As we were taught in sixth-grade science class, the mitochondria are the powerhouse of the cell. But what really are mitochondria and how can they affect your health? The answer is simple: mitochondria are organelles that are essential to your health, and without adequate mitochondrial function your body and mind would have a hard time performing to their full potential. This is why it is so important to take care of your mitochondrial health. Below learn more about mitochondria, what they do for the body, and how you can take care of these essential components of your cells.
What are Mitochondria?
So, what exactly are mitochondria (besides, of course, the powerhouse of the cell)? Mitochondria are membrane-bound organelles and they are especially unique because they are bound to two membranes, an inner and an outer membrane, not one. There can be multiple mitochondria in one cell and they are found within the cytoplasm of a cell along with other organelles.
You may remember from science class that your mitochondria’s primary function is to produce energy from the nutrients we consume. Energy production occurs within the inner membrane and the process of converting energy produces ATP, a form of energy that our cells can use. While this is certainly a huge part of what mitochondria do, it is not the only function they serve within our body.
Functions of Mitochondria
There are many functions of mitochondria within the body. Some of these functions include:
- Cell Death- Part of the cycle of a cell’s life is death. Mitochondria play a key role in deciding which cells will be cleared away through the release of cytochrome C which activates the primary enzyme involved in destroying cells.
- Heat Production- Mitochondria can help when the temperature outside is frightful. Through a process called proton leak, Mitochondria utilize brown fat within our bodies in order to keep us warm without us having to shiver in order to generate more heat production.
- Storing Calcium- Mitochondria are responsible for absorbing calcium ions to keep until the body is in need of them. Because calcium plays such a key role in our health, the mitochondrial function of storing and regulating the amount of calcium within our bodies is essential for optimal health.
In a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers have found that increasing mitochondrial function in a certain subpopulation of T cells could increase the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy.
According to Chyung-Ru Wang, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology-Immunology and senior author of the aforementioned study, "If we can manipulate these cells, we might be able to make this cell live longer in an immunotherapy context,".
Within the context of cancer immunotherapy, increasing your mitochondrial function in order to support these T cells could be the key to sustaining these cells during cancer immunotherapy, and thus increasing the effectiveness of the treatment.
How to Boost Your Mitochondria
Now that we know mitochondria are essential not just for energy production within the body, but for a variety of different functions, we can look at the ways in which we can help boost our mitochondrial function. Some steps you can take within your daily routine are:
- Eat a well-balanced diet of nutritious, whole foods and avoid low-quality ingredients such as refined sugars and flour
- Consume more essential fats, such as omega-3s, which will help strengthen the membrane of your mitochondria
- Move your body for at least 30 minutes a day as oxygen intake is essential for your mitochondria to function properly
- Get a full night’s sleep in order to rid your brain of neural waste which can lead to the destruction of your mitochondria within the brain
- Take a Vitamin B supplement as they play an important role in the function of your mitochondria
Taking care of your mitochondria is essential for ensuring your body is operating at its full potential. Not only are your mitochondria responsible for energy production, but a variety of different functions and can even be key to cell support during cancer immunotherapy. Taking a clean, well-researched dietary supplement and following a well-balanced, healthy lifestyle is the best way to ensure your mitochondria are functioning properly.