Mitochondria Support: Top Nutritional Supplements


On a cellular level, mitochondria help turn food into energy that the cell uses to carry out its tasks. The most important energy-rich molecule produced by mitochondria from the nutrients we ingest is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Research now tells us that there is a direct interplay between key nutrients and mitochondrial function, including ATP enhancement.

Specific micronutrients influence mitochondrial function because they play critical roles in ATP-production and energy metabolism. (1) That’s why it’s so important to ensure there are adequate levels of key nutrients that have been identified to support mitochondrial function. In the final part of this three-part series, we focus on several scientifically-valid mitochondria nutritional supplements.

Mitochondria-boosting supplements

When diet alone does not provide all of the nutrients we need, we turn to dietary supplements to fill in the gaps. This is also an effective strategy when it comes to supporting mitochondrial function. There are several supplements to help mitochondria that can be used in addition to a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle factors.

close up of woman's mouth as she's taking a CoQ10 supplement

You can take mitochondria-boosting supplements such as Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), in addition to a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), aka ubiquinone, is concentrated in the mitochondria. This powerful nutrient is often referred to as the body’s “spark plug” because it is instrumental to cellular energy. According to an extensive 2019 review, CoQ10 positively modulates mitochondrial function via these key pathways: (2)

  • Supports electron transport in the electron-transport chain as well as prevents mitochondrial oxidative damage
  • Rescues the reduction in respiratory function resulting from metal response element-binding transcription factor 2 (MTF2) deficiency
  • Improves glycemic control via a direct effect on mitochondrial activity; the authors point out that CoQ10 deficiency is common in people with Type 2 diabetes and mitochondrial dysfunction plays a role in the development of diabetes

Speaking of CoQ10 deficiency, a 2017 in vitro study showed that CoQ10 deficiency may be an important biomarker of mitochondrial dysfunction. (3) Interestingly, in vivo research shows that CoQ10 combined with exercise can help counteract mitochondrial dysfunction. (4) There is no question that CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant supplement that targets mitochondria. (5)

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are important to health on many levels including mitochondria. Research shows that omega-3 supplementation positively impacts the composition of mitochondrial membranes and helps promote improvements in ADP sensitivity. (6) Research also shows that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can help reverse mitochondrial dysfunction as it relates to specific health conditions that impact glucose, cardiovascular and liver functions. (7)

Resveratrol

Resveratrol is a polyphenol that according to a 2015 review has been shown to improve mitochondrial function, biogenesis, and oxidative metabolism. (8) Resveratrol is touted as a key nutrient to enhance longevity.

A 2013 paper that focused on the benefits of calorie restriction (CR) to mitochondrial function also pointed out that resveratrol is a compound that can mimic the benefits of CR. “One of the most known CR mimetics proposed is resveratrol,” explained the authors. (9) They go on to say that resveratrol positively influences the mitochondrial genetic and enzymatic mechanisms that are similar to those that take place during CR.

zinc in powder form and in supplement capsules

Along with resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids, and CoQ10, vitamins B, C, E, and zinc also support mitochondrial function.

Other supplements to help mitochondria

Resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids, and CoQ10 are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to supplements that can help mitochondria function at peak capacity and reduce the risk of mitochondrial dysfunction. Based on many of the papers already cited, many other nutrients can benefit mitochondrial function including (10)

Filling the mitochondrial gap with supplements

While more human clinical trials are needed to confirm the mitochondrial benefits of some of these nutrients, they all show great promise in supporting mitochondrial function and preventing dysfunction.

The bottom line

When it comes to supporting mitochondrial health with dietary supplements, there are a lot of solid choices. As mitochondria continue to be an important topic to health, we will likely continue to see an increase in the research associated with these targeted mitochondria-supporting nutrients.

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  1. Wesselink E, Koekkoek WAC, Grefte S, et al. Feeding mitochondria: potential role of nutritional components to improve critical illness convalescence. Clinical Nutrition. 2019;38(3):982-995.
  2. Sergi D, Naumovski N, Kaye L, et al. Mitochondrial (dys)function and insulin resistance: from pathophysiology molecular mechanisms to the impact of diet. Frontiers in Physiology. 2019;10:532.
  3. Zhong X, Yi X, de Cassia da Silveira e Sa R, et al. CoQ10 deficiency may indicate mitochondrial dysfunction in Cr(VI) toxicity. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 2017;18:816.
  4. Andreani C, Bartolacci C, Guescini M, et al. Combination of Coenzyme Q10 intake and moderate physical activity counteracts mitochondrial dysfunctions in a SAMP8 mouse model. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2018;2018.
  5. Hernandez-Camacho J, Bernier M, Lopez-Lluch G, Navas P. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation in aging and disease. Frontiers in Physiology. 2018;9:44.
  6. Herbst E, Paglialunga S, Gerling C, et al. Omega-3 supplementation alters mitochondrial membrane composition and respiration kinetics in human skeletal muscle. Journal of Physiology. 2014;592:1341-1352.
  7. Sullivan E, Pennington E, Green WD, et al. Mechanisms by which dietary fatty acids regulate mitochondrial structure-function in health and disease. Advances in Nutrition. 2018;9(3):247-262.
  8. Gibellini L, Bianchini E, De Biasi S, et al. Natural compounds modulating mitochondrial functions. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015;2015.
  9. Martin-Montalvo A, de Cabo R. Mitochondrial metabolic reprogramming induced by calorie restriction. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. 2013;19(3):310-320.
  10. Du J, Zhu M, Bao H, et al. The role of nutrients in protecting mitochondrial function and neurotransmitter signaling: implications for the treatment of depression, PTSD, and suicidal behaviors. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2016;56(15):2560-2578.