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September 2006 - Nr. 9



by Dr. Paul Jaconello
Doctor Jaconello is the Medical Director of the Jaconello Health Centre for Nutritional and Preventive Medicine


Energy is a commodity and a vital commodity that the body needs to repair and regenerate itself. Without energy the body dies. With energy the body survives.

A body is basically a carbon oxygen engine that runs at 98.6 that converts heat energy into mechanical work. To run at all, it needs fuel, which can be combusted by oxygen to produce heat and energy.

The fuel comes from food in the form of carbohydrate, protein and fats.

Carbohydrates are a group of compounds containing carbon combined with hydrogen and oxygen and include sugars and starches. This is the bodyís main fuel.

However the process whereby the body combusts fuel into energy and work is a lot more complicated than the automobile.


Early earth had no oxygen in the atmosphere at all and was full of hydrogen ions. There are reducing substances and all life was bacteria. Then 3.8 billion years ago, the earth got oxygen in its atmosphere and we started to evolve other types of life forms and cells.

Then one day one of these cells "ate" a bacteria that made ATP (a high energy compound produced by reducing substances) which from there on took up residence in the cells and evolved into a beneficial symbiotic relationship.

These ATP forming bacteria are what we call now mitochondria.

Mitochondria are thread like granules inside every cell of the body and are the principal sites of the generation of energy in the form of ATP and the oxidation (combustion) of the foodstuffs we eat.

What is ATP?

ATP is adenosine triphosphate and is used to store energy in the form of high-energy phosphate bonds. The emphasis here is that it stores energy.

When the cell needs to manufacture proteins, move molecules against concentration gradients and produce contraction of the heart and other muscles, the ATP is broken down and the energy stored in the molecules is released to furnish the strength for these processes to occur.

So ATP produced in mitochondria deliver energy to maintain order and maintaining order in cells is a high maintenance process.

What happens in the mitochondria?

A series of complex biochemical reactions occur so that electrons are released from the hydrogen atoms in food which "dance" down an electron pathway like an electric current moving through a wire, protons accumulate (these are H+) which then combine with oxygen and the production of 36 molecules of ATP. An amazing complex process that occurs in every cell of the body.

Mitochondrial DNA

DNA is present in the mitochondria which have the power to multiply in the cell passing genetic material to their offspring. This DNA is susceptible to poisons in the environment.

When the DNA is damaged this can badly effect mitochondrial function and be a factor in producing degenerative diseases such as Alzheimers, Diabetes, Parkinsonism, cancer, aging and cellular death. Also, antibiotics can potentially inhibit mitochondria because of the latters bacterial origins.

Mitochondrial Summary

Mitochondria are tiny organelles inside cells which generate almost all of the ATP for cell work. There are 300-400 mitochondria in each cell and 10 million billion in the human body.

Mitochondria look like bacteria and were once free living organisms that have adapted to living in larger cells two billion years ago. Their unique DNA is a badge of honor of former independence.

Their tortuous relations with their host cells have shaped the fabric of life from energy and survival to cell suicide and death.

Mitochondria play an essential role in cell health and optimal function and are critical for sustaining health.

Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Mitochondria are susceptible to oxidative stress and toxins. There are a number of factors which will have an adverse effect on mitochondrial efficiency. Those tissues which are especially susceptible to damage are those that have the highest mitochondrial density and these are central nervous system, liver, heart and skeletal muscle.

In fact, up to 5% of all oxygen processed in the mitochondria will generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) due to leakage of electrons down the energy-producing pathway. These are defused by antioxidant enzymes but as we age there is increased leakage of electrons with an overburdening of the antioxidants and the mitochondria become damaged and eventually die. This is the mitochondrial theory of aging as it results in tissue damage. Mitochondrial damage manifests in chronic disease related conditions.

Causes of Mitochondrial Dysfunction

Anything that increases ROS will harm the mitochondria and cause them to not do their job. These things would include:

  • Ionizing radiation
  • Xenobiotics (foreign chemicals)
  • Hormone disrupters
  • Drugs (statins are a common cause)
  • Toxic metals such as mercury and lead.
  • These are basically poisons or toxins that will adversely impact on mitochondrial function.

Environmental Toxins Ė What are they?

These include:

  • Pesticides (insecticides, herbicides)
  • Synthetic medications
  • Cosmetic additives
  • Food additives. The average American consumes about 14 pounds of additives yearly as colors, preservatives, flavorings, emulsifiers, humectants (moisturizing agents) and antimicrobials.
  • Industrial compounds heavy metals (arsenic in wood, aluminum in antiperspirants and certain cookware, solvents, detergents, combustion biproducts and xenoestrogens (e.g. dioxin)
  • Pollutants
  • Phthalate Plasticizer

Mitochondrial Resuscitation

There are many factors involved in mitochondrial activity and we need to do all we can to protect our mitochondria from damage so that it is possible to sustain orderly energy production. These include:

  • Vitamins: B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, C and K
  • Minerals: Magnesium and iron
  • Flavo proteins

Proper nutritional support will protect membranes from oxidant damage/free radical damage. These include ascorbate, co-enzyme Q 10, glutathione, N-Acetylcystine, Acetyl-L-Carnitine, B vitamins, vitamin E, Lipoic acid and creatine.

All these nutrients work together in protecting mitochondrial membranes and mitochondrial D.N.A. High doses of ascorbate are able to increase the level of glutathione which protects the mitochondria against endogenous (produced inside) oxygen free radicals

In addition, Melatonin has been found in the mitochondria and works as a powerful free radical scavenger and stimulates electron transport and ATP production.


Detoxification procedures can play a pivotal role in the resuscitation of failing mitochondria. These would include:

  • Appropriate chelation therapy for reducing body burden of toxic metals
  • Niacin/exercise/sauna program for removal of foreign chemicals (The Hubbard Method)
  • Nutrient enhanced medical foods for enhancing liver detoxification pathways.
  • Use of detoxification foot baths
  • ascorbate flush/calibration method

Diseases that are fueled and caused by failure of mitochondrial function are myriad and include cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimers, Parkinsonís Disease, ALS, M.S. and autism.

As a final comment, it is a sorry fact that our planetís ecosystem has been seriously damaged by pollution to such a degree that until we as a population take responsibility to halt the decline, that it will not be able to support human life for more than two generations. In the meanwhile, the individual does have the tools to sustain his own health and wellbeing.

The take home message to you as an individual is if you take care of your mitochondria, they will take care of you.

Paul Jaconello, M.D.

A major source of this information was derived from a lecture given by Norman W. Schwartz, M.D. in Chicago, March 2006 at the International College of Integrative Medicine Meeting on Metal Toxicology


The Jaconello Health Centre and other health letters


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