Once you reach a certain point in your life, it’s not unusual to start looking for ways to help restore your youthful body and mind.
It could be the first appearance of a grey hair or wrinkle. Or an increased feeling of stiffness as you get out of bed. Perhaps you’re even starting to forget friends’ and coworkers’ names. What catches your attention is different for each of us.
Maybe you’ve already run out to get hold of the latest miracle cream or potion. Or you’ve decided this is the year you’re going to take exercising seriously and join your local gym.
No matter what action you take to try to slow down the clock, one thing is for certain: you can’t stop the cells in your body and brain from ageing.
While you may not be able to stop the process of cellular ageing, you can help slow it down...
However, you won’t find the complete answer in either a jar or an exercise class. Working out is certainly part of the solution, but it won’t do the trick all on its own.
Your mitochondria hold the key to living a long, healthy life.
Many people don’t realise that absolutely everything that happens in their body relies on healthy mitochondria.
If your mitochondria don’t function well, nothing else in your body will either.
Nearly all your cells contain hundreds of mitochondria. Cells with a higher demand for energy, like your heart, liver, brain and nerve cells have thousands of mitochondria.
Mitochondria are tiny energy factories that supply about 90% of the fuel your body needs from the food you eat and the oxygen you breathe. They produce this energy through a series of reactions known as the Krebs cycle in the form your cells can use – adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Your mitochondria have two membranes that serve different purposes: the outer and inner membranes.
The outer membrane allows small particles to pass through freely whereas the inner membrane only allows molecules with special transporters to pass through.
Your inner membrane produces most of the ATP and has at least two important components.
- The mitochondrial cristae are the folds within the inner membrane. They increase the surface area to allow chemical reactions to take place.
- The mitochondrial matrix is where the mitochondrial DNA is located. This enzyme-rich matrix is vital for the production of ATP.
Your nuclear DNA isn’t the same thing as your mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA. Mitochondria have their own set of circular genetic material, but it is far more fragile and susceptible to damage than your cell’s DNA.
Why is that? Producing ATP creates a virtual firestorm inside your mitochondria. Highly destructive reactive oxygen species (ROS) damage your mtDNA, fats and proteins and affect how your mitochondria function. Unfortunately, your mitochondria lack the mechanisms that cells use to protect their DNA.
It’s All About Energy... Your Body Can’t Survive in an Energy Vacuum.
Nothing can happen in an energy vacuum. When your mitochondria become damaged and don’t function well, your cells can become energy-starved and damaged, or even destroyed. Depending on which cells are affected, the impact can be tremendous.
Reduce Mitochondrial Damage by Burning Fats Instead of Carbs
High-carb, processed food diets create more damaging free radicals in your cells. Plus, they prevent your body from efficiently burning fat as its primary fuel.
You can imagine the potential consequences if those damaged cells happen to be in your most energy-hungry organs, such as your heart, brain, kidneys, liver or muscles...
Worse than regular free radicals, the damage from ROS affect how your mitochondria function. Ageing can also lead to a greater chance of mutation and replication errors of your mtDNA.
What else can harm your mitochondria and its genetic material?
- Processed foods with excessive sugar, net carbs and unhealthy fats
- Eating too late in the evening when your body doesn’t need the energy
- High iron levels from food or cooking
- Inactivity and low energy demand on your cells
- Toxins from air, water, food and personal products
- Radiation and EMFs from appliances, cell phones, Wi-Fi and “smart” gadgets
All of these things profoundly and directly affect your mitochondria, even if you can’t see or feel it happening. This damage can lead to mutations in your mtDNA.
When you fast or restrict your calories, many beneficial changes take place in your cells:
- Your body shifts into a protective and regenerative mode.
- Your cells and tissues work extra hard to fight damaging free radicals and repair its genetic materials.
- Your mitochondria undergo mitochondrial biogenesis where they replace old, malfunctioning mitochondria with new ones.
Fasting and restricting both calories and non-fiber carbohydrates drives your cells to use their mitochondria to shift over and produce energy from fat.
Because there is no or limited glucose available for energy, your body has no choice but to use stored fats for its fuel. Having the metabolic flexibility to easily shift over to using fat for fuel instead of glucose is a profoundly effective way to help optimise your mitochondrial health.
No Fasting Required: Trick Your Body into Regeneration Mode With the ‘Molecule of Youth’
What if there were other ways to get the same mitochondrial protective and regenerative effects as fasting without actually restricting your calories? Or better yet, something you could do in addition to intermittent fasting for even faster results?
Researchers have isolated plant substances that mimic the effects of calorie restriction to help protect your mitochondria and genetic material, and to help slow premature cellular ageing.
As you age, your mitochondria suffer increasingly more damage from oxidative stresses. Communication between your cells breaks down largely due to the age-related decline of one of the most important coenzymes found in every cell in your body: Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, or NAD+.
NAD exists in two different forms: NAD+ and NADH. NAD+ is known as the “Molecule of Youth.”
When your cells break down carbs and fats for energy, the energy is stored by creating ATP and NADH. When NADH converts into NAD+, the preferred form, it supplies your body with ATP or energy.
NAD+ plays several crucial roles for your health, including:
- Stimulating sirtuin longevity proteins that switch off certain genes that promote aging. Two sirtuin enzymes, SIRT1 and SIRT3, which require NAD+ to function, trigger the formation and optimal activity of new mitochondria.
- Fueling PARP (Poly ADP ribose polymerase), an enzyme that repairs damaged DNA. PARP activity is linked to maximum lifespan. Without NAD+, your DNA repair will be crippled.
- Supporting healthy metabolism and mitochondria.
The higher your levels of NAD+, the better. The more NAD+ in your cells, the more efficient your mitochondrial ATP or energy production.
Factors That Can Make Your NAD+ Levels Plummet
Researchers have discovered that low levels of NAD+ can accelerate cellular ageing and reduce the activity of SIRT1. This can age your body and impair the formation and functioning of new mitochondria.
Ageing is also a major factor. When you’re younger, NADH can easily give up its energy-rich electrons to create NAD+. However, as you age, unrepaired DNA damage lowers your levels of NAD+.
Since your levels of NAD+ drop as you age, your sirtuin activity declines as well. That impacts cellular signaling, which leads to mitochondrial dysfunction.
So what else can lower your levels of NAD+, or the “Molecule of Youth?”
- Chronic inflammation
- Disrupted circadian rhythm or body clock
- Low oxygen levels in your cells
- Consuming too many calories
- Alcohol consumption
- High blood sugar and insulin levels
- Extensive DNA damage
Many of these factors are within your control. Every little step you take to influence these variables, the more you can help maintain your levels of NAD+ and slow the cellular ageing process.
Do You Have Low NAD+? Know the Red Flags
Obviously, you can’t see what’s happening in your cells. But these are all signs that you may have low NAD+:
- Fatigue or lower levels of physical energy
- Low mental energy or brain fog
- Increasing weight gain, especially in your abdomen
- Rising cholesterol levels
- Moodiness and feeling blue
- Heart issues
- Cold feet and hands
- Contributes to the normal function of the immune system
- Inflammatory issues
Fasting, calorie restriction and interval exercise are three things that can help raise your NAD+ levels.
And so can something else that has been shown in studies to radically increase levels of NAD+.
The Plant-Sourced NAD Precursor That Helped Mice Live Even Longer Than Those on Calorie Restriction
Pau d'Arco is made from the bark of a large tropical tree, called the Pink Lapacho, found in the rainforests of the Amazon, South America and Latin America. It has a long history of use for a number of health concerns.
The inner lining of the bark is the tree’s most treasured part. It contains two valuable substances called lapachol and beta-lapachone.
Lapachol is best known for its potential cellular health benefits. Beta-lapachone powerfully increases NAD+ inside your cells. By increasing NAD+, Pau d’Arco can help improve ATP or cellular energy production.
In a study with aged mice, researchers added beta-lapachone from Pau d’Arco bark into one group’s diet. There were no changes in activity level or total calories of either group.
The following effects were noted in the beta-lapachone group, compared to the control group:
- Increased ratio of NAD+ to NADH in the muscle
- Higher number of intact mitochondria, suggesting resistance to mitochondrial breakdown
- Less damage to mitochondrial proteins that reduce the production of damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside the cell
- A decrease in body weight and body mass, compared to the level found in young adult mice
- Lower age-related markers in blood, such as increased glucose, lipids and leptin
- Increased body temperature, suggesting a higher energy expenditure and body metabolism
- Higher capacity of associative memory
- Greater motor performance and muscular strength, as seen by up-regulated genes associated with muscle development
What’s most surprisingly is this: beta-lapachone benefited the health of the mice even more than calorie restriction. The beta-lapachone group lived significantly longer than the calorie-restricted group, which lived longer than the control group!
In addition, the researchers noted that beta-lapachone protected the mitochondrial structure better than calorie restriction.
The Type of Body Fat You Want to Gain, Not Lose
I know it may come as a surprise when I say I want you to gain body fat. However, it’s likely not the type of fat you think.
When you’re cold, your body has a number of ways to keep you warm. Shivering is one. Non-shivering, which involves a tissue called brown fat, is another.
Unlike regular white fat that stores calories, brown fat burns energy and produces heat. And when it produces heat, it stimulates energy expenditure.
Babies are born with high levels of brown fat to help them stay warm. As you age, your brown fat deposits drastically decline.
What you have left is typically mixed in with white fat and found around your spinal cord, kidneys, neck and between your shoulder blades.
Everyone has at least some brown fat cells. The lower your body mass index (BMI), the more you likely have.
Now, scientists are convinced you can grow brown fat.
Why would you want to have more of any kind of fat?
Brown fat is loaded with mitochondria and it’s desirable for your metabolism.
Researchers believe brown fat may hold the key to wellness, and by restoring your levels, you may be able to significantly improve your health.
The more brown fat you have, the better. Low levels are linked to three conditions:
- A decline in your body’s metabolic function
- A decreased ability for your cells to use insulin
- A lower production of new mitochondria (known as mitochondrial bio-genesis)
Now researchers believe there may be a way to help you restore your levels...
Mice studies suggest that the beta-lapachone found in Pau d’Arco’s inner bark can convert white fat into brown fat.
One especially revealing study showed that beta-lapachone along with a high-fat diet stimulated the expression of brown-adipocyte genes, decreased weight gain and increased energy expenditure, compared to a control group of mice.
Imagine the potential implications for your well-being...
Because of their plentiful mitochondria, brown fat cells may help you regulate your body weight and protect your vital organs, especially your heart, brain and nervous system.
Having higher levels of brown fat could be a real plus for your heath, especially in the areas of weight management, mitochondrial health and your most important organs!
You can further increase your brown fat levels by regular cold exposures. This could be as simple as taking cold showers. They are uncomfortable for sure, but you feel so good afterwards, and they really improve your metabolic health.