In the past, mitochondria have been thought of as energy generators for hardworking cells, yet this view underappreciates their roles in responding to the metabolic and immune stresses faced by cells and bodies alike. Mitochondria adapt their activities and configurations according to cells’ energetic resources and redox status. Mitochondrial conditioning underlies heart and lung efficiency, and mitochondria are profoundly responsive to the challenges posed by physical exertion, nutrient and energy intakes, and cellular aging processes.
Intense physical exertion is known to encourage cellular renewal, and mitochondria are vulnerable during this period, as mitophagy and autophagy are intimately linked. Recent research highlights quercetin as a natural dietary component that supports the health-enhancing aspects of cellular housekeeping, and this study examined the effects of quercetin on mitochondrial regeneration during muscular and cardiopulmonary challenge.
In this crossover study, researchers first assessed 26 untrained young males for baseline treadmill performance, determination of target maximum heart rate, plasma quercetin levels, expression of four mitochondrial genes related to mitochondrial biogenesis, and quantification of muscular mitochondrial DNA copy. Study participants were provided with either placebo or 1000 mg quercetin daily for 2 weeks before a high-intensity treadmill challenge and re-testing of all parameters. After a 2-week washout period, subjects were supplemented with the other of the two treatments for 2 weeks, and then again re-evaluated for all parameters.
Quercetin Aids Mitochondrial Adaptation to Muscular Demands
The researchers concluded that a brief 2-week period of daily supplementation with 1000 mg of quercetin modestly improved exercise performance and mitochondrial biogenesis in young, previously untrained males.
They emphasized that future research evaluating complementary combinations of dietary flavonoids for longer periods of time, especially in concert with intense physical training, may prove valuable for mitochondrial dynamics.