Mitochondria are the powerhouses of the cell. While so much foundational science education is placed in understanding cellular energy production through these organelles, this focus is often lost in broader healthcare and nutrition practice. Yet because they are the energy source of the cell, the influence of the mitochondria is central to human health. A loss of mitochondrial function and increased cellular dependence on glycolysis has been directly linked to a variety of neurodegenerative and chronic diseases, including ALS, Parkinson’s, and cancer.
There are several dietary and microbial factors that influence mitochondrial health. As mitochondria suffer from excess oxidative stress, their capacity for aerobic respiration declines. Although carbohydrate metabolism can often compensate for decreased fatty acid metabolism, it fails to provide many types of cells with adequate and physiologically appropriate energy levels. The associated energy deficit is responsible for a loss of organ and/or system function.
Further, research has consistently illustrated a decline in mitochondrial health with age. However much of the damage that occurs in the aging process is the result of chronic imbalances between reactive oxygen species and antioxidants available to the mitochondrial membrane. Additionally, there are microbiome-generated and environmental toxins that have a deleterious effect on mitochondrial metabolism. Many of these exposures result from daily food and ingredient choices.
This discussion will review cellular energy production through fatty acid oxidation and metabolism and highlight the etiology of mitochondrial pathology, those factors that contribute to a decline in function, and the nutrients/foods that can provide significant risk reduction.
Key words: mitochondrial membrane, reactive oxygen species, Kreb’s cycle, oxidative stress, ALS, Parkinson’s, Warburg Effect, neurodegenerative
APPROVED FOR 1 CPE CREDIT BY THE CDR OF THE ACADEMY OF NUTRITION AND DIETETICS
Make sure to check to out the Continuing Education Guide for instructions on how to complete and earn your credit for this course!
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