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Cell lighted up in blue. Text: How to improve mitochondrial function

How To Improve Mitochondrial Function

You might recognize mitochondria as "the powerhouse of the cells," which highlights its key role in generating energy for the cells with adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is needed for all cellular functions and, by extension, the functioning of tissues and organs throughout the body.

When you've got poor mitochondrial health, your body feels an impact through symptoms like chronic fatigue, unexplained brain fog, or unusual weight fluctuations — But let's not jump to conclusions with self-diagnosis. These signs can be shared with other health conditions, so you should consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis.

There's no magic bullet for attaining perfect mitochondrial health. Still, certain lifestyle adjustments and supplements have been studied for their potential to support mitochondrial function, which is what we'll be covering in this article.

Please remember that these are not treatments or cures for any medical condition, especially those related to restoring mitochondrial function. Still, they may help you better understand the importance of healthy mitochondria and how daily changes can help support a healthy lifestyle overall.

What Does The Mitochondria Do in The Body?

A microscopical photo of a mitochondria

The mitochondria have a long resume extending beyond their cell energy production role. These organelles are involved in a host of essential cellular processes, which include:

Energy Production

The primary function of the mitochondria is to convert the energy stored in food molecules (such as glucose) into ATP through oxidative phosphorylation. This process involves complex chain reactions that ultimately produce ATP, which is the energy currency cells use to perform functions like muscle contractions, nerve impulse propagation, and chemical synthesis.

Regulation of Cellular Metabolism

While energy production involves generating ATP, regulating cellular metabolism has a broader role. It involves not only the production of energy but also monitoring and adjusting the cell's metabolic processes based on current needs, meaning it helps regulate how and when energy is produced and used in the cell.

This includes deciding when to break down carbohydrates, fats, or proteins and modulating the rate of these processes to ensure that energy production aligns with the cell's immediate and future demands.

Calcium Homeostasis

Calcium ions are involved in many cell processes, from cell communication to nerve function and muscle contractions. When mitochondria aren't working right, they can't manage calcium as they should. This can mess up all those important jobs calcium does, like sending messages to the brain or helping muscles contract.

Apoptosis (Programmed Cell Death)

Mitochondria are involved in apoptosis, a process of programmed cell death required for the development and senescence of overall health by eliminating old, unnecessary, or damaged cells.

The release of certain proteins from mitochondria triggers the apoptotic pathways, helping to ensure that cells die when they are supposed to, thereby preventing uncontrolled cell growth, such as cancer.

Production of Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS)

During the energy-making process, mitochondria also produce ROS, which are like waste products. A little bit of ROS is needed for other cell processes, but if the mitochondria start working poorly and make too much, it can be like having too much toxic waste in your system. This can harm cells, leading to stress and damage linked to various diseases and signs of aging.

Heat Production

Mitochondria help keep us warm by producing heat, a process called thermogenesis. This is especially important in a type of fat called brown adipose tissue, which works like a natural heater to help maintain our body temperature when it gets cold. If mitochondria don't work properly, they might not produce enough heat, affecting our body's ability to stay warm in cooler conditions.

How Do You Know If You Have Bad Mitochondrial Function?

Figuring out you have poor mitochondrial function isn't a straightforward process because many of these symptoms can overlap with other conditions, so please don't use this section to self-diagnose.

This section will guide you through the signs of mitochondrial dysfunction, but we strongly emphasize the importance of speaking with your healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and advice.

Signs of Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Poor mitochondrial health can present in several ways, given that it has so many heavy workload jobs in the body. Some signs can include chronic fatigue, muscle weakness, neurological issues, and metabolic disturbances, which can lead to fluctuating weight.

Certain genetic conditions like mitochondrial DNA disorders are directly linked to mitochondrial dysfunction. However, a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases, have also been associated with reduced mitochondrial function.

Beyond specific disorders, it's important to recognize that aging can influence mitochondrial performance. As we age, our mitochondria can produce energy and manage cellular processes less efficiently, contributing to the natural aging process and the onset of age-related conditions.

Ways To Improve Mitochondrial Health

We want to underscore that the following strategies aren't cures for mitochondrial dysfunction, but they have been supported by research suggesting they may help support mitochondrial health overall. It's important that if you're dealing with mitochondrial-related health issues, you get personalized advice from your healthcare professional.


Adjusting your diet could be a crucial part of maintaining healthy mitochondria, but sometimes you don't get everything you need in a day. Supplementation can give you an extra boost by providing the nutrients and compounds that mitochondria need to operate efficiently.

Here's a closer look at how specific supplements like Urolithin A, COQ10, Magnesium, and Resveratrol can contribute to mitochondrial health:

Urolithin A

Urolithin A powder and molecular structure

Urolithin A is a compound the gut makes by transforming ellagitannins from foods like pomegranates, nuts, and berries. Research suggests that Urolithin A can stimulate mitophagy, a cleanup process where damaged mitochondria are recycled and replaced with healthy ones [1].

This process helps maintain mitochondrial quality, ensuring that cells have a steady energy supply and potentially reduces the risk of cellular damage linked to mitochondrial oxidative stress.

Coenzyme Q10

Coenzyme Q10 powder and molecular structure

COQ10, or Coenzyme Q10, is naturally produced by the body and is vital for mitochondrial function related to energy production processes, but it also serves as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage [2].

CoQ10 supplements are taken to help support energy levels, particularly in conditions where mitochondrial function is compromised such as in certain genetic disorders, heart disease, and aging.


Magnesium powder and molecular structure

Magnesium is a mineral involved in over 300 enzyme reactions. Its relationship with the mitochondria involves ATP production and the protection of mitochondrial membranes.

With various magnesium supplements available, choosing one that fits your wellness goals is important. The most common forms of magnesium supplementation include:

  • Magnesium Citrate: It has high bioavailability and is also beneficial for digestive health. It's a good all-around choice for supporting healthy magnesium levels.
  • Magnesium Glycinate: Known for its high absorption rate with minimal laxative effect, it makes it a good choice for those who need a gentler option on the gut and also has calming properties for stress.
  • Magnesium L-Threonate: This isn't as common, but it can cross the blood-brain barrier, supporting brain health and cognitive function [3].


Resveratrol powder and molecular structure

Resveratrol is a compound found in red wine, grapes, and berries and has become famous in the health and longevity sciences space for its numerous health benefits, including supporting healthy mitochondrial function through mitochondrial biogenesis — the process of creating new mitochondria, helping to increase the energy capacity of cells [4].

This can be particularly beneficial in fighting the effects of aging and supporting skeletal muscle health, as muscles require a lot of energy to function properly.

When choosing a resveratrol supplement, look for trans-resveratrol, which is recognized as the most bioavailable form of resveratrol allowing your body to absorb and use it more efficiently compared to other forms.

Stress Management

Mindfulness, meditation, and yoga have been shown to reduce oxidative stress, a key factor that can damage mitochondria [5].

Mindfulness practices could lead to reductions in psychological stress, potentially improving by decreasing the production of stress hormones and reducing inflammation, these practices help maintain the integrity of mitochondria and support their function.

Exercise: Endurance and Resistance Training

Regular physical activity, including both endurance and resistance training, is beneficial for mitochondrial health.

Exercise stimulates mitochondrial biogenesis, increasing the number and efficiency of mitochondria within muscle cells, which enhances energy production and energy metabolism.

A notable study demonstrated that different types of exercise (high-intensity interval training, resistance training, and combined training) have varying impacts on mitochondrial capacity and muscle adaptation, which points to the importance of a balanced exercise regimen for mitochondrial health [6].

Sleepy Hygiene

We can't underscore the importance of sleep enough to support overall health. When it comes to mitochondrial function, quality sleep provides the body an opportunity to repair and regenerate the mitochondria.

Research discusses how disrupted sleep patterns could affect mitochondrial dynamics, emphasizing the need for regular sleep schedules and a conducive sleep environment to support mitochondrial health [7].

Can You Fix Mitochondrial Function Fast?

Unfortunately, there are no quick fixes to fixing mitochondrial dysfunction. Improving mitochondrial health is a gradual process that involves consistent lifestyle changes and where a healthcare professional guides appropriate medication and supplementation.

Even when it comes to drastic lifestyle changes or adding mitochondrial health supplements to your routine, you should set realistic expectations with patience and persistence.

Improvements in mitochondrial health can lead to better mood, energy levels, and overall well-being, but these changes occur gradually. Celebrate small victories and progress along the way, knowing that each step contributes to a healthier mitochondrial environment and, by extension, a healthier you.

Can You Reverse Mitochondrial Damage?

Complete reversal of mitochondrial damage from genetic disorders might not be possible. However, some medical interventions may help manage symptoms and improve one's quality of life.

In cases where mitochondrial damage isn't genetic but acquired through lifestyle factors or other illnesses, nutritional support, exercise, and stress reduction can potentially improve the condition.

Keeping track of mitochondrial function through medical testing can help gauge the effectiveness of your lifestyle changes and interventions. We recommend you work with a healthcare professional if you have mitochondrial dysfunction.

The Takeaway: How To Improve Mitochondrial Function Naturally

The mitochondria are involved in virtually all aspects of our health because they provide our cells with the energy needed to carry out their functions.

While there are some instances where mitochondrial dysfunction is out of our control, such as cases of genetic disorders and aging, there are some lifestyle changes we can implement that, with consistency and persistence, may help to improve mitochondrial function and, by extension, our well-being.

Nutritional supplements such as Urolithin A, Magnesium, CoQ10, and Resveratrol have been studied for their potential benefits for supporting healthy mitochondria and can complement changes in diet, stress management, and sleep to help you reach your goals however if you're dealing with a chronic disease. In that case, you must seek advice from your healthcare provider, who can run a diagnostic on your mitochondrial health and provide you with more personalized advice for your situation.


  1. Andreux, P. A., Blanco-Bose, W., Ryu, D., Burdet, F., Ibberson, M., Aebischer, P., ... & Rinsch, C. (2019). The mitophagy activator urolithin A is safe and induces a molecular signature of improved mitochondrial and cellular health in humans. Nature Metabolism, 1(6), 595-603.
  2. Saini, R. (2011). Coenzyme Q10: The essential nutrient. Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences, 3(3), 466-467.
  3. Kim, Y. S., Won, Y. J., Lim, B. G., Min, T. J., Kim, Y. H., & Lee, I. O. (2020). Neuroprotective effects of magnesium L-threonate in a hypoxic zebrafish model. BMC neuroscience, 21, 1-11.
  4. Jardim, F. R., de Rossi, F. T., Nascimento, M. X., da Silva Barros, R. G., Borges, P. A., Prescilio, I. C., & de Oliveira, M. R. (2018). Resveratrol and brain mitochondria: a review. Molecular neurobiology, 55, 2085-2101.
  5. Gautam, S., Kumar, U., Kumar, M., Rana, D., & Dada, R. (2021). Yoga improves mitochondrial health and reduces severity of autoimmune inflammatory arthritis: A randomized controlled trial. Mitochondrion, 58, 147-159.
  6. De Strijcker, D., Lapauw, B., Ouwens, D. M., Van de Velde, D., Hansen, D., Petrovic, M., ... & Calders, P. (2018). High intensity interval training is associated with greater impact on physical fitness, insulin sensitivity and muscle mitochondrial content in males with overweight/obesity, as opposed to continuous endurance training: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of musculoskeletal & neuronal interactions, 18(2), 215.
  7. Melhuish Beaupre, L. M., Brown, G. M., Braganza, N. A., Kennedy, J. L., & Gonçalves, V. F. (2022). Mitochondria’s role in sleep: Novel insights from sleep deprivation and restriction studies. The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, 23(1), 1-13.
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Katrina Lubiano

Based in Canada, Katrina is an experienced content writer and editor specializing in health and wellness. With a journalistic approach, she's crafted over 900,000 words on supplements, striving to debunk myths and foster a holistic approach to healthi...