Mice bred to develop Alzheimer’s like symptoms were given a dietary supplement that reversed cognitive decline, increased brain weight, and improved mitochondrial function. Let’s take a look at mitochondria results from the study A complex dietary supplement augments spatial learning, brain mass, and mitochondrial electron transport chain activity in aging mice.
“No correlation was found between mitochondrial complex activity and learning in younger (<1 year old) mice. However, for old mice, significant relationships emerged between learning and levels of complexes III, IV, and III + IV…. These results suggest that older mice with higher levels of mitochondrial activity in the brain were better learners.”
To simplify, mitochondria are inside most of our cells and produce energy in the form of ATP. Mitochondrial complex III and Mitochondrial complex IV refer to two enzymes critical in the 3rd and 4th steps of ATP creation. As we age, complex III and IV activity drops off which means we produce less ATP as we get older. The loss of production is even more pronounced in Alzheimer’s.
The authors point to the strong correlation between improvement in mitochondrial function and the impressive reversal of cognitive decline. It also stands to reason that improving ATP production would unfortunately increase oxidative stress, but the dietary supplement includes several antioxidants that seem to effectively offset the increase in oxidation.
One of the most important possibilities raised by this study is that the interactions of a complex supplement contains additional benefits beyond a single ingredient. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.