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Powerhouses of cells

WHY we age has been one of the greatest mysteries that scientists are trying to unravel. The average lifespan of a mouse is two to three years living in optimal conditions, unlike some small birds that outlive it by five to 10 times.

The secret, it seems, lies in the health of the mitochondria, the powerhouses of cells. Scientists concur that one of the factors contributing to ageing is due to mitochondria) damage. Longevity is associated with the ability to prevent damage to these powerhouses.

Antioxidants are important substances that protect against mitochondrial damage.

Mitochondrial damage has been linked with age-related degenerative diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease.

In the forefront of antioxidant research is alpha- lipoic acid, a naturally produced vitamin-like substance in the body tissues that is required for the production of energy in the mitochondria.

It became apparent to scientists that as a co-factor in cellular energy production, alpha-lipoic acid has potent antioxidant ability equal to that of the body's natural source of antioxidant enzymes.

What amazes the scientists even more is that it functions equally well in both the watery components of the cell and fatty tissues, unlike other antioxidants.

This dual ability of alpha-lipoic acid can be used to scavenge free radicals in the fatty cell membrane that contains lipid and the inside of the cell that contains the mitochondria and our DNA.

Chemical damage to these components can lead to loss of function and accelerate ageing.

Mental function is often associated with ageing and ranges from being mildly forgetful to severe dementia such as in Alzheimer's disease.

Poor mental function is believed to be due to a drop in cellular energy production in the mitochondria.

Interestingly, animal studies show that alpha-lipoic acid can partially reverse age-related inefficiency of the mitochondria thus improving memory and concentration.

Studies also show that the presence of antioxidants is needed to enhance the body's overall protection against free radical damage.

A high intake of vegetables rich in antioxidant nutrients such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, zinc and selenium actually protects against Alzheimer's in a study on more than 5,000 men and women.

Vitamin E has been shown to slow down mental decline in older persons due to its high fat solubility.

This property of vitamin E is important because 60 per cent of the brain is made up of fat, which is most vulnerable to free radical injury.

In order to neutralise the activity of free radicals, both vitamin C and E have to sacrifice their electrons thus turning themselves into unstable molecules which act as free radicals.

This is where alpha-lipoic acid comes to the rescue. It seems to have ample free electrons to give away and in doing so recycles both vitamin C and E, hence prolonging the life of these antioxidants.

Unfortunately, ageing also decreases the body's ability to synthesise alpha-lipoic acid.

Linus Pauling Institute, which is well known for its research into the benefits of nutrients, recommends 100mg of alpha-lipoic acid twice daily for antioxidant protection.


Age successfully, it's in your hands

Preventing brain aging

Powerhouses of cells

Ageing and antioxidants

Ageing and supplements

Steps to prevent premature ageing

Coping with ageing

It's the inside that counts

Ageing and Fitness

Turn back the clock

Beauty is within reach

Don't let time take your memories

Boost your aging brain with blueberries

6 ways calcium fights aging

Eat right to age well














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