Mitochondria Efficiency: New Key to Aging Well

An exciting report from the University of Washington in Seattle shows how exercise prolongs lives (Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, April, 2007). The leading theory for aging is that mitochondria produce oxidants that damage the DNA in cells to shorten life. Mitochondria are parts of cells that convert food to energy. They function by stripping off electrons and protons from food to produce energy. When they do this, they end up with free electrons that eventually attach to oxygen, which produces free radicals that stick to genetic material in cells to cause permanent damage.

As you age, your muscles lose mitochondria and those that remain become smaller so that they produce far more free radicals. Anything that increases the size or number of mitochondria makes them function more efficiently so they produce fewer free radicals. This recent review shows that exercising as you age actually prevents loss of mitochondria and can even make them larger so they produce fewer oxidants.

This report is particularly significant because a recent survey of the world's literature in the Journal of the American Medical Association (February 28, 2007) showed that there is little evidence that taking antioxidant supplements prolongs life, and they may even shorten life. Apparently it is necessary to avoid production of oxidants, not just to take antioxidants as a corrective measure. On the basis of these studies, if you do not already have a regular exercise program, check with your doctor for approval and get started. More


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