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Mitochondria and Gut Bacteria Work Together for More Endurance

Endurance training for six weeks in humans and mammals has been shown to increase mitochondrial content from 30 to 100 percent and volume density up to 40 percent (Front Physiol, May 19, 2017;8:319). This fascinating study shows that the exercise-induced increase in available energy markedly increases the growth of the types of good bacteria in the colon that need more energy. These good bacteria have enzymes that break down foods that you cannot absorb by yourself. For example, all foods from plants have soluble fiber. Since you cannot break down soluble fiber, it passes through your intestines to your colon, where the good bacteria break down the soluble fiber and convert it to short chain fatty acids that are absorbed into your bloodstream and travel to your liver to help lower blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol. The short chain fatty acids also dampen inflammation, which reduces risk for heart attacks, cancers, strokes and diabetes. The diagram below illustrates how mitocondria and gut bacteria (microbiota) work with each other.

What are Mitochondria?
Between hundreds and thousands of small energy-producing chambers called mitochondria are found inside every cell in your body except mature red blood cells. Exercise increases the number of mitochondria and makes them far more efficient in turning the components of food into energy for your body, particularly your muscles (Ageing Res. Rev, 2008;7:34–42). Since endurance athletes need a tremendous amount of energy to just to train for their sports, they have among the highest number and volume of mitochondria in their skeletal muscles (Med. Cell Longev, Sept 6, 2016). Increasing mitochondria improves muscle endurance (Compr. Physiol, 2011;1:1119–1134). See More Mitochondria for Better Athletes

My Recommendations
You have heard this from me many times before. Inflammation can cause disease and an anti-inflammatory lifestyle helps to prevent disease and prolong life. We have strong evidence that exercise is anti-inflammatory and helps to prevent disease and prolong life. Exercise increases the growth of good bacteria in your colon. These good bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids from the plants that you eat in your high-plant, anti-inflammatory diet. These short-chain fatty acids increase the number and size of mitochondria in your cells, which in turn reduce inflammation and thus lower your risk for many diseases and life-shortening conditions. 

Checked 12/9/18

December 16th, 2017
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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