Are your Mitochondria Helping you Lose Weight?

Mitochondria are basically our ticket to life. Without these little organelles, we cannot live. So do you think it’s wise to look after them? I think so.

Mitochondria are membrane bound organelles, living in almost every cell in the body. They are inarguably critical to the maintenance of cells and life. Some of their main functions are to generate ATP, activate apoptosis and control necrotic cell death, regulate levels calcium, synthesise neurotransmitters, and pyrimidine and lipid biosynthesis. That all may sound scientific, but in reality these are some pretty basic functions that control muscle contraction, nerve impulses, disease, and simply being able to produce energy from the food we eat.

One thing you may be a little more interested in is their role in fat loss. Well functioning, and a lot of well functioning mitochondria will be a very helpful tool in you ability to lose fat. The fact mitochondria produce neurotransmitters, serve a huge role in energy production, allow for muscle contraction and will regulate metabolism, will mean fat loss will happen efficiently.

Neuronal Mitochondria:

  • Brain/Neurotransmitters

It is proposed that mitochondria are involved in each and every stage of neurotransmission including the synthesis and storage of neurotransmitters, the trafficking of synaptic vesicles (SVs), and the release of neurotransmitters from the presynapses, as well as the recycling of SVs. In fact, neuronal mitochondria are also known to play a critical role in the de novo synthesis of several other key neurotransmitters such as noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA, and serotonin [1]. It is generally accepted that mitochondria support synaptic transmission primarily via their functions in maintaining calcium homeostasis, providing energy, and regulating the production of reactive oxygen species.[1] The fact neurotransmitters are synthesised in the mitochondria, and neurotransmitters are chemicals/hormones that affect our mood and consequently our actions, motivation etc. If certain neurotransmitters cannot be synthesised, or more to the point, the synthesis of these hormones cannot be produced well enough, efficiently or in the right amount at the right times, our ability to stay motivated, make the right decisions, even enjoy the process will be compromised, and losing weight will become a very tough battle, one that will more likely end disastrous.

Peripheral Mitochondria:

  • Muscle cells:

You may know from biology lessons that the endoplasmic reticulum (more so the sarcoplasmic reticulum) stores calcium. However what many people may not know is that mitochondria also do this. Calcium signal controls both the millisecond short biological processes, such as muscle contraction movement or signal transfer between nerve cells, as well as regulation of long-term processes, such as cell proliferation and organ development [2]. If your nervous system is impaired or muscle contraction is compromised as a consequence of calcium regulation being skewed, then good luck doing anything, let alone losing weight.

  • Metabolism

The good bit. To burn energy, thus fat, we need mitochondria to directly execute this function. You may or may not be aware of the metabolic pathways from our energy substrates that end up producing a molecule (Acetyl CoA) that enters the citric acid cycle, goes through various enzymatic reactions to produce ATP. Ok, I nearly lost you there. Basically, beta-oxidation and glycolysis both produce the molecule that can be input into a cycle that create energy. This energy originally came from glycogen (stored carbohydrates), fat (adipose tissue) or stored protein (uncommon). And yes you guessed it, we eat carbohydrates, we stored fat, and we try so very hard to build and maintain muscle tissue. But two of these pathways, the ones that start with carbs and fats are how we ideally want ti burn energy, potentially lose weight if the energy balance is negative and hopefully burn fat, if everything is working correctly.

How can we improve our mitochondria?

  1. Stop eating junk food.

  2. Decrease toxin exposure (alcohol, estrogens etc)

  3. Provide the organelles with enough nutrients for it to do its job. B Vitamins, Carnitine, Selenium.

  4. Reduce the amount of oxidative stress present. Try to increase melatonin production and exposure to CoQ10 (a potent antioxidant)

  5. Reduce artificial light exposure

  6. Increase sun exposure

  7. Stop nailing your workouts to the point of exhaustion.

  8. Take part in some light cardiovascular work.

I hope this article helped you, now go and look after your mitochondria.

Luke French, Health Coach | Published 4th January, 2021

[1] Guo L, Tian J, Du H. Mitochondrial Dysfunction and Synaptic Transmission Failure in Alzheimer's Disease. J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;57(4):1071-1086. doi:10.3233/JAD-160702

[2] Xu Z, Zhang D, He X, Huang Y, Shao H. Transport of Calcium Ions into Mitochondria. Curr Genomics. 2016;17(3):215-219. doi:10.2174/1389202917666160202215748

Luke French, Personal Trainer, Fat loss, weight loss, fitness and health coach. Tunbridge Wells, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Hildenborough.

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