What Is Cellular Nutrition?
Cells are the tiny, microscopic building blocks of life. There are trillions of cells in your body with many different functions. Keeping your cells healthy is like watering the roots of a plant, you’re nourishing your foundations.
Your cells use the nutrients from your diet to power all the functions in your body. Still, we can only use these nutrients if cells are working correctly. As a result, cellular nutrition, or providing your cells with the necessary nutrients to function efficiently, is the critical foundation for healthy living and aging.
Good health begins with cellular nutrition.
Cellular nutrition specifically targets the health of your cells so they can function optimally.
Your cells are the reason you can think, breathe, move, and function. Even if you aren’t always making ideal lifestyle choices, your body is adept at keeping things running relatively smoothly.
But over the years, these choices can add up. Your daily lifestyle choices like your diet, stress levels, and even sleep patterns can impact how well your cells function and ultimately how quickly you age.
If your body is your home, you can think of your cells as the foundation. No matter how beautiful a house appears on the outside, it’s susceptible to cracks and breakdowns if the foundation is weakened. Eventually, if things get bad enough, the building can completely fall apart.
But with the proper maintenance or reinforcement, your cellular foundation can remain strong and help your body stay resilient even as you age.
What makes cellular nutrition different?
Ideally, general nutrition recommendations should focus on all aspects of your nutrient needs, including macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbs) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). These are all important pieces of the puzzle that make up optimal cellular health and overall wellness.
However, as you probably notice, most health news headlines emphasize nutrition on a macroscopic level. These are big picture messages like eating the right amount of calories for a healthy weight or optimizing your protein intake for lean body mass.
These things are essential for wellness, but cellular nutrition takes a deeper dive into the specific needs of your cells which impacts your body as a whole. Macronutrients are needed to survive, but micronutrients are required to live well. The two work together for optimal cellular health.
Adequate vs. optimal cellular nutrition
Nutrition research on micronutrients is often focused on preventing nutrient deficiencies. However, simply avoiding deficiencies does not always mean that your cells are functioning optimally. There is a significant difference between adequate intake versus optimal intake.
Preventing nutrient deficiency is very different from optimizing function. For example, according to the CDC, suboptimal potassium intake and excessive sodium intake increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.
Increasing potassium in the diet increases the amount of sodium lost in the urine, therefore easing the tension on blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.
A review article published in Seminars in Nephrology suggests that suboptimal potassium intake is associated with an increased risk of hypertension. In this case, you would not necessarily have clinically low potassium lab values to see this risk.
Further, the recent My Plate recommendations include 2 cups of fruit and vegetables through our diet. And since our ability to absorb and utilize nutrients may vary due to food intolerances, stress, lifestyle, diet, age, and so much more, it’s not always enough to claim each person is getting what they need for optimal health.
This is where cellular nutrition comes in. It focuses on providing your cells the nutrients they need not just to survive and prevent diseases of deficiency but to optimize your health and well-being.
How is cellular health related to aging?
Many of the health conditions associated with aging are linked to the health of our cells. While the science of aging is multifaceted and complex, there is evidence that the health of our cells plays a significant role.
It’s known that optimal cellular function can decrease with age. This loss of function can relate to the ability of cells to utilize nutrients or even the way our DNA is structured.
As you age, your cell function can begin to decline. Research suggests that there are several reasons this can happen, including:
According to a review article in Clinical Interventions in Aging, oxidative stress occurs when there is an imbalance of free radical activity in your cells and is strongly associated with the aging process.
Free radicals are highly reactive and unstable molecules that can damage your cells and tissues. They are produced as a natural byproduct of our metabolism, like when we eat or exercise, and from environmental exposures to toxins like smoke or pollution.
Antioxidants, on the other hand, keep free radicals in check. The balance of antioxidants to free radicals is an essential part of cellular health. Aging impacts the levels of antioxidants in the body and the number of free radicals you generate.
If the scale is tipped and more free radicals are generated than are removed from the cell, the cell is negatively impacted by oxidative stress, altering how well it can function.
Mitochondria are tiny organelles found inside the nucleus of your cell. They generate all the energy your cells need to perform their required tasks.
Mitochondria convert the food you eat into adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the energy molecule our body uses to power everything from breathing to movement. The process of ATP creation is critical to make sure you have the energy and vitality you need for all phases of life.
According to a review article in Clinical Nutrition, your mitochondria need micronutrients like fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals to function. While the body can produce some of these nutrients, many come from your diet.
Age also impacts how well your body synthesizes or uses these nutrients. According to an editorial in Cells, growing older can also affect how well your mitochondria produce ATP.
If your mitochondria stop functioning as well as they should, the health of your entire cell is impacted. Over time, mitochondrial dysfunction can increase the number of free radicals generated while decreasing energy production, leading to overall cellular damage.
Therefore, supporting cellular health to reduce oxidative stress or mitochondrial dysfunction can influence how quickly you age, which also has implications for long-term health.
Why does cellular nutrition matter for long-term health?
Cellular nutrition is important for keeping the cells working optimally. But why does this matter for your health long term?
Since cellular health is closely linked to aging, it’s also related to many health conditions typically diagnosed as we get older. As discussed in a review article in Biology, many of the health problems we accept as a normal part of the aging process can be traced back to the health of your cells, especially the mitochondria.
By supporting cellular health through optimal cellular nutrition, you give your cells the tools to promote health and vitality, even as you age.
How can you support optimal cellular nutrition?
Each of us has unique nutrient needs, but here are some of the steps you can take to support optimal cellular nutrition:
1. Include food rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Each of these micronutrients plays a distinct role in keeping your cells healthy. Vitamins and minerals are critical cofactors (or helper molecules) for thousands of cellular processes. And as mentioned earlier, antioxidants are essential for balancing free radicals and the oxidative stress response inside your cells.
2. Eat your macronutrients.
Once you have adequate micronutrients, don’t forget the macronutrients. As mentioned, macronutrients include protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Protein provides the amino acids needed for building your cellular structures and enzymes. At the same time, carbohydrates are used to create the energy your cells need to function.
Additionally, fat is critical for nourishing your cellular membrane structure and function.
3. Consider cell-supporting nutrients, especially targeting mitochondrial health.
As mentioned, we don’t always get enough nutrients from our diet, and our body’s production declines with age.
Cell supportive supplements can provide extra nourishment for your cells. They can include various vitamins and minerals or supplements that act as precursors for optimal cell function, such as nicotinamide riboside (NR).
NR is a precursor for nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+), a critical coenzyme for optimal mitochondrial function and energy production. While we can make it, the amount of NAD+ produced by the body drops significantly with age.
This decline in production is associated with signs of cellular aging and an increased risk of chronic health concerns. However, as seen in a study published in Scientific Reports, supplementation with NR effectively increases NAD+ levels in the body, supporting the health of your cell.
Healthy aging starts with optimal cellular nutrition.
Aging is inevitable, but the effects of aging on your cells are not. The good news is that if you want to age well, it’s never too late to begin. Targeting your cellular health with nutrients that optimize the health of your mitochondria while reducing the impact of oxidative stress is key.
You can start by including a wide range of micronutrient-packed brightly colored fruits and vegetables into your daily diet. A combination of food and appropriate supplementation can help to ensure your body has all the nutrients it needs to support healthy aging through optimal cellular nutrition.