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Cellular Damage: What Causes It and How to Combat It

Published by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD
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While the average lifespan in the US remains high, our health span has declined. Health span refers to the span of a person’s life when they are healthy and enjoying a good quality of life.[1]

This statistic tells us that even though we’re living longer, we’re not necessarily living better. A major contributor to this is cellular damage in the body.

Cellular damage can accelerate the aging process, specifically when it occurs in the mitochondria, the energy center of our cells. This cell damage is associated with an increased risk of chronic diseases, as the disease process often begins at the cellular level.[2]

But not to worry - with a few simple lifestyle changes, you can preserve your healthy cells and rid your body of the damaged ones at the same time.

Read on to learn how to avoid cellular damage as much as possible and how to keep your cells healthy as you age.

What can cause cell damage?

Causes for cell damage

While it’s impossible to avoid every toxin out there, you can minimize the impact in order to maintain as many healthy, youthful cells as possible.

Cell damage is caused by an accumulation of unwanted scavengers called free radicals in the body. These unstable molecules are found throughout our environment. A certain level of exposure to them is not necessarily worrisome, but the concern is when there is overexposure.

Over time, these free radicals lead to oxidative stress and instability in the cell, which increases the susceptibility to disease.[3]

The most common triggers for cell damage are our lifestyle habits and environment:[4]

Cigarettes or Tobacco - If you are an active smoker or are exposed to secondhand smoke, this can directly damage your cells.[5] Consider quitting to protect your cells, and try to limit your secondhand exposure as much as possible.

Alcohol - Too much alcohol in the body produces ethanol, which can directly cause damage to cells. If you currently drink alcohol, it is best to limit your intake to 1 drink per day. If you don’t currently drink, it’s not advised to start.

Diet - A diet high in fat, sugar, and processed foods is linked to free radical production in the body.[6]

Pollution - Excess exposure to air pollutants such as nitric oxide, gas emissions, and the ozone layer are additional contributors to cellular damage.

Pesticides and Chemicals - Exposure to pesticides and chemicals that are present in water, air, dust, and food can contribute to cellular damage.

Even though we may feel like these harmful toxins are all around us, there is good news - cellular damage can be reversed with the right foods and supplements for healthy cells.

How to keep your cells healthy

Habits that'll keep your cells healthy

Here are 4 key habits to keep your cells healthy and thriving:

Exercise regularly - Regular exercise is paramount to increasing longevity and the number of healthy cells in the body. Research has shown cardio exercise in particular increases telomere length, which are strings of DNA sequences in the body. Longer telomeres are associated with delayed aging and improved cellular health.[7]

And the exercise doesn’t have to be every day - just 2-3 cardio sessions a week provides substantial benefits.

Prioritize sleep - Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to cellular damage and premature aging. Aim for at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and establish a relaxing bedtime routine, so you clear your head and fall asleep easier.

Manage stress - Not only is chronic stress utterly exhausting, but it also causes chronic internal stress in your body. We can’t avoid all stress, but learning how to manage it better can protect our cells from its damaging effects.

It can be as simple as starting a 5-minute daily mindfulness or yoga practice, limiting social media, or journaling what’s on your mind every morning.

Eat a nutritious diet - Eating a balanced diet is important, but focusing on foods rich in plant compounds called polyphenols and antioxidants will provide the biggest benefits for cellular health. But in order to reap the benefits, the body needs to be able to break them down, so they can work their magic.

Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables and are free radical scavengers, helping to eliminate them from our body to stabilize our cells.

The top 2 antioxidant vitamins for cell repair are vitamins C and E. They are most abundant in:

Antioxidant foods

1. Strawberries

2. Broccoli

3. Citrus Fruits

4. Bell Peppers

5. Tomatoes

6. Nuts

7. Whole Grains

8. Fortified Cereals.

Antioxidant foods

Polyphenols are powerful plant compounds that possess various anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-aging properties. They are found in several plant-based foods such as pomegranates, blueberries, blackberries, artichokes, onions, spinach, green and black tea, chocolate, and spices such as cloves.

Out of all these foods, pomegranate tops the list for being the highest in polyphenols.[8] They contain a specific class of polyphenols called ellagitannins, which convert to a rare molecule called Urolithin A (UA) that helps our cells regenerate.

UA is the unique molecule found in Mitopure® in amounts shown to renew our cells where we need it most - in the mitochondria.

The challenge is that according to research, about half the population is not able to produce UA from food sources to actually put it into use. In these cases, a supplement for healthy cells containing UA can directly provide these benefits.

Supplements for healthy cells

Diet and lifestyle changes are the cornerstone of keeping your cells and your mitochondria healthy as you age, but adding a science-backed supplement provides extra assurance.

Supplements often contain a higher dose of necessary nutrients than those present in foods, and therefore can help fill in the gaps in your diet. Mitopure® is a unique supplement for preserving healthy cells in that it contains the rare ingredient Urolithin A (UA) at therapeutic doses. These doses have been shown to improve cellular health in the mitochondria.

Another promising supplement is CoQ10, a nutrient that has also been associated with improved cellular energy. However, it’s unclear if it targets the mitochondria in the way that UA does to produce the biggest cellular benefits.

So rather than relying solely on diet, adding a supplement like Mitopure® to your regimen can provide added peace of mind.

Last Words

While you can’t completely shield yourself from the toxins of the world, there are ways you can protect your healthy cells and prevent future cellular damage.

With a combination of healthy lifestyle habits and an evidence-based supplement like Mitopure®, you can maximize your efforts to not only increase your lifespan, but the quality of the life you lead.

References
  1. Crimmins EM. Lifespan and Healthspan: Past, Present, and Promise. Gerontologist. 2015;55(6):901-911. doi:10.1093/geront/gnv130

  2. Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. Cell Biology of Infection. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26833/ (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26833/)

  3. Pizzino G, Irrera N, Cucinotta M, et al. Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2017;2017:8416763. doi:10.1155/2017/8416763

  4. Michael Fenech, Stefano Bonassi, The effect of age, gender, diet and lifestyle on DNA damage measured using micronucleus frequency in human peripheral blood lymphocytes, Mutagenesis, Volume 26, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 43–49, https://doi.org/10.1093/mutage/geq050 (https://doi.org/10.1093/mutage/geq050)

  5. Kamceva G, Arsova-Sarafinovska Z, Ruskovska T, Zdravkovska M, Kamceva-Panova L, Stikova E. Cigarette Smoking and Oxidative Stress in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2016;4(4):636-640. doi:10.3889/oamjms.2016.117

  6. Moreno-Fernández S, Garcés-Rimón M, Vera G, Astier J, Landrier JF, Miguel M. High Fat/High Glucose Diet Induces Metabolic Syndrome in an Experimental Rat Model. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1502. Published 2018 Oct 14. doi:10.3390/nu10101502

  7. Shammas MA. Telomeres, lifestyle, cancer, and aging. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2011;14(1):28-34. doi:10.1097/MCO.0b013e32834121b1

  8. Zarfeshany A, Asgary S, Javanmard SH. Potent health effects of pomegranate. Adv Biomed Res. 2014;3:100. Published 2014 Mar 25. doi:10.4103/2277-9175.129371

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. References: *Nutrition studies: 500mg Mitopure® have been shown to (1) induce gene expression related to mitochondria function and metabolism and (2) increase the strength of the hamstring leg muscle in measures of knee extension and flexion in overweight 40-65 year olds. Data from two randomized double-blind placebo-controlled human clinical trials. **Nutrition NOURISH Study: 500mg Mitopure® have been shown to deliver at least 6 times higher Urolithin A plasma levels over 24 hours (area under the curve) than 8 ounces (240ml) of pomegranate juice in a randomized human clinical trial.