do you keep them healthy?
Well, the good news is, it’s not nearly as complicated as you might think…
Healthy mitochondria are creatures of habit
First off, it’s important to understand that mitochondrial function is very much subject to your body’s circadian rhythms. If your internal clock is off-kilter, your mitochondrial network will be too—triggering a marked drop in energy production.5-6
And if you read the feature on circadian rhythms in last month’s issue, then you may have already guessed what that means. (To refer back to my archives, simply use your username and password to log into the Subscribers Sign-In via www.DrPescatore.com.)
For starters, it means that getting the right amount of sleep—and just as importantly, sleeping at night—is essential for ensuring proper mitochondrial function. (Sleep disruption is a known hallmark of mitochondrial disease.7) For my patients, I recommend seven to nine hours.
It also means that exercise is equally vital. As I explained last month, regular physical activity can effectively restore a disrupted circadian clock. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those workouts boost mitochondrial health, too.
When it comes to how much exercise is ideal, multiple studies have shown that 150 minutes a week (just 30 minutes, five days a week) has substantial health benefits.
In my mind, any exercise is better than none. So, at the risk of sounding cliché, just do it. Start slow until it becomes a consistent routine, then as you grow more comfortable, work your way up to longer, more intense workouts.
In fact, high-intensity interval training (HIIT)—where short bursts of intense exertion are separated by lower intensity intervals—is particularly beneficial to mitochondria.
A recent study showed that this type of workout can boost mitochondrial capacity by nearly 50 percent among younger volunteers—and by nearly 70 percent among older subjects.8
And of course, when and what you eat also has the power to make or break your mitochondrial health.
For one thing, eating big meals late at night remains a major no-no. But excessive carbohydrate and sugar intake, at any time of day, stresses your mitochondria too.9 While a ketogenic diet (as I discussed on page 2, and in-depth in the January issue of Logical Health Alternatives)—sugar-free, carb-free, and rich in fats—appears to be one way to revive your body’s power centers.
Laboratory models of traumatic brain injury demonstrate that ketones—metabolites generated when your body uses fat instead of sugar for fuel—can reduce post-injury oxidative stress and boost mitochondrial function. 10
We also know that intermittent fasting—whether it’s restricting calorie intake to eight-hour windows, fasting one to two days a week—can stall aging and reverse metabolic disease. And recent research shows that its effects on mitochondrial networks are at least one major reason why.11
Over the years, I’ve seen these anti-aging strategies breathe life into my patients, literally and figuratively. And I’ve felt the results for myself. As with many pathways to better health, lifestyle changes are a large chunk of the equation.
A foolproof protocol for peak mitochondrial function
There are also a number of supplements that I recommend for supporting mitochondrial health—some of which you’ll recognize as old standbys, and some that I’ve only introduced to you recently.
- CoQ10.This powerful antioxidant is probably best known as a heart health supplement—and given this muscle’s high energy requirements, it’s easy to see why. CoQ10 is vital for mitochondrial support and metabolism, helping to release stored fat for fuel. That’s why I recommend 100 mg, three times per day.
- B vitamins. No energy protocol—mitochondrial or otherwise—would be complete without this vital class of nutrients. B vitamins play a vital role in warding off mitochondrial toxicity and supporting mitochondrial function. They also maximize CoQ10 absorption, so these two supplements are a natural pair. What you’ll find in your average multivitamin really isn’t sufficient. Take a good B vitamin complex daily.
- Carnitine. This nutrient helps your body release fat for fuel and powers up your mitochondria—it basically “stokes the furnace.” I recommend taking 500 to 1,000 mg of l-carnitine, three times per day.
- Robuvit®. This patented extract from French oak trees features active compounds—including roburins and urolithins—that reduce oxidative stress and enhance mitochondrial function. Clinical research backs this benefit up, showing supplementation can significantly elevate energy levels in patients with chronic fatigue. I recommend 300 mg per day.
- ME3. This cutting-edge probiotic is the only known substance that can raise your body’s levels of glutathione—a so-called “master antioxidant” that depletes with age. This decline leaves mitochondria vulnerable and sets the wheels of disease in motion. I’ve written quite a lot about this supplement—simply search www.DrPescatore.com for more. I recommend 60 mg per day.
Last but certainly not least, I recommend polyphenols—and lots of them.
My top three polyphenol picks for ironclad mitochondria
Polyphenols are antioxidant powerhouses, which of course helps to protect mitochondrial integrity. But research also demonstrates their role in facilitating optimal mitochondrial function across the board.12 So it really is hard to imagine a simpler or stronger form of anti-aging support.
I declined to give them their own bullet on the list above, because you have your pick of first-rate polyphenol sources, both in food and supplement form. If I listed them all one by one, this article would turn into a book.
But that isn’t to say that I don’t have a few preferences. Because based on the research available, I definitely do.
Chocolate probably tops on this list, which may come as a pleasant surprise. Believe it or not, clinical trials show that daily dark chocolate consumption can significantly improve markers of mitochondrial function, while providing a boost in energy levels and endurance.13
This assumes, of course, that you’re not getting yours with a hefty helping of sugar. Sweeten 100-percent cocoa with stevia to taste, instead. Or you can just take cocoa flavonoids in supplement form. (In this case, I recommend 1 gram, three times per day.)
You may even enjoy one of my favorite products in my supplement line, CocoaLogic. It not only tastes great, but is packed with premium dark cocoa powder and youth-promoting amino acids. Mix up one scoop a day with cold water or unsweetened almond milk for a tasty, easy-to-make shake. For more information, visit www.NuLogicNutritionals.com.
Then there’s EGCG and resveratrol—two polyphenols derived from green tea and red wine, respectively. A recent trial published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that an EGCG and resveratrol combo supplement was able to boost mitochondrial capacity in obese subjects within just 12 weeks.14
To get your EGCG, I typically recommend two to three cups of unsweetened green tea per day—or green tea supplements, if you prefer. (Specifically, 500 mg of an extract that contains 60 percent catechins and 30 percent EGCG.)
For resveratrol, skip the red wine—it’s loaded with sugar—and go straight to supplements. I recommend 500 mg of trans resveratrol (the most potent form) per day.
By following the simple recommendations I’ve laid out for you here, your mitochondria will be equipped with what it needs to keep your body running like a well-oiled machine. And this will not only keep you healthy, but ensure you stay younger, longer.
- Myhill S, et al. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2009; 2(1): 1–16.
- Calvani R, et al. Biol Chem. 2013 Mar; 394(3): 393–414.
- Rosca MG, et al. Cardiovasc Res. 2010 Oct 1; 88(1): 40–50.
- Srivastava S. Genes (Basel). 2017 Dec 19;8(12).
- Schmitt K, et al. Cell Metab. 2018 Mar 6;27(3):657-666.e5.
- Neufeld-Cohen A, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Mar 22;113(12):E1673-82.
- Ramezani RJ, et al. J Clin Sleep Med. 2014 Nov 15;10(11):1233-9.
- Robinson MM, et al. Cell Metab. 2017 Mar 7;25(3):581-592.
- Picard M, et al. 2013 Mar; 62(3): 672–678.
- Greco T, et al. J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2016 Sep;36(9):1603-13.
- Weir HJ, et al. Cell Metab. 2017 Dec 5;26(6):884-896.e5.
- Sandoval-Acuña C, et al. Arch Biochem Biophys. 2014 Oct 1;559:75-90.
- “Dark Chocolate May Have Health Benefits for Older Adults.” Presented at: American College of Cardiology (ACC) 64th Scientific Session & Expo; March 14-16, 2015; San Diego.
- Most J, et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jul;104(1):215-27.