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I know that, at 65, it’s more important than ever that I exercise daily, and not just to stay flexible and strong.
The skeletal muscles I’m using when I walk constitute 40 percent of my body and have a world of metabolic activity going on inside them.
A recent study shows just how important it is to maintain the health of those muscle cells, and igniting a process that leads to energy, endurance and longevity could help make that happen…
Mitophagy: Quality control for your mitochondria
Within each cell in your body live “energy factories” known as mitochondria, tiny, capsule-shaped structures where about 95% of your body’s energy ― adenosine triphosphate (ATP) ― is created.
With age, your mitochondria wear out and become less and less able to “recharge” the cellular energy your body depends on.
Because your mitochondria provide energy to your cells and ultimately to your entire body, you only want mitochondria that are operating at full capacity.
A process called mitophagy takes care of that.
Mitophagy is like “mitochondrial quality control,” says Dr. David Marcinek, a professor of radiology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
Mitophagy ensures that you’re operating with healthy muscle tissue, which researchers say impacts your overall health and lifespan a great deal.
But as Dr. Marcinek states, “… with aging, mitophagy becomes less efficient and your body accumulates this pool of failing mitochondria. It’s one way that muscles become less functional as we age.”
Improving the process for better functioning mitochondria
In a randomized controlled trial, Dr. Marcinek and his colleagues showed that supplements containing urolithin A made mitophagy more effective, and improved muscle endurance.
They studied 66 subjects who were over age 65. Each person was producing ATP at below-average levels (ATP is produced by mitochondria when they are working at peak performance).
The researchers hypothesized that, in the test group receiving urolithin A supplements, an increase in ATP production and better muscle function would show that mitophagy was working better.
Though no increase in ATP production was seen, other measures of endurance did improve in the supplement group compared to the placebo group, including an increase in the number of muscle contractions achieved in hand and leg muscles before fatigue set in.
A missing piece of the puzzle
Since exercise is one simple way to trigger mitophagy, Dr. Marcinek points out that “urolithin A supplements could have potential to benefit people who cannot get the exercise they want due to poor muscle health or disease.”
Additionally, when you eat a diet rich in polyphenols, especially those found in pomegranates, berries and nuts, your gut bacteria can help produce urolithin A naturally.
But increased ATP — that energy the mitochondria produce — was a missing piece of the puzzle in the study. Even though the team didn’t get that result with urolithin A, other supplements can help…
CoQ10 (coenzyme Q 10), helps mitochondria make ATP, the fuel that powers most cellular functions. CoQ10 is also a powerful antioxidant that helps control oxidative stress. CoQ10 is very important to muscles in the body as well. That’s why one of the first symptoms of CoQ10-robbing statins is muscle pain and fatigue.
PQQ (pyrroloquinoline) is a micronutrient that also performs a number of useful functions. Similar to CoQ10, it can help mitochondria produce ATP, but it also increases the number of mitochondria, another important benefit.
Both of these nutrients have been heavily studied in the growing field of longevity research.
It looks like with advances like these, there’s no reason to sit around and let an aging body keep you down. Boosting your mitochondria, energy production and muscle endurance may keep you going and going and going.
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Supplement appears to boost muscle, mitochondria health — Science Daily
Mitophagy in maintaining skeletal muscle mitochondrial proteostasis and metabolic health with ageing — The Journal of Physiology