Nearly all cells in our body have bean-shaped structures called mitochondria, which supply the necessary power to the cells to carry out their functions. In brain cells or neurons, mitochondria also regulate mental processing, involving signal transmission, growth, and plasticity in neurons. Many recent studies have highlighted the importance of keeping mitochondria healthy to reduce cognitive decline.
“The nervous system has the highest number of mitochondria. The quality and the quantity of the mitochondria will decide our cognitive function,” says Dr Ashwani Garg, functional medicine practitioner at Functional Medicine Clinic in Bengaluru. As we age, the number of mitochondria and their quality decline, leading to cognitive issues, he adds.
Dr Garg says that maintaining mitochondria health could help slow the ravages of ageing. He suggests a few lifestyle tips:
- Mitochondria require proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, minerals and vitamins to work efficiently. Hence, having a balanced and nutritious diet is paramount to keeping the mitochondria in top shape.
- Some disease-causing bacteria enter the gut and produce toxins harmful to mitochondria. Including probiotics in the diet helps promote healthy gut bacteria, keeping the harmful ones under check.
- Antioxidant-rich foods protect the mitochondria from wear and tear.
- Exercising regularly stimulates the cleaning of worn-out cell parts and promotes the production of new mitochondria.
This infographic captures the above aspects pictorially.