Why Do We Age? | Mitochondrial Dysfunction


  • Mitochondria are the power plants of our cells. They produce the energy that our cells need to stay alive and function properly.
  • Cells contain hundreds to thousands of mitochondria on average. 
  • The older we get, the more our mitochondria become damaged and dysfunctional. 
  • Mitochondria become damaged by various mechanisms during our lifetime, such as mutations in their DNA when they divide, by free radicals, and due to epigenetic changes. 
  • When mitochondria are damaged, cells don’t have enough energy to properly function and maintain themselves. Also, damaged mitochondria send signals to the cell, further disrupting proper cellular functioning. This leads to aging. 
  • Various natural substances can improve mitochondrial health, such as malate, alpha-ketoglutarate, glycine, glucosamine, vitamin C, and pterostilbene.

The older we get, the less well our mitochondria function. The mitochondria are the power plants of our cells. Most of our cells contain hundreds to thousands of mitochondria, producing energy for our cells so they can stay alive and perform their tasks.

How Our Failing Power Plants Contribute to Aging

Mitochondria are the reason why we breathe oxygen and eat every day: oxygen and nutrients (glucose, amino acids, and fats) are converted into energy in the mitochondria (more specifically, these nutrients are converted into heat and ATP, a small molecule that sticks to proteins and changes their shape and function).

Interestingly, mitochondria contain their own DNA. The other DNA in our cells is stored in the cell nucleus. Mitochondria use their own DNA (called mtDNA or mDNA) to build mitochondrial proteins to function properly. Just like bacteria, mitochondria can replicate themselves. For example, if you exercise a lot, your mitochondria will multiply. But to do that, they first have to properly copy their DNA. 

The Aging Process

With aging, the mitochondria become more and more damaged. This damage occurs because of various reasons, including: 

1. Free Radicals

These are produced as a side-effect of mitochondrial functioning. Free radicals damage the mitochondrial DNA, mitochondrial proteins and mitochondrial membrane, leading to reduced mitochondrial functioning.  

2. Mutations

Mutations occur in mitochondrial DNA when mitochondria divide. Every time the mitochondria divide, they have to copy their DNA. This process is not perfect: during the copying process errors (mutations) in the DNA can occur.  

3. Epigenetic Changes

Epigenetic dysregulation happens to the mitochondrial DNA. The epigenome determines which mitochondrial genes are active or silent. The older we get, the more this process becomes dysregulated.

In fact, the mitochondrial DNA is much more susceptible to DNA damage because it’s so close to a lot of chemical activity that generates harmful free radicals, and because mitochondrial DNA is not wrapped around protective histones like DNA in the cell nucleus, and because the mitochondria don’t have comparable DNA repair enzymes like the nuclear DNA does. 

An additional problem is that damaged mitochondria can keep lingering about in our cells instead of being cleared up by the cells.  Normally, cells destroy old, damaged mitochondria in a process called mitophagy. However, some damaged mitochondria can evade their destruction and keep lingering around in the cell. This leads to a build-up of damaged, non-functioning mitochondria, hampering cellular functioning and causing our cells to become “aged”. 

Cells that have less well-functioning mitochondria have less energy to perform their tasks properly. The cells are less able to repair, maintain, and multiply themselves, and this accelerates the accumulation of other damage, such as mutations in the DNA and the built up of proteins, given energy from the mitochondria is necessary to keep these processes from happening.  

Interestingly, a little bit of mitochondrial damage can be healthy. This is called “mitohormesis”. Hormesis refers to the observation that small amounts of damage can be healthy, because it pushes the cells to better repair and protect themselves. Substances in healthy foods, exercise, and specific drugs like metformin can be healthy for the mitochondria (and increase lifespan) because of mitohormesis. 

The problem with aging however is that too much damage starts to accumulate in the mitochondria, leading to cells that function less properly. We call these cells “aged”. 

NOVOS’ Approach to Mitochondrial Dysfunction

NOVOS Core contains many ingredients that are healthy for the mitochondria.

An example is malate. Malate is a natural substance found in apples (it’s responsible for the specific sour flavor of apples).

Malate is part of the Krebs cycle: this cycle converts nutrients such as glucose into energy. The Krebs cycle is the most important cycle in all life on earth: all life forms, from bacteria to blue whales, live and function thanks to the Krebs cycle which keeps all cells going. 

In addition to malate, we have added calcium alpha-ketoglutarate to NOVOS.

This natural substance is part of the Krebs cycle, the metabolic process that generates energy for all life.

Besides improving mitochondrial health, calcium alpha-ketoglutarate has many additional beneficial effects: it plays a role in collagen production, ensures that the epigenetic TET enzymes can do their job well, and improves stem cell health. 

Glucosamine, pterostilbene and vitamin C also have beneficial effects on mitochondria.

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