Welcome to ReachMD. This medical industry feature titled, “Nutrition Interventions to Support Mitochondrial Health During Aging” is produced in collaboration with Nestle Health Science, Empowering Healthier Lives Through Nutrition.
Hi, I’m Dr. Eric Verdin, and I’m the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Buck Institute for Research on Aging. My area of focus is how diet and metabolism regulate the aging process and the development of chronic disease. Today, I will be talking about some of the cellular changes that are associated with aging, how these changes manifest themselves clinically as we age, and finally I will be sharing emerging nutritional interventions that target these processes.
Let’s start with the mitochondria. Often called the powerhouse of the cell, the primary role of these organelles is energy production via oxidative phosphorylation. Beyond that, mitochondria are also involved in signaling, in the regulation of cell metabolism, and the immune response. Now it’s important to note that declines in mitochondrial function and energy production have been observed with aging.
In fact, mitochondrial dysfunction is considered one of the 9 hallmarks of aging and is observed in patients with fatigue, with sarcopenia or loss of muscle mass, with metabolic disorders, and many other conditions. At the cellular level, several factors contribute to mitochondrial dysfunction, 3 of which I’ll describe here. First, an excessive oxidative stress can damage the mitochondria and its DNA. Glutathione is a key intracellular antioxidant, but its levels have been shown to decline as we age. Second, we see reduction in the quality control processes that maintain efficient mitochondria. Declines in mitophagy, which is the process that breaks down and recycles damaged mitochondria, can allow for the accumulation of poorly functioning mitochondria within cells. Lastly, nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+ for short, is a central molecule in energy metabolism. And since NAD+ levels decline with age, this can impair energy production and other essential cellular functions. Because of the importance of these pathways, interventions to counteract these cellular changes are an area of intensive research in the field of aging. Promising dietary interventions include supplementations with glutathione precursors such as glycine & N-acetylcysteine to improve antioxidant protection, mitophagy activators such as the gut metabolite Urolithin A to support efficient mitochondrial function, and finally NAD+ precursors such as nicotinamide riboside to improve cell energy metabolism.
And as these research efforts continue to uncover the potential for these and other interventions, I look forward to seeing how these interventions will help us address clinical signs of aging and even more importantly, improve the quality of life in older adults.
I’m Dr. Eric Verdin and thank you for joining me!
This program was produced in collaboration with Nestle Health Science. If you missed any part of this discussion, visit ReachMD.com/industry-feature. This is ReachMD. Be Part of the Knowledge.