What Is Mitochondrial Function?

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This week we’re talking about mitochondria. L:et me tell you these little organelles are super important to your body’s health.  

Each of us has more than 100,000 trillion mitochondria in our bodies! Cells contain 1,000 to 2,500 mitochondria (1) responsible for coupling the air we breathe with the food we eat and making energy; mitochondria are the key energy source for your body.  This energy is called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, and is used to support every function in your body. Believe it or not, but your mitochondria are responsible for producing your body weight in ATP every day (2)! Organs that are super active like the heart, brain and gut are most concentrated with mitochondria.

When mitochondria are damaged, your metabolism suffers. Low energy is the most common symptom of mitochondrial damage and it is the reason we feel tired as we age. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence showing that mitochondrial dysfunction is surprisingly common and associated with most chronic disease. Some diseases caused or aggravated by mitochondrial dysfunction include: autism, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, diabetes, migraine headaches and Parkinson’s, just to name a few. There is a strong correlation between diseases of the nervous system and mitochondrial dysfunction because the brain uses 70% of energy production.

Mitochondria are sensitive little organelles that easily become damaged. Their function is highly dependent on nutrients that we obtain from our diet. Nutrient deficiencies are common in the US population; in fact almost half of the US population consumes less than the required amount of magnesium from food (3). Oxidative stress can also damage mitochondrial function; the primary source being when substances like oxygen leak from the cells. Some other factors associated with increased mitochondrial damage include: environmental toxins, alcohol, aging and many drugs particularly when used for a long time (acetaminophen, antibiotics, cocaine, statins, and methamphetamines, etc.

Here are a few strategies you can employ to support healthy mitochondrial function:

  1. Optimize your nutrient status to limit cellular leakage, the greatest source of oxidative stress and damage to the mitochondria. You can supplement with a high quality multi-vitamin and mineral complex. Aim for 2-3 times the recommended daily intake for most nutrients, particularly the B vitamins.

  2. Decrease your exposure to toxins. Eat organic, use a water filter, use chemical-free products, avoid busy streets, avoid rancid and oxidized oils, etc.

  3. Support the mitochondria with key nutrients such as CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, acetyl-l-carnitine, resveratrol, NAC and vitamin E. Other valuable nutrients include: coconut oil, gingko biloba and melatonin.

  4. Build muscle mass. Even people those with mitochondrial damage, like those with Parkinson’s disease, can increase their energy production through strength training (5).

  5. Limit electromagnetic fields (EMF) exposure. We are relying more and more on wireless technologies including mobile phones, laptops and other electronic devices. There is compelling evidence that these exposures negatively impact mitochondrial function (6).

As always, if this information is relatable and you are interested in a customized application to your care, schedule a visit.  


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitochondrion

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684129/

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22364157

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14695925

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24408997

  6. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2018/5076271/