Setting the Mitochondrial Thermostat

Mitochondrie banner_MitcochondriaAndTheFutureofMed

In his new book, naturopathic doctor Lee Know takes a deep dive into how our mitochondria work and
 the implications this system has on a number of age-related conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.

The following excerpt is from Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine by Lee Know, ND. It has been adapted for the web.

A modern version of the Mitochondrial Theory of Aging was initially put forth by Anthony Linnane, an Australian professor and scientist, back in the late 1980s. The theory has gone through some further modifications since then, but its main point remains that mitochondria are the body’s main source of free radicals that are linked to aging.

Free radicals don’t damage the cell as much as we think. We produce a number of antioxidant enzymes that mop them up, and if a cell does get damaged, there are repair mechanisms constantly at work. But the free radicals linked to aging do specifically damage the mitochondria, and especially their vulnerable DNA, which doesn’t have the repair mechanisms the rest of the cell has. When the damage accumulates faster than a mitochondrion can repair itself, it becomes dysfunctional—the first step in aging. In essence, this theory says the mitochondria are the “biological clock.” As the mitochondria start to weaken and eventually die, the functioning and viability of the cell as a whole declines. As cells lose their ability to produce energy, they commit apoptosis—that is, they die—which then compromises the functioning and viability of the tissue or organ.

As random mutations in mitochondria accumulate, a bioenergetic mosaic develops—where cells all produce a drastically differing amount of energy, depending upon their degree of mitochondrial damage. In a healthy toddler, we do not see this mosaic because energy production is high in nearly all cells. However a noticeable mosaic effect develops after about age forty.

Linnane’s theory holds that this mutation-driven bioenergetic decline is a major factor in the degenerative diseases and general frailty of old age. Recent research from numerous disciplines has converged on the mitochondria as the center of cellular aging, giving more weight to the theory, and enhancing it. If the Mitochondrial Theory of Aging is correct, the foundation of cellular vitality lies in the mitochondria.

Moving Forward

The pharmaceutical industry spends many billions of dollars annually for research, but nothing more than symptom management comes of it. The paradigm under which that industry operates is likely one of its many problems. Drugs are almost exclusively used after a disease has manifested its physical symptoms; they are rarely, if ever, used to prevent diseases in the first place. If it’s true that the quality of our mitochondria is the single most important factor in aging and degenerative diseases —and if we can’t turn back the clock on our mitochondria—prevention should start in childhood.

Even the dietary supplements industry is on the wrong path with all its marketing of antioxidants. The antioxidant craze promotes these supplements as the cure for most ailments, and although it seems to be losing some steam, “antioxidant” is still a buzzword thrown around excessively to hopeful consumers. Also, as mentioned earlier, while antioxidants do have some benefits in certain diseases according to some studies, other studies have found that large amounts can potentially do some harm. Just because they’re marketed as natural and healthy, doesn’t mean it’s good for you to use them indiscriminately or in excessive amounts.

If you mess with the mitochondrial thermostat, the cell can’t calibrate its response to stress appropriately.

In the long run this can’t be good, and it undermines nature’s protective processes. This mitochondrial thermostat also explains that while antioxidants might extend life in a sick population (relative to people with the same condition who are not receiving antioxidants), they fail to extend the maximum life-span potential of a species. Antioxidants are likely beneficial to extracellular components, at membrane surfaces, and maybe even in the cytoplasm of our cells, but it is highly unlikely they will be able to quench the free radicals leaking into the mitochondrial matrix.

Yet all the expanding knowledge about mitochondria gives us new hope and insight for treating illnesses. If all the genetic and environmental factors that lead to age-related degenerative diseases converge at the mitochondria, we just need to focus on one organelle. While newer research is revealing the intricate interaction between mitochondria and other organelles, such as peroxisomes and endoplasmic reticulum, we seem to be one big step closer to targeting the underlying mechanism behind many diseases, and even death itself.


Share This:

Read The Book

Mitochondria and the Future of Medicine

The Key to Understanding Disease, Chronic Illness, Aging, and Life Itself


Recent Articles

More Than a Matter of Taste: The Science Behind Food Preferences

You might remember being a little kid and refusing to eat the broccoli that was put on your plate. But now you can’t get enough of the delicious green veggies. Why is it that your food preferences change over time? Why do you love some foods and despise others? What causes one person to love…

Read More

Connecting the Dots: Finding Balance for Your Body

In recent years the concept of bioregulatory medicine has become increasingly popular throughout Europe. At its core is the notion that good health is a state of balance and optimal wellbeing, rather than the mere absence of disease and symptoms. To find that perfect state, bioregulatory medicine practitioners must remove whatever agents are blocking the healing process…

Read More

Fat is NOT the Enemy: Why What You Think You Know Is Harming Your Health

For decades, we’ve been told that fat is the enemy, that it is harmful to our health and well-being. But the reality is, fat, or certain types of fat, when incorporated correctly into our diets, can actually have powerful health benefits. Take it from Domini Kemp, who for years avoided fat but loaded up on…

Read More

Prepping 101: Everything You Need for a Grab-n-Go Survival Kit

We know a lot of people are wondering what’s coming next in the US, as well as the world, given terrorism, politics, and global warming, among other threats. Given the uncertainty, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared at all times. This 72-hour survival kit will help with any initial emergencies and includes medicine, water cleaning…

Read More

RECIPE: Basic Sourdough Starter

When your busy schedule keeps you from preparing a nice homemade meal, you may find yourself reaching for one of the many take-out menus in the kitchen drawer. However, with this low maintenance sourdough recipe, you can have a delicious loaf of hot-from-the-oven bread on the table in no-time. Toss together this simple sprout salad…

Read More