On a cellular level, mitochondria produce energy by turning 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. (12)
Specific micronutrients influence mitochondrial function because they play critical roles in ATP production and energy metabolism. (12) That’s why it’s so important to ensure there are adequate levels of key nutrients to support mitochondrial health and energy production. In the final part of this three-part series, we focus on several evidence-based nutritional mitochondria supplements for mitochondrial support.
Top supplements for mitochondrial function
When diet alone does not provide all of the nutrients we need, dietary supplements may be necessary to maintain optimal health. 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.
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1. Coenzyme Q10
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), also known as ubiquinone, is concentrated in the mitochondria. This nutrient is often referred to as the body’s “spark plug” because it is instrumental to cellular energy production. According to an extensive 2019 review, CoQ10 positively modulates mitochondrial function via these key pathways:
- 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
- Modulates mitochondria function by supporting electron transport in the electron-transport chain as well as preventing mitochondrial oxidative damage (10)
Another 2017 in vitro study showed that CoQ10 deficiency may be an important indicator of mitochondrial dysfunction. (13) Interestingly, in vivo research shows that CoQ10 combined with exercise can help counteract mitochondrial dysfunction. (1) There is no question that CoQ10 is a potent antioxidant supplement that targets mitochondria. (8)
2. Omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are important to health on many levels. Research shows that omega-3 supplementation positively impacts the composition of mitochondrial membranes and helps promote improvements in adenosine diphosphate (ADP) sensitivity. (7)
Research also shows that omega-3 fatty acid supplementation can help reverse mitochondrial dysfunction related to specific health conditions that impact glucose, cardiovascular, and liver functions. (11)
Resveratrol is a polyphenol that according to a 2015 review has been shown to improve mitochondrial function and biogenesis (growth and division of mitochondria). (6)
Resveratrol is touted as a key nutrient to enhance longevity and has been shown to exert similar effects on mitochondrial function as a dietary pattern used to help slow the aging process.
A 2013 paper that focused on the benefits of calorie restriction (CR) for mitochondrial function noted that resveratrol is a compound that can mimic the benefits of CR. They explain that resveratrol positively influences the mitochondrial genetic and enzymatic mechanisms that are similar to those that take place during CR. (9)
Other supplements for mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrial health
Resveratrol, omega-3 fatty acids, and CoQ10 are just some examples of supplements that can help mitochondria function at peak capacity and reduce the risk of mitochondrial dysfunction. Many other nutrients can benefit mitochondrial function, including:
- Alpha-lipoic acid (ALA) (4)
- B vitamins (5)
- Curcumin (2)
- Quercetin (3)
- Vitamin C (5)
- Vitamin E (5)
- Zinc (5)
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, research shows that several nutrients may provide benefits, including CoQ10, omega-3 fatty acids, resveratrol, and more. 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 mitochondrial supplements.
If you’re a patient, talk to your integrative healthcare practitioner about supporting your cellular health with the help of mitochondrial supplements, diet, and lifestyle modifications.
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- Andreani C, Bartolacci C, Guescini M, et al. (2018). Combination of Coenzyme Q10 intake and moderate physical activity counteracts mitochondrial dysfunctions in a SAMP8 mouse model. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2018.
- Bagheri, H., Ghasemi, F., Barreto, G. E., Rafiee, R., Sathyapalan, T., & Sahebkar, A. (2020). Effects of curcumin on mitochondria in neurodegenerative diseases. BioFactors (Oxford, England), 46(1), 5–20.
- de Oliveira, M. R., Nabavi, S. M., Braidy, N., Setzer, W. N., Ahmed, T., & Nabavi, S. F. (2016). Quercetin and the mitochondria: A mechanistic view. Biotechnology advances, 34(5), 532–549.
- Dos Santos, S. M., Romeiro, C., Rodrigues, C. A., Cerqueira, A., & Monteiro, M. C. (2019). Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Alpha-Lipoic Acid: Beneficial or Harmful in Alzheimer’s Disease?. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity, 2019, 8409329.
- Du J, Zhu M, Bao H, et al. (2016). 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. 56(15), 2560-2578.
- Gibellini L, Bianchini E, De Biasi S, et al. (2015). Natural compounds modulating mitochondrial functions. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2015.
- Herbst E, Paglialunga S, Gerling C, et al. (2014). Omega-3 supplementation alters mitochondrial membrane composition and respiration kinetics in human skeletal muscle. Journal of Physiology. 592, 1341-1352.
- Hernandez-Camacho J, Bernier M, Lopez-Lluch G, Navas P. (2018). Coenzyme Q10 supplementation in aging and disease. Frontiers in Physiology. 9, 44.
- Martin-Montalvo A, de Cabo R. (2013). Mitochondrial metabolic reprogramming induced by calorie restriction. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. 19(3), 310-320.
- Sergi D, Naumovski N, Kaye L, et al. (2019). Mitochondrial (dys)function and insulin resistance: from pathophysiology molecular mechanisms to the impact of diet. Frontiers in Physiology. 10:532.
- Sullivan E, Pennington E, Green WD, et al. (2018). Mechanisms by which dietary fatty acids regulate mitochondrial structure-function in health and disease. Advances in Nutrition. 9(3), 247-262.
- Wesselink E, Koekkoek WAC, Grefte S, et al. (2019). Feeding mitochondria: potential role of nutritional components to improve critical illness convalescence. Clinical Nutrition. 38(3), 982-995.
- Zhong X, Yi X, de Cassia da Silveira e Sa R, et al. (2017). CoQ10 deficiency may indicate mitochondrial dysfunction in Cr(VI) toxicity. International Journal of Molecular Sciences. 18, 816.