Mitochondria Have Antiviral Properties: Why Aren’t Health Experts Discussing Exercise, Fasting?

by Mike Mutzel


Scientists have uncovered various ways mitochondria support immune health via anti-viral properties. We discuss this research and why health experts should be emphasizing exercise and fasting as strategies to improve mitochondrial, and thus immune, health.




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Time Stamps:

00:54 Your mitochondria play an important role in your body’s innate immune system mounting an antiviral immune response.
01:20 Lifestyle interventions impact the health and function of your mitochondria. Mitochondria are powerful in preventing several diseases, including infectious disease. These include fatty liver disease, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases and even cancer.
02:18 Mitochondria are intracellular organelles. They are responsible for making energy (ATP) for your cells.
03:40 If you have poor mitochondrial health, your cells do not have sufficient energy, and you may have insulin resistance, fatigue, or brain fog. It may mean that you will not release sufficient antiviral peptides when you are exposed to a pathogen.
05:00 Physical activity is protective against death, hospitalization, and severe disease.
05:24 Mitochondria are important for liver health, brain health and metabolic health.
06:55 Beneficial affects of regular physical activity on immune function are at least partly mediated by mitochondrial fitness. Low mitochondrial fitness and low cardiorespiratory fitness may be important risk factors for COVID 19.
07:30 Poor mitochondrial health may be a link between established risk factors like age, underlying health conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other chronic disease.
07:43 Physical activity or targeted pharmacological intervention that increase mitochondrial capacities likely increase mitochondrial function and may enhance innate immunity. Taking berberine or metformin prior to exposure has been shown to reduce risk for severe outcomes in COVID. Metformin is more protective in women than in men.
09:11 Individuals with poor cardiorespiratory fitness have increased risk for severe disease, hospitalization, requirement for being on a ventilator and death.
09:42 Low physical activity is linked with contracting COVID 19 and poor outcomes.
10:25 Mitochondria are critically involved in antiviral host responses.


Studies Mentioned:

Burtscher, J., Millet, G. P., & Burtscher, M. (2021). Low cardiorespiratory and mitochondrial fitness as risk factors in viral infections: implications for COVID-19. Br J Sports Med. Vol 55 No 8 http://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0020

Burtscher, J., Burtscher, M., & Millet, G. P. (2021). The central role of mitochondrial fitness on antiviral defenses: An advocacy for physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Redox Biology, 43, 101976. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.redox.2021.101976

Burtscher, J., Cappellano, G., Omori, A., Koshiba, T., & Millet, G. P. (2020). Mitochondria: In the Cross Fire of SARS-CoV-2 and Immunity. Iscience, 23(10), 101631. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2020.101631

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