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Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
Mitochondrial dysfunction is associated with the development or progression of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of risk factors for cardiovascular disease including high blood pressure, abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, and elevated low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels. Researchers studied the effects of MitoQ on muscle lipid profile alterations and mitochondrial function in rats fed a diet prone to develop obesity.37 The study authors divided 24 young male rats to receive a high-fat diet, a high-fat diet with MitoQ, or a placebo. The high-fat diet triggered the development of obesity, hepatic enlargement, and glucose intolerance, features of the metabolic syndrome. MitoQ supplementation suppressed the increase in body weight and decreased the increase in fat tissue and liver weights in the animals fed a high-fat diet. It also partially reversed glucose intolerance. The high-fat diet caused increased triglyceride accumulation and important alterations in the muscle phospholipid classes and in the fatty acid composition of total muscle lipid. A decrease in mitochondrial respiration accompanied these changes. However, MitoQ supplementation stopped the lipid alterations and restored mitochondrial respiration.
In another study assessing the effects of MitoQ on leukocytes from patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus, MitoQ demonstrated anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities, including inhibiting ROS generation, decreasing interactions between leukocytes and the lining of blood vessels known as the endothelium, and inhibiting the inflammatory marker tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNFα).38
Oxidative stress is implicated in much of the cellular and tissue damage that occurs during aging. MitoQ may therefore be a useful agent in middle-aged and elderly individuals. Its anti-aging application was demonstrated in a recent study where MitoQ resulted in a pronounced inhibition of telomere shortening in human fibroblasts.39 Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes and a reduction in telomere length is associated with aging. MitoQ treatment also was associated with an average 40% increase in the replicative lifespan of the cells.39
MitoQ has also been studied for its effects on age-related endothelial dys-function. Mitochondrial dysfunction is a major source of the oxidative stress implicated in arterial endothelial dysfunction. Endothelium-dependent dilation of arteries is reduced in old mice.40 However, MitoQ supplementation completely restored endothelium-dependent dilation in older mice by improving nitric oxide bio-availability.40 MitoQ-induced improvements in endothelial function were related to normalization of age-associated oxidative stress and increases in indicators of vascular mitochondrial health, such as antioxidant status. During aging there is an increase in the susceptibility of arterial endothelium to acute mitochondrial damage. MitoQ reversed this susceptibility.40
Oxidative stress originates when there is an imbalance between the production of ROS and antioxidant synthesis. Oxidative stress is an important factor in the development of cardiovascular diseases such as atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and hypertension.41 Mitochondrial dysfunction can lead to the excessive production of ROS and is often involved in the origin of cardiovascular disease.41,42
MitoQ is therefore a logical choice to support cardiovascular health. In animal models of heart transplantation and heart attacks, MitoQ has been found to protect against ischemia-reperfusion damage, injury that occurs when oxygen is introduced back into oxygen-starved arteries.43,44
In stroke-prone spontaneously hypertensive rats, a combination of MitoQ and low-dose losartan (a blood pressure medication) resulted in synergistic benefit.45 The combination markedly reduced development of hypertension and left ventricular hypertrophy. Furthermore, in cell culture, MitoQ directly suppressed hypertrophy of heart muscle cells (cardiomyocytes) from rats.45
Another beneficial application for MitoQ may be for individuals taking cholesterol-lowering drugs.46 Cholesterol and other isoprenoids produced via the same pathway are required by CoQ10 to attach it to the inner membrane of the mitochondria.46 Therefore, cholesterol-lowering drugs reduce CoQ10's availability to the mitochondria, and MitoQ could replenish the mitochondria's supply of CoQ10 in people on these medications.46
The utility of MitoQ for cardiovascular protection was recently investigated in humans, in a study of older adults (males, 60-79) at Colorado University.47 Alongside other benefits the results showed those taking MitoQ for six weeks experienced an average of 48% improvement in arterial function.
CoQ10 is an antioxidant that is well-known for the important part it plays in mitochondrial function. However, supplemental CoQ10 does not easily penetrate the mitochondrial membrane. A new form of this nutrient known as MitoQ combines the ubiquinol form of CoQ10 with the lipophilic triphenylphosphonium cation, significantly increasing its ability to enter into the mitochondria. In human trials, this mitochondria-targeted nutrient has been shown to support liver health in patients with HCV, improve arterial function in older adults, and reduce pain and improve memory in individuals with fibromyalgia. Additional human trials are being conducted or are in the planning stage. Animal studies also suggest MitoQ may enhance brain health, support a healthy weight, suppress components of metabolic syndrome, have anti-aging effects, and be involved in cardiovascular health.
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Dr. Chris D. Meletis is an educator, international author, and lecturer. His personal mission is "Changing America's Health One Person at a Time." He believes that when people become educated about their bodies, that is the moment when true change and wellness begins. Dr. Meletis served as dean of naturopathic medicine and chief medical officer for 7 years at National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) and was awarded the 2003 Physician of the Year award by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
Dr. Susanne Bennett is an internationally recognized natural and integrative medicine expert with over 27 years of clinical experience in the fields of allergies, clinical nutrition, methylgenetics, and anti-aging medicine. She's the founder of the Wellness for Life Center in Santa Monica, California, and author of Mighty Mito and The 7 Day Allergy Makeover.
Kimberly Wilkes is a freelance writer specializing in health, science, nutrition, and complementary medicine. She has written more than 300 articles covering a variety of topics from the dangers of homocysteine to sugar's damaging effects on the heart. She is the editor of Complementary Prescriptions Journal and enjoys scouring the medical literature to find the latest health-related science.