Have you ever seen an ad for a product that sounds amazing and wondered if it really was that good? That happened to me recently. “How do you take care of your mitochondria?” asked an announcer. Well, there is one question that I am not asked every day. And it’s one that I had no answer to.
Your Cells Aging: Can Diet Supplements Keep Them Young?
This ad and related website describe their products as follows:
- “A Breakthrough Line of Nutritional Solutions”
- Supplements that “work in harmony with your body’s natural processes to rewrite the rules of cell aging”
- “Helps to activate the regeneration of the mitochondria in the muscles”
- “Aims at age-related changes in cells”
- “Renews the natural ability of cells to produce daily energy”
- “Properties of cellular nutrients investigated in more than 20 human clinical studies”
And what is this miracle product? It is food! Was just a joke. These statements come from advertisements for Celltrient supplements from Nestlé Health Science. Yes, supplements come from the makers of famous candy bars to improve your health and slow down aging!
The buzz about mitochondria and cell health
The claims focus on two main areas of health that have been extensively researched at the cellular level in recent years: aging and energy production.
You may recall from high school biology that almost all human cells have a nucleus that contains our genetic blueprint (DNA). But do you still remember the mitochondria well? These so-called power plants of the cell convert nutrients into energy. They are important to the health of every cell – and to the health of the tissues and organs of the person in which those cells are located.
When mitochondria do not function normally, debilitating, sometimes life-threatening conditions, such as mitochondrial myopathies and a number of eye diseases, can occur.
A tremendous amount of research in recent years suggests that mitochondria
- play a key role in the aging process and in most age-related diseases
- are critical to cell health, including regulating how nutrients get into individual cells
- contain DNA that can be easily damaged with age, is prone to mutation and has limited repairability
- play a key role in immune function.
These results have led to speculation that treatments to maintain or improve mitochondrial and cellular health may result in ways to slow aging.
What the ads get right – and the rest of the story
As mentioned above, mitochondria are essential for the vital process of cellular energy production. And an increasing body of evidence suggests that mitochondria play a key role in aging and the development of chronic diseases.
However, the rest of the claims made by the makers of Celltrient should be received with a hefty dose of skepticism. The evidence behind them is sparse. Like all over-the-counter, unproven supplements and drugs, Celltrient contains the FDA-mandated disclaimer: “These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. “
What about the 20 human studies mentioned? Well, this is related to research into one or more of the ingredients in these products, but not the products themselves. These studies cannot prove that the claims made in the ad apply to humans.
For example, one study shows that an ingredient in Celltrient is called nicotinamide riboside – which is closely related to vitamin B.3 – is absorbed into the bloodstream. Additionally, it increases blood levels of a substance that mitochondria need to function properly called nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD).
Sound impressive? Remember that if you already have enough of that vitamin in your body, it may be useless to take any particular vitamin supplement. The study does not therefore show that Celltrient actually “renewed” or “replenished” mitochondria in the cells of the study participants. More importantly, there is no evidence that these supplements make people healthier or feel better, slow down aging, or offer any other specific health benefits.
Significant costs and important information are missing
The promotions also do not mention the cost. Prices on the product website range from $ 60 to $ 130 per month. And there’s no mention of possible side effects, drug interactions, or whether certain people are more likely to benefit from them than others.
After all, these ads don’t tell you what other options you have for mitochondrial health provided you are concerned about them. For example, regular exercise may be the best treatment for mitochondrial aging.
The final result
Ads like the one for Celltrient products are common. You will see nutritional supplements that are used for heart health, joint pain, memory loss, and a host of other conditions. Some have more scientific support than others. However, watch out for advertisements for drugs or supplements that promise vague and comprehensive health benefits with no actual evidence that the product will work. A statement that it is “supported by science” – without an explanation – is not enough.
For cell and mitochondrial health, you could accept the unproven claims in these ads and spend thousands of dollars on Celltrient products every year. Perhaps future studies will even prove that these supplements work. Or you could take a chance at a more conventional source of nutrients that mitochondria need: food. I don’t think I was joking.
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