What is mitochondrial uncoupling and how can we interpret the science that is coming out around it. Read on to find out…
Some top researchers suggest that all disease begins in the gut. This theory is supported with the information of the intestinal tract, that forms a defensive barrier from what we ingest and how it prevents harmful substances from reaching the bloodstream. If this barrier is compromised and those harmful substances are able to get past, inflammation can occur.With this information we can adapt our lifestyle to positively effect our gut, in order to increase longevity probability.
But what has mitochondria got to do with it? Lets begin with the basics…
What Are Our Mitochondria?
Mitochondria are membrane-bound cell organelles that generate most of the chemical energy needed to power the cell’s biochemical reactions. Chemical energy produced by the mitochondria is stored in a small molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
What Do The Mitochondria Do?
Our mitochondria are often referred to as the powerhouses of the cell. They help turn the energy we take from food into energy that the cell can use. These organelles create power for our bodies by converting the food we eat into energy that our cells can use. To play this role, they convert glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids (that come from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that we eat) into a molecule called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is the energy currency of the cell.
The function of the mitochondria may be best known for the role of mitochondria is energy production, however they carry out other important tasks as well. Other functions of our mitochronria:
- Cell death, is an essential part of life. As cells become old or broken, they are cleared away and destroyed. Mitochondria help decide which cells are destroyed. Mitochondria release cytochrome C, which activates caspase, one of the chief enzymes involved in destroying cells during apoptosis. Because certain diseases, such as cancer, involve a breakdown in normal apoptosis, mitochondria are thought to play a role in the disease.
- Mitochondria also have the role of storing calcium. Calcium is vital for a number of cellular processes. For instance, releasing calcium back into a cell can initiate the release of a neurotransmitter from a nerve cell or hormones from endocrine cells. Calcium is also necessary for muscle function, fertilisation, and blood clotting, among other things. Because calcium is so critical, the cell regulates it tightly. Mitochondria play a part in this by quickly absorbing calcium ions and holding them until they are needed.
- Heat production. When we are cold, we shiver to keep warm. But the body can also generate heat in other ways, one of which is by using a tissue called brown fat. During a process called, mitochondria can generate heat. This is known as non-shivering thermogenesis. Brown fat is found at its highest levels in babies, when we are more susceptible to cold, and slowly levels reduce as we age.
How Mitochondria Make Energy
The process where mitochondria convert food and oxygen into energy is called cellular respiration. While this is a complicated process, here is a basic look at how it functions:
- The food we eat is broken down into carbon molecules.
- These carbon molecules enter the mitochondria and interact with positively-charged protons and negatively-charged electrons, ramping up their charge.
- Some protons and electrons couple with oxygen molecules and then leave the mitochondria, creating ATP (energy) in the process.
- This coupling process creates byproducts of CO2, reactive oxygen species (ROSs), and more.
- In certain cases, mitochondria also use ketones to make energy.3
Knowing the basics of this process is key to understanding mitochondrial uncoupling.
Mitochondrial uncoupling has been labelled as a key controller of biological processes in physiology and diseases, it can be defined as a dissociation between mitochondrial membrane potential generation and its use for mitochondria-dependent ATP synthesis. Mitochondrial uncoupling is a highly complex process and might be challenging to conceptualise by people with no scientific background. However, we don’t need to know the details to benefit from this promising capability of the human body.
In simple terms, since our mitochondria are extremely busy generating energy which is an arduous task for these tiny organelles, they face a serious issue called reactive oxygen species caused by our metabolic rate. Our mitochondria sacrifice their lives to generate energy for our cells.
Uncoupling simply means that more mitochondria are created to share the load of generating energy. The more mitochondria, which occurs when uncoupling, the greater capacity of which energy can be converted. Mitochondrial uncoupling is a interesting and useful tool we can use to experience the beneficial effects, why is this and how does it work.
When mitochondria starts to get overly crowded with charged particles, some of them will burst out to reduce the tension. Under certain circumstances, your cell will make more mitochondria (mitogenesis) to accommodate all of the particles looking to couple. To make this happen, your body uses ketones, fat stores, and unique proteins called uncoupling proteins.
Uncoupling proteins make it possible for uncoupled protons to leave mitochondria, burning calories in the process. Any process where electrons or protons leave the mitochondria without making ATP is called mitochondrial uncoupling.
What Cab Uncoupling Do For Us?
This concept has been discovered to be critical for our physical and mental health. According to distinguished scientists, by uncoupling our mitochondria, we might increase our quality of wellbeing and improve our chances of living longer. This is because of 3 main factors:
- Uncoupling “wastes calories” by allowing particles to leave mitochondria instead of making fuel.
- This protects mitochondrial health, as mitochondria with too many particles can be damaging.
- It also produces heat through a process called thermogenesis. Thermogenesis supports weight loss, vitality, and optimal health.
So How Can We Begin To Uncouple?
We can use Mitochondrial uncoupling in our lives by customising suggested methods to work for our own unique bio individuality. Here’s how enhancing mitochondrial uncoupling via mitogenesis can improve our cellular health and contribute to our lifespan:
- By creating more ketone bodies. Scientists have known the benefits of ketone bodies such as acetone, acetoacetate, and beta-hydroxybutyrate. Until recently, these metabolic products were known as alternative energy for the body and brain when we face energy deficiency. However, the most exciting breakthrough was that ketone bodies, particularly beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHP), act as a signaling molecule, significantly reducing inflammation in the cells. On further investigation, scientists noticed that BHP also plays a role in mitochondria coupling.
- By nurturing the microbiome. Our health relates to mitochondrial health. The upkeep of our pre and pro biotic awareness helps carry forward our postbiotic production. The postbiotics are the bio active compounds that are created by probiotics when fed with prebiotics. Postbiotics such as short chain fatty acids are magic workers when it comes to mitochondrial uncoupling.
- By fostering a health focused diet. Top foods for mitochondrial uncoupling include, Cruciferous vegetables. These vegetables fuel postbiotics which help with mitochondrial uncoupling. Things such as cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage and kale.
- Prebiotic rich vegetables. Vegetables beyond the cruciferous family also contribute to postbiotic production, these include; leafy greens, artichokes, asparagus, beets, garlic and leeks.
- Melatonin dense foods. Even though polyphenols and polyamines are believed to provide antioxidant properties to the body, recent studies indicate that mitochondria mainly use melatonin and glutathione as major antioxidants. People usually associate melatonin with the sleep-inducing hormone. However, it is also a potent antioxidant preferred by the mitochondria. Melatonin has been shown to protect mitochondria and activate the uncoupling proteins. Melatonin can be found in things like pistachios, mushrooms, olive oil and red wine.
- Healthy fats. Short and long-chain omega-3 and long-chain omega-6 fatty acids support the health of mitochondrial membranes and ensure that ATP production runs smoothly. Some fats house uncoupling proteins in their mitochondrial membranes and promote uncoupling. Include fats from good sources like oily fish, nuts and seeds, avocados, olives and coconuts.
Our mitochondrial health is not to be overlooked, I hope with your new understanding of how our mitochondria function and thrive, you can begin to support them with an uncoupling forward focus, to improve overall vitality and wellbeing.
This post was written by Amelia Crossley