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  • Rights: University of Waikato
    Published 18 March 2011 Referencing Hub media

    Dr David Stevenson, a senior scientist with Plant & Food Research, bases his advice for health and wellbeing on what scientists are discovering about cellular components called mitochondria. By choosing a lifestyle with plenty of exercise and a well balanced diet that is rich in fruit and vegetables but low in sugar, the mitochondria will be stimulated to function efficiently, lessening the susceptibility to degenerative diseases.


    The advice I would give to 13- and 14-year-olds on lifestyle and diet is based on what we are discovering about mitochondria. The more we learn about them, the more important we discover they are in every aspect of life, health and many of the diseases that we get.

    We found that inefficient or lazy mitochondria are responsible for or involved in all the major health concerns of modern life such as premature ageing or degenerative diseases, possibly even cancer and heart disease. So the advice is to try and stop them being lazy and inefficient, and tune them up, and one of the best ways of doing that is to do exercise, because they are essential for any kind of movement we do. So the more of it you do, the more you will tune them up.

    One of the worst things we found for making mitochondria lazy is eating too much sugar because sugar is metabolised outside the mitochondria. So if you eat nothing but sugar, then the mitochondria don’t really have much to do, and they get very inefficient, so every time you move, they generate heaps of free radicals.

    And the third piece of advice is eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, because we know that the polyphenols appear to tune up the mitochondria in a similar way to exercise.


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