Friday, June 15, 2007
ALPHA LIPOIC ACID (ALA) & ACETYL-L-CARNITINE (ALC) : CARING FOR YOUR MITOCHONDRIA
Good health is related to the vitality of the cells. And to stay healthy each of the trillions of cells in the body must produce its own energy - cells can not borrow energy from each other.
In the cell, energy is created by microscopic structures called mitochondria. Mitochondria are known as the "power-plants" of cells because mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is the biological fuel that drives the body. When we are young, our mitochondria produce enough ATP to keep us revved up. Most cells contain 500-2000 mitochondria. The more mitochondria the cells has, the more energy it can generate. Therefore, the heart being the hardest working organ has more than 5000 mitochondria in each heart muscle cell. However, as we age, so do our mitochondria. They lose their shape and structure, become hardened and produce less energy to keep us going. The energy shortage affects every cell and organ system in our body. Our immune system falters: making us more vulnerable to infections and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis..
Since mitochondria dysfunction was first described in 1960s, medicine has advanced in its understanding of the role mitochondria play in health , disease and aging. A wide range of seemingly unrelated disorders such as: Cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, dementia, Parkinson's disease, cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, fatigue(including chronic fatigue syndrome), fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, strokes, migraine headaches and non-alcohol fatty liver have been linked to impaired function of the mitochondria, Mitochondria damage has also been implicated as a major contributor to the aging process!!!
Mitochondria have an outer membrane and an inner membrane which folds in on itself to create a shelf-like structure called Cristae. Cristae are important because they provide the platform on which ATP (energy) is made. Mitochondria are unique in that they not only have their own membranes, but they also have their own DNA. This means that cells have 2 kinds of DNA- the DNA in the cell nucleus which regulates overall cellular activity and the mitochondria DNA (mtDNA) which control mitochondria function. There are more than 200 inherited diseases associated with abnormal mtDNA. There is also compelling evidence that over the course of a lifetime,damage or mutation may occur to mtDNA which can cause problems.
Energy is produced in the mitochondria. Every time mitochondria make energy, they also produce free radicals which are very destructive and must be eliminated before they can do harm. The free radicals, if not eliminated, can cause terrible damage to every part of the mitochondria including its membranes and DNA. The mitochondria membranes are keys to energy production. If the membranes are damaged less energy is produced and toxins build up. A vicious cycle ensues, in which the membrane is first injured by toxins, and then subjected to even more injury because it is unable to get rid of the toxins it is still producing. The continued accumulation of toxins will ultimately damage the cell and if enough cells are damaged, this will interfere with the function of the organ.
Mitochondria DNA are very susceptible to damage by free radicals because they are not protected by proteins called histones (And unlike nucleus DNA which are physically shielded by histone from free radicals). Damage to mtDNA is related to the aging process. mtDNA damage in the brain is believed to be a factor in diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease and strokes. Heart failure, the inability of the heart to adequately pump blood throughout the body is a classic example of mitochondrial dysfunction.
Extensive mtDNA damage accumulates over time leading to the destruction of the mitochondria and thus to cell death and the aging of the body.
To prevent free radical damage, cells recruit a set of antioxidants. A combination of Alpha Lipoic Acid, Acetyl-L-carnitine and Coenzyme Q10 can help reduce mitochondria damage by free radicals and also, take care of mitochondria function.