Researchers discover that ginger, an ancient herbal remedy used for cooking and medicinal purposes, supports the regeneration of cellular mitochondria and may reduce the effects of mitochondrial dysfunction
A study published in the Journal of Food Science found that ginger extract and gingerol, an active compound found in ginger root, both play a similar role in stimulating the AMPK-PCG1PCG1α pathway, which regulates the process of mitochondrial biogenesis.[i]
While further research is warranted, researchers theorize that ginger, considered a potent ancient herbal remedy, could mitigate the effects of aging on mitochondria and significantly reduce or prevent the onset of mitochondrial dysfunction diseases such as diabetes, obesity, cancer and cardiovascular disorders.
What Is Mitochondrial Biogenesis?
Mitochondria, an organelle found in most cells, perform cellular respiration and metabolic procedures by breaking down nutrients and turning them into energy that the cell uses for various functions. Something like the battery pack of cells, mitochondria make it possible to perform daily activities by deriving energy from carbohydrates and fatty acids.[ii]
Mitochondrial biogenesis is the process used by cells to increase the size of these cellular powerhouses through the growth and division of the existing mitochondria. Impairment of this biogenesis can be linked to the process of aging and multiple diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s, so researchers are eager to discover additional methods to regulate biogenesis for prevention and treatment of these diseases.[iii]
Mitochondria: The Key to Slowing the Aging Process?
A byproduct of mitochondrial energy production is the release of free radicals into the body. Although mitochondria produce these free radicals, they are still susceptible to free radical damage.
As your body ages, mitochondria weaken and die, resulting in increased fat storage, decreased skeletal muscle mass and cognitive decline, as well as the onset of other age-related diseases.[iv] Researchers theorize that the proliferation and strengthening of mitochondria (via biogenesis) might be the key to slowing down the aging process and mitigating related illness.[v] Mitochondrial dysfunction disorders include:[vi],[vii]
- Neurological and muscular degeneration
- Aging and related diseases
- Insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes mellitus
- Obesity and obesity-related disorders
It is well known that environmental stressors such as short and medium-term caloric restriction, fasting, exercise and low temperatures (such as cold therapy) all positively impact the process of biogenesis.[viii],[ix],[x] However, researchers are eager to discover additional natural substances that might produce similar results in the proliferation of mitochondria.
Ginger’s Role in Mitochondrial Biogenesis
Researchers studied the impact of ginger extract on several organs and tissues, including skeletal muscles, the heart and liver and found that ginger extract positively influenced several functions related to mitochondrial biogenesis, including:
- Increased mitochondrial mass
- Increased mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) copy number in muscle and liver tissue
- Increased adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production (ATP is used by cells as energy for metabolic function)
- Promoted COX4 & OXPHOS protein expression in liver and muscle tissue (a reduction in the enzymatic activity of these genes is linked to Type 2 diabetes and obesity)
- Induced mitochondrial biogenesis via the AMPK-PGC1α pathway (this pathway induces the process of biogenesis in mitochondria)
Both in vivo and in vitro studies indicated that ginger has the potential to increase mitochondrial biogenesis. Researchers tested the efficacy of both ginger extract and 6-gingerol, a component of ginger root, and found no difference in the results. Thus, they concluded that 6-gingerol may be the active component that stimulates biogenesis.
Other Natural Substances That Stimulate Regenerative Processes
In addition to ginger extract, the following substances have been identified as having therapeutic properties that induce the biogenesis of mitochondria:
For more information on these substances, visit GreenMedInfo’s resourse page on mitochondrial biogenesis. Additional lifestyle intervention methods for supporting cellular regeneration via mitochondrial biogenesis include:
- Getting quality sleep. Sleep disorders and disturbances are linked to cellular fatigue and poor mitochondrial function.[xi]
- Consuming omega-3 fatty acids. Mitochondrial dysfunction is linked to high levels of inflammation in the body.[xii] Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats with immunomodulatory activities that help to lower inflammation responses.[xiii] Quality sources of the omega-3 fats eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) include fish oil supplements and wild-caught fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring.
- Exercising. Exercise stops mitochondrial aging in its tracks by improving mitochondrial protein quality and increasing mitochondrial content.[xiv],[xv] Studies indicate that high-intensity interval training and activities such as running, walking, swimming and other endurance exercises, as well as resistance training, are beneficial in improving mitochondrial biogenesis.[xvi],[xvii]
- Supporting detoxification pathways. Consistent exposure to environmental toxins such as pollutants or heavy metals, overuse of drugs and improper nutrition impair mitochondrial function.[xviii],[xix] By eliminating or reducing toxins in your body, cellular toxicity is reduced and mitochondria are better able to perform cellular respiration.
- Practicing cold exposure. Cold therapy has been shown to increase mitochondrial biogenesis by improving PGC1α protein expression, the protein that regulates and induces the process of biogenesis in cells.[xx],[xxi]
Whole-body metabolic function depends on the capacity of mitochondria. By increasing the number and strength of mitochondria through biogenesis, researchers believe that it is possible to significantly reduce or prevent the onset of multiple age-related diseases linked to mitochondrial dysfunction, including diabetes, muscular degeneration, cancer, cognitive disorders, cardiovascular disease and obesity.
Bioactive compounds such as ginger extract or 6-gingerol present an exciting potential therapeutic treatment in the proliferation of mitochondria by activating the AMPK- PGC1α pathway. While more exploration is needed, researchers are eager to continue studying the possible mechanisms of ginger extract in the treatment of mitochondria dysfunction.
For more information on the therapeutic benefits gingerol, visit GreenMedInfo’s database on the subject.