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Link between mitochondria and mental health in a COVID-19 world

Article-Link between mitochondria and mental health in a COVID-19 world

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The powerhouse of the cell affects mood, anxiety and sleep—so how do you increase mitochondria?

Prior to the COVID-19 global pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 44.3 million people in the WHO European region suffer from depression and 37.3 million suffer from anxiety. High unemployment, social distancing requirements, isolation from family and friends, as well as other changes in response to the coronavirus crisis, have led to varying levels of uncertainty, fear and anxiety. Health experts view the social and psychological impact as risk factors for anxiety and depression. In a recent digital Q&A with the WHO Mental Health and Substance Use Department, it was emphasised that mental health be thought of as part of the public health response to COVID-19.

Mental health, including the cause and treatments, has been researched by the scientific and medical community for more than a half a century. Recently, researchers from the University of Oxford proposed a study to optimise the effectiveness of psychological treatments in a COVID-19 world. The study states they will need to target factors which are both causally associated with poor mental health and modifiable by an intervention.

In the coming months, a variety of recommendations will be presented to address the mental health impacts of the pandemic. As nutritional psychiatry—the focus of food and supplements to provide essential nutrients as part of an integrated or alternative treatment for mental health disorders—grows as a discipline, there is little doubt that nutraceuticals will be part of the solution, particularly those targeting mitochondria, the double-membraned organelles found in the body’s cells. Market research also signals significant growth for nutraceuticals and dietary supplements. In 2019, the global dietary supplements market was an estimated USD 123.28 billion, as reported by Grand View Research. And it’s projected to expand at a CAGR of 8.2% by 2027.

Mighty mitochondria

Mitochondria, the powerhouse of the cell, is responsible for regulating cognitive function, memory, energy and mood, among other important functions. A healthy body continually creates mitochondria in a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis. As the body ages, mitochondrial function declines, and much like overall energy levels, can lead to brain function being impaired.

Another study indicates “chronic stress may critically affect cellular energy metabolism” which shows a connection between anxiety and mitochondrial dysfunction. Anxiety is triggered when muscle and brain cell performance is lowered. In order for energy-demanding cells to work properly, mitochondria must operate efficiently. Reenergizing mitochondria can fuel cellular activity, providing more effective energy production – and far-ranging benefits beyond cognitive health.

Stimulating mitochondrial biogenesis

More than 40 years of research into the compound pyrroloquinoline quinone (PQQ) has discovered it can safely stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis and support cognitive function. Small amounts of the ingredient can be found in various vegetables, fruits, meat, and in human breast milk.

Additionally, studies on PQQ have shown improvements in brain health and mood, both in animals and humans, and have demonstrated it can improve learning, increase focus, improve memory and reduce depression and anxiety. By reenergizing the mitochondria, PQQ can fuel cellular activity, providing more efficient energy production, thus boosting energy and increasing restful sleep.

In Europe, the only approved PQQ brand is MGCPQQ®, an all-natural ingredient added to many supplement formulas. Manufactured in Japan by Mitsubishi Gas Chemical, it is the most studied and researched ingredient of its kind globally. MGCPQQ appears on the European Union’s approved list of Novel Foods following a safety evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA.) In Japan, it is certified by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare as a food ingredient. The company has marketed the ingredient under the brand name BioPQQ® in the United States, Canada and Japan.

Individuals and communities continue to face the inevitable uncertainties with COVID-19 and its impact on mental health, however research has shown that nutraceuticals will certainly play an important role as the world emerges from the pandemic. As more research discovers a link between the powerhouse of the cell and mental health, mitochondrial boosting supplements that can support cognitive function, boost energy and improve mood, while lowering stress and fatigue, will provide consumers a safe and effective alternative during these challenging times.