Exploring the Powerhouse of the Cell: The Role of Mitochondria in Health and Disease

In this video, Dr. Martin Picard, an expert on mitochondria, discusses the role of mitochondria in overall health, specifically mental health. He explains that mitochondria are organelles found in every cell that are responsible for transforming energy from food and oxygen into ATP, the energy currency of the cell. Dr. Picard highlights three ways to improve mitochondrial function: physical activity, maintaining a balanced diet, and cultivating positive psychological states. He also discusses the potential impact of medications on mitochondrial health. Lastly, he emphasizes the need for more research in understanding the relationship between mitochondrial biology and mental health.

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Key Insights:

  • Mitochondria are organelles found in every cell of the body and are involved in transforming energy from food and oxygen.
  • Mitochondria are not static structures, but rather dynamic and interconnected networks that communicate with each other.
  • Mitochondria play a central role in energy production and are implicated in various disease processes, including mental illness.
  • Metabolic dysfunction, such as insulin resistance, can impact mitochondrial function and contribute to mental health disorders.
  • Certain medications used to treat mental illnesses can impair mitochondrial energy transformation.
  • Three key factors that can improve mitochondrial function are physical activity, not eating too much, and positive psychological states.
  • Exercise stimulates the production of more mitochondria in cells.
  • Metabolic overload, caused by excessive sugar and fat intake, can lead to mitochondrial fragmentation.
  • Positive psychological states have been shown to correlate with better mitochondrial health and gene expression.


Welcome back to Metabolic Mind, a non-profit initiative by the Bazooki Group, where we focus on the intersection of metabolic health and mental health. Today, we’re going to talk about mitochondria – all things mitochondria, the Powerhouse of the cell. But it’s so much more than that.

My guest is Dr. Martin Picard, who is one of the worldwide experts on mitochondria. Dr. Picard obtained his PhD in mitochondrial biology from McGill University, and he is an associate professor of Behavioral Medicine in Psychiatry and Neurology at Columbia University, where he runs the Mitochondrial Psychobiology Lab.

Dr. Picard is incredibly passionate about mitochondria, and you can see this in his Twitter profile (@MidoPsychobio) where his picture is a huge mitochondria drawn in the sand. He talks about mitochondria so well, and in this interview, we discuss the basics of mitochondria and their role in our bodies, as well as their involvement in various diseases and promoting overall health.

Please note that the information we provide is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as individual or group-specific healthcare or medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any changes to your medication or lifestyle to treat a medical condition.

Let’s dive into the interview with Dr. Martin Picard:

Dr. Picard, thank you so much for joining me today on Metabolic Minds, where we aim to better understand what mitochondria are.

Dr. Picard: My pleasure.

I want to start with a little funny story. I was helping my 10-year-old son prepare for a science competition, and he was not interested in learning about organelles, including mitochondria. I showed him a book about mitochondria and explained the work you do. Although he didn’t care much, it made me realize that many people still don’t understand what mitochondria are. Can you give us a brief 101 about mitochondria?

Dr. Picard: Absolutely. Mitochondria are tiny organelles known as the „Powerhouse of the cell.“ They are involved in transforming energy from the oxygen we breathe and the food we consume into electrical energy inside every cell. Mitochondria exist as a network inside the cell, constantly communicating and transforming energy. They are not just passive entities but have a social life of their own, resembling a social network.

Mitochondria are present in almost every cell of the body, except for red blood cells. Different cell types may have different types of mitochondria, and there is a growing understanding that mitochondria are not all the same. They play a crucial role in energy transformation, metabolic signaling, and the functioning of organs and tissues throughout the body.

Mitochondria have been implicated in various diseases and health conditions. Therefore, understanding and optimizing mitochondrial function can have a significant impact on overall health, including mental health.

So, moving more is one key way to improve mitochondrial function. Another is not eating excessively. Finally, positive psychological states may also influence mitochondrial health.

The impact of medications on mitochondrial function is an emerging area of research. Some classes of medications have been found to directly affect mitochondrial energy transformation, which is a concern considering their widespread use in mental health.

Optimizing mitochondrial function can have a positive impact on overall health and potentially serve as an adjunct to medications in certain disease states. However, more research is needed to fully understand the intricacies of mitochondrial health and its connection to mental health.

In conclusion, understanding mitochondria and their role in our bodies can pave the way for transformative insights into mental health and overall well-being. By taking care of our mitochondria through physical activity, healthy eating, and positive psychological states, we can optimize our energy transformation and potentially enhance our overall health.