Control Your Mitochondria or They Will Control You

Mitochondria are small organelles within cells, popularly known as the powerhouses of the cell, since their main function is to burn energy. With a few exceptions, such as red blood cells, every cell in the body contains hundreds or thousands of mitochondria, and they are crucially important in aging. That’s why you must control your mitochondria or they will control you.

Aging mitochondria

Mitochondria are so important to aging that there’s an entire theory called the mitochondrial theory of aging.

As cells age, so do mitochondria, and they decline in capacity to make energy, generating reactive oxygen species (ROS, or free radicals), which cause self-damage as well as damage to the cells within which they reside.

Mitochondrial quality control is crucial to fighting aging.

Mitochondrial quality control

Perhaps the most crucial mitochondrial quality control process is autophagy, the cellular self-cleansing process that rids cells of junk. When mitochondria are subject to this process, it’s known as mitophagy. Mitochondria that are past their expiration date, that are inefficient and generating large amounts of free radicals, are sent through the meat grinder of autophagy, their constituents broken down and sent for recycling, and new mitochondria are built to replace them.

The decline in autophagy is one of the hallmarks of aging. An aging organism can no longer increase autophagy to the extent that it could when young. Autophagy is necessary because of the importance of maintaining clean cells. With aging, cells become cluttered and inefficient, and this is one of the crucial differences between young and old cells. Aging takes place most of all at the cellular level; aging cells mean an aging body. Maintenance of highly functional mitochondria is a characteristic of youth.

Insulin resistance is a characteristic of aging, and people with it have poorly functioning mitochondria.

Older people have lower exercise capacity and in general a lot less energy than young people. This is due in large part to declining mitochondrial function.

How to increase mitochondrial function

As you get older, and if you do nothing to intervene in the aging process, mitochondria decline in function and cause aging. In essence, if you don’t control your mitochondria, they will control you. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do about this; most of them require some discipline.


Exercise robustly increases mitochondrial function. A new study found that high-intensity interval training robustly increased the ability of mitochondria to generate energy, 69% greater in older people, and 49% in younger. The older people had a greater deficit in function, hence they had a greater improvement.

Intensity is a crucial component of exercise in every way, but especially so regarding improvement in mitochondria.

The study found that resistance training did not improve mitochondrial function (though it did improve insulin sensitivity), but this is likely because of training that wasn’t intense enough. Other studies have found increases in mitochondrial proteins involved in energy production in resistance training. That’s one reason for strength training I recommend high-intensity training. Nonetheless, if you lift weights, it may be beneficial to add a component of high-intensity interval training.

Intermittent fasting

Nothing increases the process of autophagy more than going without food. Intermittent fasting increases the quality of mitochondria, partly through this mechanism.

The cellular and molecular effects of intermittent fasting are similar to those of regular exercise, which suggests that mechanisms are similar.

Resveratrol and other phytochemicals

Resveratrol increases lifespan in mice on a diabetes-inducing diet. One of the ways that it works is by increasing mitochondrial quantity and quality.

EGCG, from green tea extract, also improves mitochondrial quality.


The accumulation of iron causes mitochondria to become dysfunctional, and this is critical in aging. Controlling iron levels is critical to fighting aging.

Control your mitochondria or they will control you

Aging is characterized by a loss of mitochondria quality and quantity, and there’s every reason to think these are critical to the aging process.

A couch-potato life, with no hormetic stressors, leads to poor mitochondria, and subsequent aging and disease.

Therefore you must control your mitochondria or they will control you.


For more on how to control aging, the best few bucks you’ll ever spend are on my book, Stop the Clock.

PS: You can support this site by purchasing through my Supplements Buying Guide for Men.

Liked it? Take a second to support me on Patreon.

Leave a Comment:

Control Your Mitochondria or They Will Control You says March 12, 2017

[…] post Control Your Mitochondria or They Will Control You appeared first on Rogue Health and […]

Ole says March 12, 2017

Urolithin A (UA) promotes mitophagy. Found in pomegranate, certain berries and nuts.

Interesstingly, pomegranate also inhibits the formation of AGE.

Ted says March 13, 2017

Papers by A.J. Hulbert are very interesting – link between species maximal lifespan and membrane fats, more PUFAs increase peroxidability index and associated with lower lifespan.

I think similar research should be done on cardiolipin – main lipid in mitochondria. Generally in aging cardiolipin incorporates more PUFAs in place of lower peroxidability index fatty acids. Linoleic acid (relatively low peroxidability index omega 6) is important for cardiolipin, and gets replaced by more peroxidable PUFAs in aging.

Cardiolipin affects cytochrome c oxidase activity in mitochondria, whose damage was said to induce Warburg effect (cells use glycolysis even in presence of oxygen). Seyfried et al also found cardiolipin abnormalities in all cancers in a study.

    Ted says March 13, 2017

    Caloric restriction alters membrane fats composition and peroxidation index. Could be the reason for lifespan increase.

    Tuck says April 17, 2017

    “Linoleic acid (relatively low peroxidability index omega 6) is important for cardiolipin, and gets replaced by more peroxidable PUFAs in aging.”

    Linoleic acid (LA) is actually the most peroxidizable component of cardiolipin. There are studies showing that replacing LA w/ other fats blocks peroxidation of cardiolipin, with no negative effect on function.

    Saturation of cardiolipin by LA appears to be the root defect behind metabolic syndrome and related diseases.

ConantheContrarian says March 17, 2017

With regard to high intensity training, I recently started sprinting once a week. (This is in addition to resistance training and martial arts classes.) I sprint four times at 360 feet per sprint. As the weather warms up, I would like to do twice a week. Would this be sufficient?

    P. D. Mangan says March 17, 2017

    Hi Conan, I’d say twice a week, together with your other workouts, is plenty.

MG says March 17, 2017

this tribe does not supplement iron….I’m just guessing.

    P. D. Mangan says March 17, 2017

    I remember reading something about a similar group of people in Panama, with great heart health. The distinctive thing about them is that they drank chocolate all day long, and chocolate is an iron chelator among other things.

      MG says March 19, 2017

      Dear Dennis,
      Regarding the Lancet paper: “coronary atherosclerosis in indigenous South American Tsimane: a cross-sectional cohort study”; I’ve just got a reply from the main author from the study (Dr. Kaplan), I asked him about ferritin values and this is what he said about it: “Thank you for your email. As of yet, we have not measured Iron/ferritin or transferrin saturation, although we have been interested in pursuing this line, due to the high rate of anemia in the population.”

      I would like to believe that Dr. Kaplan has just solved the mystery: anemia…..


        P. D. Mangan says March 19, 2017

        Great! (And great initiative!) I suspected something like that could be up when I read they had a high rate of intestinal parasites, some of which (hookworm) can lead to blood loss. When I lived in Sierra Leone, *everyone* had hook worm to some degree or another. Yes, I bet the Tsimane have very low ferritin levels.

          Bill says March 19, 2017

          I read the BBC article about these folk yesterday. It states how good it is that they eat lots of carbohydrates and low amounts of saturated fats..And how their diet is sooo good for their hearts….

          But there is no mention of anemia at all..So I was happy to read these comments today.

          Clearly misinformation happening here from the BBC, a major global news outlet.

          MG says March 19, 2017

          all MSM is either fake news or incomplete news

          Bill says March 20, 2017

          MSM ? We do not use this in Oz. What do you mean ?

          The BBC is publicly owned by the British people and does not accept advertising on it’s TV & radio programs. So I expect a much high standard from the BBC than from privately owned media..

          P. D. Mangan says March 20, 2017

          MSM = mainstream media, fairly common term here in U.S.

Add Your Reply