There’s a great deal of evidence that mitochondria – the “powerhouses of the cell” – are a major factor in determining how long you’ll live.
With aging come damaging changes in these cellular energy plants — their quality content, volume, function, gene expression, and ability to make proteins all slide downhill. This happens because mitochondrial DNA are especially vulnerable to attack by free radicals.
These damaging effects have led to the “mitochondrial free radical theory of aging” – an update to the free radical theory of aging that’s been around for a while. The new theory suggests that lifespan may depend on our ability both to prevent damage to mitochondrial DNA and to create new mitochondria.
Antioxidants and supplements like CoQ10 can help prevent damage to the DNA of these tiny “batteries” that are found by the hundred – even as many as 2,000 – in almost every cell.
That takes care of one problem. But what can you do to generate new mitochondria?
When it comes to creating new mitochondria, only vigorous endurance exercise and slashing daily calorie intake by about a third can have any effect.
I’m going to venture a wild guess that most of aren’t going to cut our food intake by 30 to 40 percent. Or engage in hard, demanding exercise, either.
Fortunately, there are some supplements that can help. Quercetin, resveratrol and plant estrogens have roles in forming new mitochondria. Even more exciting is a new option scientists have just learned about – a supplement called pyrrolquinoline quinone (PQQ).
A New Vitamin?
PQQ is a compound that helps enzymes carry out a wide range of cellular functions. This co-factor role is similar to the one played by vitamins.
In fact, in 2003, two researchers in Japan suggested that PQQ was a new water-soluble vitamin, and should be listed under the B vitamin group. This has not gained acceptance among scientists.
Even so, the nutrient exhibits a wide range of properties that are essential for normal growth and development in mammals. Rodents put on a PQQ- deficient diet suffer with stunted growth, immune dysfunction and impaired reproduction.
Although not promoted to the status of a vitamin in humans, PQQ still is considered an important cell signaling molecule needed we all need for optimal biochemical functioning.
Promotes New Mitochondria in Aging Cells
In 2010, scientists from the University of California, Davis carried out experiments which demonstrated that PQQ was able to “stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis.” In other words, it could form new mitochondria in aging cells.
It achieves this by the activation of important cell signaling pathways called CREB and PGC-1 alpha. The latter in particular is critical to mitochondrial function, stimulating genes that promote repair and growth.
A review of PQQ by a research group in India stated that “PQQ deficiency affects the expression pattern of 438 genes, which gets reversed when PQQ was supplemented in the diet.” The genes most affected included those responsible for producing mitochondria.
A Potent Free Radical Scavenger
PQQ also protects mitochondria in its role as a powerful antioxidant. In mitochondria it’s up to 5000 times more efficient than vitamin C.
Although the kind of protection PQQ offers is possible with other nutrients, it can do so at a far lower dose – a million times less in fact.
While there is limited data in humans, the Davis group carried out two studies in 2013 that involved participants ingesting PQQ added to a fruit-flavored drink.
The results were improved antioxidant status, decreases in several markers of inflammation and in a marker for heart and kidney damage, and enhanced mitochondria-related functions.
The researchers concluded, “The data are among the first to link systemic effects of PQQ in animals to corresponding effects in humans.”
PQQ in Food and Supplements
Since PQQ stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis, it should, at least in theory, be able to improve health and longevity.
It is found in all plants, with rich sources being green pepper, parsley, papaya, kiwi fruit, green tea and fermented soybeans. Human consumption is put between 100 micrograms and 1 milligram per day.
It can also be purchased as a supplement. The usual dose is between 10 and 20 mg. Since PQQ also promotes heart and brain function, it is often combined with nutrients that support these activities.