About a year ago, Life Extension introduced an updated version of its Super Ubiquinol CoQ10 with Enhanced Mitochondrial Support, 100 mg, 60 softgels that includes a new ingredient from Natreon known as PrimaVie Shilajit. Shilajit is the Indian Ayurveda name for a substance composed of a mixture of 85 minerals and varied compounds include humic acid, fulvic acid, carboxylic acid, and many other biochemicals. Shilajit is claimed to greatly increase the concentration and function of the important enzyme and antioxidant CoQ10 inside the mitochondria. Recent research shows how shilajit greatly improves the benefits of ubiquinol CoQ10 supplementation.
Mitochondria: Power Plants of Cells
The mitochondria are the descendants of ancient bacteria that have been incorporated into most forms of life on Earth as the primary energy generators inside of cells. Estimates are that they generate about 95% of the energy used by the human body. In human cells, they are found in numbers ranging from about 2 to over a 1000. High energy usage organs such as the brain, liver, kidney, and heart tend to have many more mitochondria than lower energy usage organs such as bones.
Energy Production Problems Trigger Diseases And Oxidative Damage
As mitochondria are essential to energy production, it is not surprising that dwinding numbers of mitochondria and poorly functioning mitochondria are increasingly being tied both aging and to many serious degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Many diseases and even aging itself are influenced by extensive damage from reactive oxygen species that are often pumped out in large quantity by the intensive redox reactions in the mitochondria. Oxidative stress can cause a lot of damage to cells and their DNA. Since the mitochondria tend to be a source of a lot of ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) due to their intense level of redox reactions, it would help to reduce DNA damage by ensuring that there is a plentiful supply of antioxidants such as the active form of CoQ10 called ubiquinol.
Shilajit’s Obscure Origins
Shilajit is rumored to have been the long-kept secret of Russia that enabled its Olympic athletes to outperform many other nation’s athletes. The substance goes by varied names including silajit, shilajeet, mumijo, mumiyo, and momia. Most of these nations which have historically used the ingredient for nutritional purposes are in proximity to the regions of the Himalaya mountains where the substance is primarily found. The origin and nature of the substance appears to be in some dispute. There are some bizarre and unappetizing tales of it being the result of droppings of Himalayan insects or animals such as bats. But in general the consensus appears to be that it is a breakdown product of dead organic matter probably coming mostly from plants in the region that mixes with the soil and oozes out of the mountains when the summer sun warms the cold ground. It’s probably reasonable to compare its origin to processes that form peat from dead organic matter in swamps. Peat also shares similarity in contents to shilajit such as the presence of humic acids.
How Shilajit Helps Restore Energy Levels
Shilajit appears to work by helping ubiquinol concentrate at higher levels in the mitochondria and to recycle its antioxidant capabilities more rapidly. Both help to reduce the oxidative damage to cells and especially to mitochondria.
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Natreon claims that what makes its PrimaVie brand of Shilajit special is its high concentration of 60% fulvic acid and equivalents with high levels of dibenzo-α-pyrones (DBP) and dibenzo-α-pyrone chromoproteins. Based upon research by Natreon scientists including Dr. Sauryya Bhattacharyya of India, it is believed that the DBP compounds are responsible for the mitochondrial health enhancing effects that stem in part from helping to maintain higher concentrations of active CoQ10 and to help mitochondria more efficiently convert fats and sugars into ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate).
The company has found that processing and standardization of the compounds is necessary to get a consistent effect from shilajit due to the widely variable chemical profiles of varying shilajit sources. Impurities and high levels of variability in raw shilajit make careful processing important to getting a consistent effect from the supplement. PrimaVie is standardized to a minimum of 60% fulvic acid and equivalents.
Studies funded by Natreon evaluated shilajit plus ubiquinol supplementation found that the combination of these supplements increased energy production in the brain by 56%, 40% more than ubiquinol alone. A similar effect was observed with an 144% increas in energy production in muscles, 27% better than ubiquinol alone. Animals supplemented with shilajit experienced about a 15% drop in post-exercise CoQ10 levels induced by intensive exercise versus a 75% drop in animals without shilajit supplementation.
Shilajit also works as more than a CoQ10-booster. It functions directly as an antioxidant. Research also shows it can help regenerate vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
Other Mitochondrial Health Supplements
Shilajit along with ubiquinol and the varied forms of CoQ10 supplements are by no means the only antioxidants beneficial for the operation of mitochondria. A relatively obscure nutrient recently found to enhance mitochrondrial health is PQQ. You can find out more about it in my previous article Vitamin-Like PQQ Offers Antioxidant, Neuroprotective, and Mitochondrial Health Benefits.
Another important antioxidant for mitochondrial health is alpha lipoic acid (often called lipoic acid for short). It works directly as an antioxidant and also helps recycle common antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E to prolong their activity. Lipoic acid occurs in both R and S forms, but it is the R form which is biologically active so supplements that include only the R form are generally regarded as superior to those that contain both forms.
Somewhat like how shilajit helps ubiquinol work better, researchers have found that nutrient acetyl L-carnitine when combined with alpha lipoic acid helps improve mitochondrial health even more. When used together, smaller doses of lipoic acid and acetyl L-carnitine have a larger effects than larger doses of either alone.
Selecting Shilajit and Mitochondrial Supplements
While it can often be most cost effective to shop carefully for individual supplements and combine them per your personal dosing plan, finding high-purity shilajit is more difficult than many other nutritional supplements. Optimizing mitochondrial health requires a variety of less common nutrients, not the sort of things you typically find in a multivitamin. Older people who are often among those who need the most help with improving their mitochondrial health. But they often also have trouble managing multiple medicines and nutritional supplements, particularly if they are suffering from any form of cognitive impairment from aging or mitochondrial related diseases such as Alzheimer’s. So if you had to pick just two supplements for improving mitochondrial health to keep things really convenient for them, I’d recommend you investigate these two supplements as a starting point:
One serving contains 100mg of the Kaneka QH ubiquinol form of CoQ10 plus 100mg of PrimaVie Shilajit.
One serving contains 10mg of PQQ, 150mg of R-Lipoic Acid, 675mg of acetyl L-carnitine arginate, 1000mg of carnosine, 150mg of benfotiamine, 100mg of P5P (the active form of vitamin B6), 8mg of luteolin, and 175mg of calcium plus 25mg of sodium
Examples of Supplements Containing Shilajit
Life Extension products use PrimaVie Shilajit which is standardized to 60% fulvic acid.
The AyurSante product uses shilajit standardized to 50% fulvic acid.
The Tattva’s Herbs product uses shilajit standardized to 15% fulvic acid and 10% humic acid.
Swanson’s product uses shilajit standardized to 5% fulvic acid.
Books On Shilajit and Ayurvedic Medicine
Research Studies on Shilajit
The decrease in efficiency of mitochondria in generating energy currency (ATP) in animals and in humans is associated with aging (geriatric problems) and oxidative stress. This deficiency has a link with the systemic deficiencies of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) concentration and of two of its endogenous functional associates, namely, 3-hydroxydibenzo-α-pyrone (3-OH-DBP) and 3,8- dihydroxydibenzo-α-pyrone [3,8-(OH)2-DBP]. Mitochondrial targeting of the two DBPs, isolated from shilajit (the supervitalizer of Ayurveda), and of CoQ10 could be formidable strategies to augment antioxidant defense and energy generating elements for restoring normal functions of mitochondria. DBPs, as also their fatty-acyl and amino-acyl conjugates, occur in animal mitochondria and in blood where they act in tandem with CoQ10 in the electron transport chain. Administration of CoQ10 alone, in mitochondrial deficiency states, therefore, could not restore normal mitochondrial functions. The concomitant targeting of DBPs and CoQ10 to mitochondria would augment energy (ATP) synthesis and protect redox states of CoQ10 from oxidative degradation. The present findings adduce evidence of augmentation of the concentrations of DBPs and CoQ10 in mitochondria when administered, from exogenous sources, through intra-peritoneal/oral route. Their probable mechanism of action would involve the three redox states of DBPs (reduced form, semiquinone radical and quinone form) and similar redox states of CoQ10 as a measure to restore normal energy synthesizing ability of mitochondria.
Oral supplementation of a processed shilajit formulation significantly improved physiological energy status in albino mice in a model of forced swimming test (FST). There was a significant fall of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) concentration in muscle by 82%, in brain by 33% and in blood by 35% in exercised control animals on the 7th day of a 7-day swimming regime. Post exercise shilajit treatment retrieved loss of the energy currency (ATP) in different tissues/cells in mice. The fall of ATP was attenuated to 65% in muscle, 22% in brain and 14% in blood on the 7th day of similar exercise, when the animals were treated orally with shilajit (30 mg/Kg body weight, p.o.) for the last 4 days of the swimming regime. About 18% rise in the inosine mono phosphate (IMP) concentration, a marker for energy depletion in muscle, was observed in the exercised control animals. This rise of IMP was only 5% on oral administration of shilajit. Improved status of some energy related indices, such as Adenylate Energy Charge (AEC) and Total Adenine Nucleotide (TAN), was also observed following shilajit treatment. The energy augmenting effects of shilajit were at par with those of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), administered orally to the animals as a positive control (15 mg/Kg body weight, p.o. x 4 days). A synergistic effect in the improvement of the energy related parameters was observed when the animals were treated with a combination of shilajit (15 mg/Kg body weight, p.o. x 4 days) and CoQ10 (7.5 mg/Kg body weight, p.o. x 4 days). Yet another improvement of shilajit treatment constituted of the CoQ status in muscle and blood of the treated animals. The FST-induced impairment of CoQ status in mice was manifested by a fall of CoQ concentration by 75% in blood and a rise in CoQ by 68% in muscle in exercised control animals on the 7th day of the swimming regime. The fall in CoQ concentration in blood was attenuated to 50% and its rise was arrested in muscle, when the animals were treated orally with shilajit (30 mg/Kg body weight, p.o. x 4 days). Effect of shilajit on blood and muscle CoQ status was at par with those of orally administered CoQ10 (15 mg/Kg body weight x 4 days).
Withania somnifera and Panax ginseng are well-known for their energy augmenting effect. In this study, Withania somnifera and Panax ginseng standardized extracts were evaluated for their energy augmenting activity in an experimental model using the forced swimming test (FST) in Swiss albino mice. Withania somnifera standardized extract (WSE) dose dependently attenuated ATP depletion and other energy related indices during both short term (7 days) and long term (30 days) treatment periods. The treatment doses were 50 mg/kg and 100 mg/kg. Panax ginseng (PGE), on the other hand, did not elicit similar energy-restoring effect when compared with that of WSE at the lower dose level and on prolonged administration (50 mg/kg for 30days). This latter finding would seem to project WSE as a better adaptogen. Also, WSE may be considered as a better agent for stress management in view of the well documented adverse effects of Ginseng (known as the Ginseng abuse syndrome). To achieve this objective, the need for standardization of Withania somnifera extract is emphasized.
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