This process of autophagy followed by replacement is necessary (for both mitochondria and the cells in which they reside) in order for us to maintain optimum functioning. Indeed, research has shown that the accumulation of old and poorly functioning mitochondria has detrimental effects on the health of mice and that giving these mice a drug that enabled them to clear their bodies of aging mitochondria improved their health. Surprisingly, regular exercise has also been shown recently to act in the same way, promoting the self-digestion of old and decrepit mitochondria and their replacement with new ones, with a resultant increase in longevity.
What we know presently about slowing the aging process can be summed up as follows: both exercise and a more restricted food intake helps organisms maintain their ability to digest dysfunctional mitochondria and replace them with newly formed healthy organelles, while exposure to toxins, excessive food intake, chronic inflammation, or a lack of exercise, damages this process and accelerates aging. Will acting on this knowledge prove too difficult for many of us?
Questions and suggestions from readers are welcomed and will be responded to in future editions of this column. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.