Its impossible to discuss mitochondrial function without mentioning OXIDATIVE STRESS.
OXIDATIVE STRESS is a bit like human rusting, or the result of an apple core that has been left to turn brown when exposed to oxygen.
Oxidative stress and inflammation in the human body, as opposed to an apple core, is the result of a constant overload of reactive oxygen species (ROS), also known as free radicals.
Oxidative stress (and inflammation) are very necessary in controlled amounts .
Health problems arise when free radicals are not effectively neutralised (scavenged) by antioxidants.
This delicate balance between oxidants and antioxidants is kept in check by our body's endogenous (home-grown) antioxidant defence system.
A key player in this complex system is the SOD2 gene which codes for manganese superoxide dismutase. The SOD2 gene is a potent free radical scavenger within the cell, especially the mitochondria.
Because the mitochondria are the 'powerhouse' of the cell and work so hard during energy production, they are the site of many oxidative reactions.
This means that lots of free radicals are generated by the mitochondria.
Individuals carrying the SOD2 CC genotype have been associated with high oxidative stress biomarkers when they do not eat enough fruit and vegetables.
Oxidative stress can increase oxidation of LDL cholesterol and may affect the absorption and incorporation of vitamin E.
The process of producing the master detoxifying antioxidant enzyme, Glutathione is under tight control of genes such as GPX (Glutathione Peroxidase)
Oxidative stress decreases glutathione stores and eating a variety of antioxidant-rich fruit and vegetables is recommended to keep us exercising, glowing and maintaining essential functions.
Even though we have these systems in place, some of us have better antioxidant and detoxification systems than others. This is why its super-important to support these hard working mitochondria and cells by supplying a diet rich in antioxidant vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals.
Athletes who fail to recover adequately, and suffer from overtraining syndrome (OS) leave themselves at risk for illness and/or shortened careers.
For all of us, long-term exposure to oxidants and stressors such as emotional stress, environmental chemicals and a lack of adequate nutrition, may leave us vulnerable.
INCREASE AND EAT MORE ANTIOXIDANTS such as:
Berries; beetroot; red cabbage; red and purple grapes; pomegranate; plums, prunes
Sweet potatoes; carrots; apples
Broccoli and leafy greens
High quality whey protein
Nuts, seeds and grains containing essential cofactors for optimal enzyme function and mitochondrial protection -zinc, copper, selenium, manganese. magnesium,. Found in - pumpkin seeds, pecan nuts, almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, 80% dark chocolate
Organic, free range eggs
Organic meat and produce wherever possible.
Sometimes, its not always what you eat, BUT WHAT YOU AVOID that counts!
AVOID, OR REDUCE-
Cigarette smoke (direct or second hand)
Fried foods and inflammatory processed foods (junk food)
Chronic psychological stress (moderate-intensity exercise, yoga, meditation, therapy, sleep)
Asbestos and heavy metals such as mercury, lead. aluminium, cadmium.
Plastics and phthalates
Overeating and binge eating
Over-use, misuse/abuse of NSAID's (e.g ibuprofen), alcohol, recreational drugs
POSSIBLE SIGNS OF MITOCHONDRIAL DYSFUNCTION - + some good reasons to eat more antioxidants and enjoy a healthy lifestyle.
Premature skin ageing
For athletes and sporty people;
Under-performance and an inability to recover adequately
Chronic URTI's (upper respiratory tract infections)
Avoid training in highly polluted areas. Run or cycle on side roads, rather than main roads.
Stay active, and eat your veg!