Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Connections Between Food, Mitochondria and Chronic Disease

In this post I will review the connection between micronutrients, mitochondria and multiple sclerosis. The link between the food you eat, the micronutrient content of that food, and multiple sclerosis is reviewed. The specific micronutrients needed for optimal mitochondrial health is reviewed and general diet recommendations are provided.

The brain and spinal cord depend entirely on mitochondria to the make the molecules of adenosine tri-phosphate or ATP which are used to drive everything that our brain cells must do to function. The chemical plant which makes ATP molecules is the mitochondria. Two important cofactors are needed to make ATP. These are B vitamins and coenzyme Q10. And like all manufacturing processes there is some left over trash at the end which is free radicals. And like any other factory, when the trash is not removed the chemical plant eventually blows up. The defense against free radicals is antioxidants. When the mitochondria are short on the B vitamins and coenzyme Q less ATP is made and more trash is made per ATP molecule generated. When less antioxidants are around free radicals are not neutralized and instead begin to damage the brain cell.

There is a growing medical literature which indicates that mitochondria are not healthy in multiple sclerosis and are contributing to the damage which is occurring, particularly in progressive MS. Eating to ensure one’s mitochondria have plenty of micronutrients is something under the individual’s control and is not going to conflict your current treatment.

It is important for cells to have a ready supply of intracellular anti-oxidants. It is the colored vegetables and fruits that have the most anti-oxidants.

Our Health= Micronutrients consumed – empty calories consumed.

Which one of those most closely describes your diet, or your children’s diet?

Chronic Disease= Few micronutrients (vegetables + fruits)- empty calories (French fries, potatoes, white bread, candy, soda, pastries etc.)

Optimal mental and physical healthy= Many fruits + vegetables, some fish, occasional organ meats – no empty calories.

The more micronutrients in your diet – the minerals like iron, magnesium, copper, manganese, calcium, vitamins both known and not yet discovered, and the antioxidants to help your cells get rid of the trash- the more easily it is for the cell to do all the things the DNA wants it to do.

I am in internal medicine- occasionally I give an antibiotic that cures someone of their infection. Mostly I give medicines that control symptoms- such as lowering blood pressure, improving blood sugar control, or lowering cholesterol. If someone wants to have optimal health- then they must provide their cells with as many micronutrients as possible.

Genes turn on and off according to our diets. That means if we eat diets poor in micronutrients- genes turn on which accelerate the degeneration of our bodies- worsening of diabetes, high blood pressure or obesity for example. If we eat diets rich in micronutrients – genes turn on that often lead to regression of disease.

Bottom line= optimal health requires optimal nutrition.

Physicians mostly can only control symptoms. For your mitochondria, your cells and your body’s to work most effectively – eat more micronutrients.

Diet recommendations: Each day maximize your micronutrients-

9 cups of vegetables and fruits 3 cups should be dark green or from the cabbage family,3 cups should be deeply colored, for example red, orange, or blue, and 3 cups of your choice but do not include potatoes or corn in the 9 cups.

Organ meats once a week or wheat germ daily for coenzyme Q

Fish or seafood three times a week

When you eat –

Have 3 cups of vegetables and fruit first, then your protein source, then whatever else it is that you want to eat. Remember –unless your are doing physical activity – your body was designed to maintain itself without any grains/ starchy potatoes. If you are physically active – then additional carbohydrates make sense. If you have any chronic disease – any calorie you eat that is not packed with micronutrients is a calorie that took you farther away from your goal of optimal health.

Activity – difficult to sustain if it is not part of your daily life. People who are most successful are those who have incorporated more walking, physicality into the their routines either before or during work hours. Moving (walking or jogging) one’s body 3 miles a day is optimal.

Sustaining the effort – people who lose weight and keep eating 9 or more cups of vegetables and fruit, and walked or jogged 20 miles in a week are the most successful at maintaining weight loss.

Supplements – Food is the best. Do not think can supplements replace the micronutrients from 9 cups of vegetables and fruits. If you cannot eat fish however –take fish oil or flax oil. If you cannot eat organ meats once a week or wheat germ daily, take coenzyme Q10 supplements. If you have chronic disease – improving the health and nutrition for your mitochondria is an excellent place to start.

Terry Wahls, MD

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