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Mitochondrial Biogenesis – Or How To Age In Reverse.

Mitochondrial Biogenesis – Or How To Age In Reverse.

This is probably one of the most important posts I’ve ever written on the subject of health.

The latest findings in health are that healthy mitochondria are the key to just about everything when it comes to overall good health.

But what are mitochondria? Put simply, mitochondria are a component in your cells that turn food into energy. The food is combined with oxygen to create ATP, the chemical that cells use for energy transfer.

How are they important to health? All important.  Plentiful and healthy mitochondria are the hallmark of a healthy body. Your body’s ability to uptake oxygen (known as VO2 max) is dependent on cells that have good mitochondrial function.

On the other hand, one of the hall marks of aging and a sedentary lifestyle is mitochondrial dysfunction, which plays a role in the development of age related diseases.

Notice how I mentioned plentiful? What do I mean by that exactly? Well this is one of the interesting things about cell biology – the number of mitochondria in a cell is not fixed. In response to aerobic exercise, heavy weight training and especially high intensity interval training (HIIT) a process called mitochondrial biogenesis occurs. By the way, for those of you who don’t know what HIIT is, it is things like sprint training, done with very brief rest pauses between bouts of sprints.

Wow, sounds a quite daunting term. Well it’s not. It simply means that the cells create new mitochondria in response to the training. It also means, as I understand it, that the old, weak mitochondria are retired by the cell. So essentially you are giving your cells a reconditioning. Replacing old, tired mitochondra with new, fresh mitochondria. And, for that matter, more of them. The thing with having  more mitochondria is that  each individual mitochondrion has to do less.

I have already mentioned that exercise is a way to increase your numbers of mitochondria, most notably HIIT. However, there is one  essential thing that is left out of this picture. In order to facilitate mitochondrial biogenesis, there is one ingredient that you need lots of – magnesium.

Apparently, according to Dr Rhonda Patrick in the video below, 56% of Americans are magnesium deficient. (A little statistic like this answers the recent question I posed, to supplement or not to supplement? in the affirmative I think).

At this point I need to just digress a moment and tell those who don’t already know, who Rhonda Patrick is. She is a biochemist whose entire field of research revolves around aging, cell health and the role of nutrients in the workings of our body. So she knows this field as well as anyone. I first encountered her on the Joe Rogan podcast. Her stuff is full of incredible cutting edge insights into what works to extend the healthy life span of people.

But anyway, back to magnesium. It is the nutrient that is essential for creating new mitochondria and also repairing mitochondria that are damaged by oxidative stress (caused by, of all things the mitochondria using oxygen to create energy).

So if you have already joined the dots, you will realise that if you just do HIIT and rely on the level of magnesium you have in your food, you may sell yourself short. HIIT is only half of the equation. However, HIIT combined with magnesium and you’re well on your way to improved fitness and health.

For more on the benefits of HIIT, you might like to look at fit in 6 minutes a week.

And below, we have Dr Rhonda Patrick explaining magnesium’s role in maximising mitochondria.


About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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