A Medscape overview of mitochondria highlighted for me the extreme importance of magnesium, but inexplicably the article failed to mention magnesium. Let me summarize the article for you.
Commonly known as the powerhouses of the cell the major role of mitochondria is to produce energy (ATP) in the Krebs cycle, using magnesium in 6 of its 8 steps. But its other roles include:
Calcium homeostasis (which requires Mg)
Apoptosis: cell death (triggered by Mg deficiency affecting telomerase)
Free radical species generation (hastened by Mg deficiency)
Radical species scavenging (assisted by Mg)
Steroid biosynthesis (Mg aids in production)
Orchestrate metabolism (Mg helps digest protein, fats, carbs)
Our bodies make energy by breaking down food into an electrical charge that is sent across the membrane, making the inside of the mitochondria negative and the space between the mitochondria membranes positive. This charge potential difference is essentially a battery. The battery changes ADP to the energy molecule ATP.
When the mitochondria fail to perform this process properly, mitochondrial disease results. However, there is no single test that can diagnose mitochondrial disease but apparently, researchers have identified nearly 300 different known genetic causes.
These genetic mutations can be located either in the nucleus of the cell or in the DNA of the mitochondria itself. The first mitochondrial DNA disease was identified nearly 30 years ago, leading to an entirely new medical field. Much has been learned in a very short period, and we now know that any organ can be affected.
Many people whose mitochondria fail to produce sufficient energy have neurologic problems. These can include strokes, seizures, and headaches such as migraines – all worsened by magnesium deficiency. Any part of the nervous system can be affected, including the peripheral and the autonomic nervous systems. Any organ that depends on energy to function—ie, all of them—can be affected. Common systems affected include muscles, kidneys, liver, vision, hearing, the hormonal system, and blood.
When the author asked “Can Mitochondrial Disease Be Treated?” her answer was “Unfortunately, at this time, there are no proven therapies or cures for mitochondrial disease.” She said that exercise can help.
Exercise can help make more mitochondria and can shift the levels of errors in the mitochondrial DNA and increase the function of those mitochondria. How does this happen specifically? When you exercise, your muscles require more energy in the form of ATP that is made in the mitochondria. I’m constantly reminding people that 6 of the 8 steps in the Krebs cycle to make ATP require magnesium. Oxygen is required during exercise, respiratory rate and heart rate increase. Both require magnesium. Without sufficient oxygen, lactic acid will form instead and magnesium is necessary to reduce lactic acid. Then there is the fact that it’s the tiny tears from the damage that exercise causes in your muscles that makes them grow bigger and stronger as they heal. Any type of inflammation, pain, or swelling in the muscles requires magnesium in order to heal.
The author does acknowledge that it is increasingly recognized that nutrition and vitamins are very important to the functioning of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and all of the enzymes within it. The nutrients that are recommended do mention the B vitamins and antioxidants but ignore magnesium. She admits that they don’t understand the precise optimal diet for any one patient with mitochondrial disease. So, because they haven’t scientifically proven a diet protocol they make no recommendations.
The future for mitochondrial disease predictably mentions that when the precise genetic cause is identified, models can be created either in the patient’s own cells or in animal models. These will help to better understand the way in which the biochemistry has caused a problem. From there, therapies such as mitochondrial medicine, supplement regimens, nutrients, and exercise can be tested to precisely understand whether they are helpful or harmful in any one type of mitochondrial disease.
Why wait to implement nutrient support for the mitochondria that include magnesium and the B vitamins (methylated and food-based) when we already know that they will truly help?
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Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future®
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