The Mitochondria Factor

The Mitochondria Factor
You know the formula for a healthy, long life. You need to eat well, exercise, avoid stress, and surround yourself with people you love—having a few pets helps as well. But there is something more. There’s the mitochondria factor. Could you also look at ways to stay healthy and active well into old age on a cellular level?
Here’s a quick refresher on eighth-grade biology, just in case you don’t take Maximum Mind and forgot about some of the details. The mitochondria are organelles, i.e., small components of your cells that produce the energy that keep cells alive and functioning.
Mitochondria create adenosine triphosphate (ATP)—the compound that powers muscle contractions, nerve impulses, and many other processes, without which we can’t live.
As we age, our cells break down, and so do the mitochondria. There are, however, behavioral changes that can slow down or speed up this breakdown to keep the mitochondria pumping out power for a good while to come, helping you stay in the game of life long enough to get everything you want out of it.

You’re about to learn how to support healthy cells and the mitochondria factors to keep going strong, year after year.

“There Is More Wisdom in Your Body Than in Your Deepest Philosophy.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

What Are Mitochondria?

It is only when we take chances, when our lives improve. The initial and the most difficult risk that we need to take is to become honest.
—Walter Anderson

As aforementioned, back in school, you were probably taught that the mitochondria were the little power plants of the cell. That’s still true, but it’s just the beginning. Scientists now know that mitochondria play several other roles, including sending messages between cells and helping regulate the immune system and even stem cells.

In a widely acclaimed study initially published in Molecular Cell, researchers showed the relation between mitochondria health and aging quite conclusively [1]. To paraphrase their piece of work, they demonstrated that a decline in mitochondrial quality and activity has been associated with aging and correlated with the development of a wide range of age-related complications.

When mitochondria are damaged via factors like life-induced stress, poor nutrition, et cetera, the cell that surrounds them begins to deteriorate, and inflammatory markers start to rise. This process can affect virtually every aspect of health. For instance, a paper published in Science found that declines in mitochondria function contributed to an inadequate insulin response in older people [2].

How to Increase Cellular Health

Nature has given us all the pieces required to achieve exceptional wellness and health, but has left it to us to put these pieces together.”
—Diane McLaren

To a degree, fading mitochondria are unavoidable. In 2015 already, a study published in Sleep showed that even short-term sleep loss could damage mitochondrial DNA [3]. However, there are ways to fight back. Healthy mitochondria depend on overall healthy cells. The following are means of maintaining both.


No surprise here: a study published in The Journal of Applied Physiology showed that both high-intensity and moderate-intensity cardio stimulates pathways for the creation of mitochondria [4]. Further, a review published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews clearly showed that cardio not only helps the mitochondria to function more efficiently but also promotes growth in the number of mitochondria within the cells [5].


Apart from getting more sleep or falling asleep faster, see Marco’s Sleep Mastery (upcoming), learning to unwind more often, in general, can help sustain you on a cellular level. In a meta-analysis – a systematic review of literature that aims at aggregating conclusions – published in Psychosomatic Medicine, the researchers could demonstrate that stress exposure can make negative and lasting changes to mitochondria [6]. It is also commonly accepted that high-quality sleep reduces stress.

Cold Exposure

Although the subjects were mice, a 2017 study published in The Journal of Exercise Nutrition And Biochemistry showed that exercise in cold air and cold-water immersion boosted the creation of mitochondria in their muscles [7]. Look at Marco’s Ice Mastery (upcoming) for simple and effective ways to reap the benefits of cold exposure.


Pyrroloquinoline Quinone  Pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) is a molecule found in human milk, as well as foods such as cabbage, peppers, and potatoes, PQQ has a potent cell-protecting effect. In a study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry found that subjects supplementing with PQQ saw a boost in cellular integrity; the PQQ also helped in maintaining lower levels of C-reactive proteins, a marker of inflammation. Urinary biomarkers also suggested that PQQ had a positive effect on mitochondrial efficiency [8]. Another study, this time on middle-aged men and women and published in Functional Foods in Health and Disease, demonstrated that eight weeks of daily PQQ use offered significant benefits in measures of vigor, fatigue, stress, and mood. Standards for quality of life, appetite, sleep, and obsession also improved significantly, as the researchers pointed out [9]. PQQ also has been shown to increase blow flow to the brain and display neuroprotective properties in a study published in Oxygen Transport to Tissue [10].   Coenzyme Q10 A nutrient present in many foods, icluding fatty fish and organ meats, coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), assists mitochondria in energy production. It could be shown in a paper published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness that CoQ10 has been linked to protection against cellular breakdown due to intense exercise [11]. Another study in The British Journal of Nutrition followed martial artists who practiced kendo—the Japanese discipline of fencing. They trained five-and-a-half hours daily for six straight days, but when blood samples were taken at the end of the experiment, those who supplemented with CoQ10 showed less exercise-induced muscle damage than the placebo group [12]. The Southern Medical Journal also reports that CoQ10 helps maintain normal healthy blood pressure [13]. The body synthesize its own CoQ10 as well, but production slows down with age. According to a paper in Nutrition Reviews, its deficit in tissues is associated with degenerative changes of aging [14]. Resveratrol A polyphenol found in the skins of grapes as well as in red wine, resveratrol is thought to help promote cardiovascular health by promoting healthy blood pressure and durability of blood vessels. An article in the journal Cell Cycle also points to resveratrol’s ability to scavenge free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage healthy cells [15].

Many don’t realize that the simple act of eating can be a source of stress to the body as well. Even the healthiest meals require energy to digest and assimilate, and this puts a strain on cells. Research from The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that resveratrol can help balance markers of inflammation after ingesting a heavy meal [16].

That’s it for a brief overview of simple ways to fight mitochondrial decay.


  1. Sun, N., Youle, R. J., & Finkel, T. (2016). The Mitochondrial Basis of Aging. Molecular cell, 61(5), 654–666.
  2. Petersen, K. F., Befroy, D., Dufour, S., Dziura, J., Ariyan, C., Rothman, D. L., DiPietro, L., Cline, G. W., & Shulman, G. I. (2003). Mitochondrial dysfunction in the elderly: possible role in insulin resistance. Science (New York, N.Y.), 300(5622), 1140–1142.
  3. Wrede, J. E., Mengel-From, J., Buchwald, D., Vitiello, M. V., Bamshad, M., Noonan, C., Christiansen, L., Christensen, K., & Watson, N. F. (2015). Mitochondrial DNA Copy Number in Sleep Duration Discordant Monozygotic Twins. Sleep, 38(10), 1655–1658.
  4. Marcuello, A., Gonzalez-Alonso, J., Calbet, J. A., Damsgaard, R., Lopez-Perez, M. J., & Diez-Sanchez, C. (2005). Skeletal muscle mitochondrial DNA content in exercising humans. Journal of Applied Physiology, 99(4), 1372-1377.
  5. Konopka, A. R., & Harber, M. P. (2014). Skeletal muscle hypertrophy after aerobic exercise training. Exercise and sport sciences reviews, 42(2), 53–61.
  6. Picard, M., & McEwen, B. S. (2018). Psychological Stress and Mitochondria: A Systematic Review. Psychosomatic medicine, 80(2), 141–153.
  7. Chung, N., Park, J., & Lim, K. (2017). The effects of exercise and cold exposure on mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal muscle and white adipose tissue. Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry, 21(2), 39–47.
  8. Harris CB, Chowanadisai W, Mishchuk DO, Satre MA, Slupsky CM, Rucker RB. Dietary pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) alters indicators of inflammation and mitochondrial-related metabolism in human subjects. J Nutr Biochem.
  9. Nakano, M., Yamamoto, T., Okamura, H., Tsuda, A., & Kowatari, Y. (2012). Effects of oral supplementation with pyrroloquinoline quinone on stress, fatigue, and sleep. Functional foods in health and disease, 2(8), 307-324.
  10. Itoh, Y., Hine, K., Miura, H., Uetake, T., Nakano, M., Takemura, N., & Sakatani, K. (2016). Effect of the antioxidant supplement pyrroloquinoline quinone disodium salt (BioPQQ™) on cognitive functions. In Oxygen Transport to Tissue XXXVII (pp. 319-325). Springer, New York, NY.
  11. Gül, I., Gökbel, H., Belviranli, M., Okudan, N., Büyükbaş, S., & Başarali, K. (2011). Oxidative stress and antioxidant defense in plasma after repeated bouts of supramaximal exercise: the effect of coenzyme Q10. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 51(2), 305–312.
  12. Kon, M., Tanabe, K., Akimoto, T., Kimura, F., Tanimura, Y., Shimizu, K., Okamoto, T., & Kono, I. (2008). Reducing exercise-induced muscular injury in kendo athletes with supplementation of coenzyme Q10. The British journal of nutrition, 100(4), 903–909.
  13. Burke, B. E., Neuenschwander, R., & Olson, R. D. (2001). Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of coenzyme Q10 in isolated systolic hypertension. Southern medical journal, 94(11), 1112–1117.
  14. Singh, U., Devaraj, S., & Jialal, I. (2007). Coenzyme Q10 supplementation and heart failure. Nutrition Reviews, 65(6), 286-293.
  15. Bonnefont-Rousselot D. (2016). Resveratrol and Cardiovascular Diseases. Nutrients, 8(5), 250.
  16. Ghanim, H., Sia, C. L., Korzeniewski, K., Lohano, T., Abuaysheh, S., Marumganti, A., Chaudhuri, A., & Dandona, P. (2011). A resveratrol and polyphenol preparation suppresses oxidative and inflammatory stress response to a high-fat, high-carbohydrate meal. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 96(5), 1409–1414.

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