Anti-Aging Health Energy

The 7 best supplements to improve mitochondrial function

By Kim Crawford, M.D. Last updated: March 23, 2021
supplements to improve mitochondrial function

Mitochondria are the key to energy and health: Updated on 3/23/2021 and found right here.

Mitochondria rule! If you are looking to improve energy on a cellular level, you’ll want to power these ATP-making cellular batteries with the best supplements to improve mitochondrial function. Indeed, you’ll want to do more than just taking supplements; especially if you have fatigue or a mitochondrial dysfunction illness such as diabetes, ALS or any neurodegenerative disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue or CIRS (mycotoxin or other biotoxin illness). Even cancer. You might be surprised to learn that research is pointing to mitochondrial dysfunction as the cause, and part of the treatment for adrenal fatigue, as well. In fact, when we treat mitochondrial failure, we treat many, many issues, including the loss of properly functioning mitochondria which is a result of aging or even eating an inflammatory diet. Let’s briefly mention mitochondrial “best practices, ” and then we’ll get into the supplements.

Basic mitochondrial health practices:

Everyone needs to follow an anti-inflammatory diet plan. Now there is scientific proof that involves changing your eating patterns to help mitochondrial function. There are also several ways to do intermittent fasting, but they are all useful for mitochondrial health. If you follow a nutritional ketosis diet plan, that is ideal for mitochondrial health as well. You can do intermittent ketosis and experiment to see what makes you look and feel your best and healthiest.

Exercise is another “must” for mitochondrial health. All sorts of exercise help the cause, but studies show you get an extra boost from high intensity interval training (HIIT). High intensity interval training can simplify your whole notion of what’s enough exercise. Is this a part of your exercise plan? If not, please review the article and fit it into your life. It’s only three minutes of actual exercise, 5 days per week! Now, will you look?

Lastly, here’s a shout-out to the “cold blast.” If you grew up in the northeast as I did, you’d remember winters where you went ice skating on frozen ponds and felt incredibly invigorated. Who knew building snowmen was so healthy? It seems that blasts of cold, be they weather, air conditioning or water, ramp up mitochondria to produce more ATP instantly! The easiest way to get your cold blast is to turn your shower to cold at the end. All you need is 30 seconds, slowly rotating in your shower, to feel more energized. Find more tricks in the mitochondrial article I mention above. Now, I’ll reveal the best supplements to improve mitochondrial function.

The best supplements to improve mitochondrial function:

supplements to improve mitochondrial functionI see people perk right up within 48 hours of proper supplementation over and over again. If someone has a chronic and/or fatiguing illness or are just suffering from age-related mitochondrial failure, supplementation just plain works.

My 92-year-old dad was really “pooping out” due to multiple hospitalizations including hospital food, surgical intervention, lack of exercise and too much medication.

At his ALF they are aware the medical orders from “Dr.Kim” are unusual. I sure didn’t disappoint when I put my dad on what amounted to a life-saving mitochondrial supplement regimen.

Here is my compilation of the specific supplements in the literature with rock-solid data behind them.

Alpha-lipoic acid

ALA is a potent fat and water soluble antioxidant. It also happens to be a metal chelator (helping to remove copper, iron and other heavy metals). It is also quite anti-inflammatory. Clinically, α-lipoic acid has been successfully used as a supplement to help treat complications associated with diabetes such as neuropathies, inflammation, and vascular complications. It also improves cognitive and mitochondrial function, furthering the evidence linking oxidative damage to mitochondria and cognition. The use of α-lipoic acid for chronic fatigue syndrome itself has not yet been studied in controlled clinical trials. However, it is widely used in “fatigue regimens” in doses of 200-600 mg as a way to support mitochondrial function and reduce oxidative stress.


ALC is a naturally occurring fatty acid transport amino acid. One of the all-time best brain supplements, l-carnitine supplementation has been successfully used in many mitochondrial dysfunction disorders. These disorders also happen to be characterized by low concentrations of l-carnitine such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and overwhelming infection (sepsis). An important anti-aging use of l-carnitine has been to increase the rate of mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation(translation=ATP production) that declines as a result of aging. A comprehensive study where old rats were fed acetyl-l-carnitine resulted in the reversal of age-related decreases in l-carnitine levels and an increase in fatty acid metabolism. ALC also reversed the age-related decline in intracellular glutathione levels and improved the efficacy of muscle mitochondria.

Co-Q 10

CoQ10 is a crucial component of the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation system. Approximately 12 studies show that its’ supplementation in individuals with reduced levels results in increased energy production and reduced fatigue. The most dramatic results are in those with degenerative diseases. Let me explain.

In studies using Alzheimer’s disease models, CoQ10 administration significantly delayed brain atrophy and typical β-amyloid plaquing. In a placebo-controlled, randomized, 4 month clinical study on 98 Alzheimer’s participants who took an oral mixture of CoQ10, vitamins E, C, and α-lipoic acid, the group receiving supplementation showed significant reductions in oxidative stress markers. Individuals with Parkinson’s disease generally show increased oxidized (therefore damaged) CoQ10 levels and significant increases in markers of oxidative stress and damage in the brain, which is partially reversible with CoQ10 administration.

This heart-healthy antioxidant is a must for aging mitochondria and indeed all mitochondrial failure. Perhaps, your doctor hasn’t informed you that statins severely deplete the body of CoQ10. Add it to your routine if you’re on a statin drug.


Studies show PQQ decreases oxidative stress and inflammation which, by definition protect mitochondria. It also (excitedly so!) increases mitochondrial biogenesis which is the formation of new, young-acting mitochondria. It is neuroprotective. In this blog, you might have read about GABA versus glutamate or inhibitory (relaxing) versus excitatory (too stimulating) neurotransmitter activity. We want more GABA than glutamate, plain and simple. Too much glutamate damages brain cells. PQQ protects neurons by preventing the long-term over-activation of the NMDA (glutamate) receptors, which results in toxic excitotoxicity. This over-stimulation of brain cells is associated with many neurodegenerative diseases as well as seizure disorders and ultimately “death to neurons.”

Remember that you have the largest concentration of mitochondria in your brain, heart and skeletal muscle with the brain winning by “a hair.” With that in mind, remember when we protect the brain, we’re protecting brain mitochondria. PQQ protects the brain against neurotoxicity induced by mercury and other potent toxins. It also helps to prevent the accumulation of amyloid tau and beta proteins associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

Anecdotally, I have gone into my kitchen and given countless tired people some CoQ10, alpha lipoic acid, acetyl-l-carnitine and PQQ and told them to text me in two hours. To a person, everyone noticed a big energy surge with (of course) no stimulant effect.


Oral NADH supplementation can successfully reduce symptoms in patients with chronic fatigue. One unique study on patients with chronic fatigue syndrome treated participants with stabilized, oral NADH or placebo for 4 weeks. 8 of 26 study participants (30.7%) responded positively with increased well-being and energy levels to the micro-encapsulated NADH compared with 2 of 26 (8%) in the placebo arm.

This supplement also shows promise for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The increase in levels correlates with an increase in telomere length which is a marker for aging. Finally, NAD will stimulate the SIRT1 pathway made famous by Adele and her sirtfood diet plan, weight loss bonanza. When you stimulate the SIRT1 pathway, you lower leptin levels, improve metabolic syndrome and more. There is now (2021 update) so much evidence supporting NAD, I have all patients on NMN supplements for multiple reasons.


Mixtures of phospholipid, probiotic and antioxidant preparations have shown clinical promise. The equivalent mixture is obtainable using antioxidant powders, probiotics and phosphatidylserine supplementation. The bulk of the studies use patients who have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome.


D-ribose has positive effects for those who are genetically d-ribose deficient. It’s a popular bodybuilding supplement to help with muscular fatigue. Studies have looked at neurodegenerative diseases such as early ALS and MS with promising results. Due to these studies, I am going to tell you a little story about Charlie. Charlie is a beloved standard poodle, belonging to a favorite patient of mine. The patient contacted me, distraught that his dog had received the diagnosis of degenerative myelopathy or “doggie ALS” as I quickly found upon doing some research.

After seeing what appears to be working for humans, I calculated doses of supplements based on Charlie’s 48-pound weight. I recommended a ketogenic diet, which, remarkably, is not hard to do in dogs. I recommended the AWS greens powder as an anti-oxidant and detox to be mixed in Charlie’s food and as always, added a DHA supplement for multiple reasons. Then I added ALA, ALC, CoQ10, PQQ, and NAD as well as some d-ribose powder. The patient said that 48 hours after Charlie started his regimen he was noticeably stronger, walking and even playing with his doggie friends. I was, quite frankly, amazed, and so was the patient’s Vet.

Additional supplements with much promise:

Sirtuin-boosting resveratrol and ECGC extract from green tea are great brain boosting supplements, and the mechanism of action just might be mitochondrial. All of the B vitamins are used for most of the body’s critical processes, so it’s only a matter of time before the B’s are a part of all mitochondrial health regimens. Magnesium threonate (the one that passes the blood-brain barriers) is in the same category as the B’s. Branched chain aminos, vitamin D, and creatine are all pro-mitochondrial health supplements as well.  All of these supplements are getting less “air time” since they are normally a part of everyone’s total health and brain health regimen. 1/18 update: berberine studies show great promise for mitochondrial boosting.


If you have a fatiguing illness, any chronic illness or are growing older, by definition, you have “ailing” mitochondria! Further, if your doctor isn’t changing your diet and recommending supplements, you are not receiving adequate treatment. If I were to pick certain supplements to improve mitochondria, it would include ALC, ALA, and PQQ coupled with a ketogenic diet. Also, why not do the cold blast, right? If you cannot “do” HIIT, please get out and walk your dog each day. If you need help, I’m a concierge doctor of functional medicine and I’d be glad to get you well again.

3/18 Update: Studies are increasingly showing that mitochondrial illnesses are fueled by oxidative stress; implicating the use of antioxidants such as natural vitamin E and NAC (the precursor to glutathione) as additional treatment considerations. (1)

What I have found: PQQ (rarely available elsewhere as non-GMO and properly processed) seems to give patients the most immediate energy results. For a grouping of the supplements I give to patients, see this link.

And as of 2019 I now always start out with the heat-map epigentic mitochondrial powerhouse booster that you can FEEL within 2-3 days of starting it. It’s inexpensive, and a brilliant ingredient blend; available here.

(1) Molecular Genetics and Metabolism, 2018; DOI:

N -acetylcysteine and vitamin E rescue animal longevity and cellular oxidative stress in pre-clinical models of mitochondrial complex I disease.

Erzsebet Polyak, Julian Ostrovsky, Min Peng, Stephen D. Dingley, Mai Tsukikawa, Young Joon Kwon, Shana E. McCormack, Michael Bennett, Rui Xiao, Christoph Seiler, Zhe Zhang, Marni J. Falk


  1. I just wanted to tell you that I am a cancer patient , undergoing treatment (Rad and Chemo) with horrible fatigue. I read your article about mitochondria and then this one. I didn’t know-NONE of my doctors told me-that this was the cause of my horrible fatigue. Anyway I got these supplements and within 3 days my fatigue was 75% better!! Thank you Dr Kim!

  2. Just thought I’d let everyone know that the shower trick WORKS!

  3. Thanks for the info :)

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