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10 Worst Things For Mitochondria Function (2021)

What Are Mitochondria?


The mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells which turn nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats & protein into energy that your body will use to live.

Your mitochondria produce roughly 90% of the energy your cells require and can be found in the sub-compartments of the cells called the “Organelles”.

New research is now showing the stronger your mitochondria are, the more protected your DNA is.

And the more damaged accumulated by mitochondria, the more frequent it steals from the healthy DNA to repair itself.

If you want to age healthily, you need mitochondria function to be running smoothly & efficiently.

Because healthy mitochondria mean the cells in your body can do their task of repairing and most importantly, keeping you alive!

Your brain, heart, and eyes are packed with mitochondria with the majority of your mitochondria being in these parts of your body - only your red blood cells don’t have mitochondria.

Unfortunately, it looks like there are more factors damaging our mitochondria than helping us.

Most humans work behind computers with no natural sunlight, staring at screens that emit blue light, eating junk food and our stress levels are higher than ever.

Let’s take a look at the worst offenders for your mitochondria...


1.) Trans Fats


Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat that is created during hydrogenation when liquid vegetable oil is converted to semi-sold hydrogenated oil.

Foods High In Trans Fats:

  • Varieties of Popcorn
  • Certain Margarine & Vegetable Oils
  • Fried Fast Food
  • Certain Pizzas
  • Some Meat Pies & Sausage Rolls

Partially hydrogenated soybean oil impaired mitochondria and impaired inflammatory & oxidative stress responses in rats fed. [1]

The rate of mitochondrial ketogenesis in rats fed with a trans fat diet was half compared to rats fed olive oil for 30 days. [2]

A study showed rats whose mothers consumed trans fats may disturb fetal growth and birth weight as they accumulate in fetal and adult tissues. [3]


2.) Stress


We know innately that stress can drain our energy and when we feel our energy being drained, our mitochondria are certainly feeling it too - they’re our batteries after all!

Studies involving male laboratory animals showed acute and chronic stressors can influence mitochondrial biology [4]

Your mitochondria can swell and the membranes can become distended from excessive stress and here’s the paradox:

Stress is great for mitochondrial biogenesis (growing more mitochondria), and we can achieve this via cold exposure, exercise, and heat exposure. [5]


3.) Alcohol & Smoking


Researchers are finally proving that alcohol can increase the risk of mitochondrial disease as drinking can damage the mitochondria and liver due to effects on the liver’s circadian clock. [7]

When the circadian clock (internal clock) is disrupted, it can cause illnesses and when it’s followed, it can improve overall health.

And it should be no surprise that cigarette smoke exposure can alter mitochondrial structure and function in epithelial cells (cells from the surface of your body such as skin) [8]

It can lead to chronic airway inflammation, induce structural and functional changes of the airway causing lung inflammation.


4.) Lack of Exercise


More of us are exercising less and living the typical “modern sedentary lifestyle” that has been caused by an increase in office work and in-house appliances such as the T.V.

A study showed that lifelong sedentary behavior had a MAJOR negative impact on mice skeletal muscle mitochondrial respiration. [9]

Researchers are also showing that a high amount of physical activity in 65-70 year olds have a mitochondrial capacity similar to younger adults (25-35 year olds) who were active. [10]

With better mitochondrial capacity, it led to the following:

  • Muscle Quality
  • Exercise Efficiency
  • Physical Performance


5.) Sleep Deprivation


Unfortunately, those all-nighters at school or work are negatively impacting your mitochondria function.

A study showed that there was a connection between sleep deprivation and oxidative stress with sleep deprivation affecting:[11]

  • Mitochondrial BioEnergetics Capacity (plays a key role in cellular processes such as energy production)
  • Decrease Respiration Oxidative Phosphorylation (cells using enzymes to oxidise nutrients)
  • Decrease Respiration in Electron Transport System (series of electrons in inner mitochondrial membrane)


6.) Heavy Metals


There has been a big increase in heavy metals in our environment and this has impacted the organisms in the environment including us.

A study showed that heavy metals, namely mercury and arsenic, which are both common in today's environment can have an impact on mitochondrial structure and function.[13]

Arsenic is commonly found in man-made products such as pesticides with low levels being found in our soil.[14]

Mercury is commonly found in most fish that we consume with more mercury being found in fish higher up the food chain such as sharks. [15]

These toxins have been shown to promote abnormalities in mitophagy (the removal of damaged mitochondria).

There appears to be an association with metabolic, cardiovascular, and renal diseases and damaged mitochondria not being removed from the body.


7.) Fructose


This one is going to make the lovers of sugar (that’s all of us) upset as the fructose-heavy diet most of us eat is not good for our mitochondria.

Common sources of fructose in your diet could be:

  • Cereal
  • Dried Fruits
  • Condiments

Having high levels of fructose in your body can inhibit the liver’s ability to metabolize fat as it impairs the function of the liver’s mitochondria.[16]

Put simply: fructose makes the liver accumulate fat.

Fructose also induces oxidative stress and results in impaired mitochondrial energy metabolism. [17]


8.) Junk Light


Most people are still not aware of the negative impact our phones and increasing screen-use are having on our bodies due to the blue light they emit.

Blue light induces mitochondrial DNA damage and free radical production in the retinal epithelial cells causing photochemical damage. [17]

A study showed that blue light resulted in a loss of mitochondrial activity at 6 hours and the loss increased further with more time with the researchers concluding that it may contribute to cellular aging.


9.) Mold


There is now ever-growing evidence that mold exposure can damage mitochondria and with mold being air-borne, it can have huge implications for our health.

A study showed 6 patients that were exposed to mold had high levels of antimitochondrial antibodies (AMA) which are found in 90% of patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) which is a build-up of bile in the liver. [19]

AMA is also found in patients with other autoimmune diseases.


10.) Excessive Omega - 6


Our modern diets have put our Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio out of balance from a 1:1 balance during evolution to a huge 1:20 ratio in today’s diet and possibly higher!

This unbalanced ratio is concerning because omega-3 improves mitochondrial ADP kinetics (ADP to ATP). [20]

A study showed the Omega-6 supplementation impaired mitochondrial lipid membrane of the macrophage cell line RAW 264.7 via KdO2-lipid A (KLA) which is used as a model for macrophages. [21]

We also now know that obesity impairs the mitochondria and studies are showing that an increase in the omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio increases the risk of obesity. [22]




Here’s a recap of the 10 worst things for the functioning of your mitochondria:

  1. Trans Fat
  2. Stress
  3. Alcohol & Smoking
  4. Lack of Exercise
  5. Sleep Deprivation
  6. Heavy Metals
  7. Fructose
  8. Junk Light
  9. Mold
  10. Excessive Omega - 6

But they all come down to 1 thing:

Stressing the body in the WRONG way.



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