Understanding What Causes Aging

Understanding What Causes Aging

There are many pathways and theories about what causes aging and decline. In this blog we are going to discuss the biological areas that impact the aging process and what we may be able to do to positively support optimal health and our quality of life now and for the future.


Physiological Aspects of Aging

It is no secret that aging brings about some unwelcome physiological and cognitive changes. Like many, you probably think about what aging may look like for you or your loved ones. Even though we know we cannot stop the aging process, we are eager to understand how to support the molecular and cellular aspects of healthy aging.

So, let’s take a look at the mitochondria and how it plays a role in the aging process.


Our Mitochondrial Health

As you may remember, the powerhouse of our cells is the mitochondria. Certainly, it is not something that immediately comes to mind when you think about aging, however the mitochondria are fundamental to healthy aging. But what exactly does this mean?

Energy Production

The mitochondria produce energy for our cells and thereby affect all tissues and organs in the body. What is occurring on the cellular level is the breakdown of nutrients from the foods we eat. The macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats from our foods are catabolized for energy in the mitochondria and this critical process is called respiratory metabolism.1

 It’s amazing what the body does without our direction. Basically, all of the processes and even how we function every day rely on the energy that is produced by our mitochondria. Whether you are running a marathon or giving a presentation your mitochondria are providing the fuel —adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to keep you going. But what happens over time? Are there changes in our mitochondria that affect aging and longevity?


Aging and Cellular Health

There is evidence that supports the integral role of the mitochondria as the main regulator and communicator for the cells in the aging process. As we age, however, there is a natural decline in both the number and the quality of our mitochondria. This is known as age-associated cellular decline.2

Mitophagy selectively destroys cell components that are dysfunctional and purge them. Since there is a change in mitochondrial function with age, this limits the process of mitophagy resulting in a problem in the clearance of these dysfunctional mitochondria, causing them to build up and leading to a decline in cellular function that may continue through the remainder of the lifespan.3,4

Let’s take a look at some ways to support your cellular health.


Nutrients Promoting Cellular Support

Step one may be to go back to the basics and take a look at your plate. Seems simple enough, right? But when you do this ask yourself, what changes did you make over the past decades that would support optimal health? Are you filling your plate with colorful, whole foods or are you reaching for ultra-processed foods more than ever? 

It is recommended we increase our intake of plant-based foods by adding fruits and vegetables such as superfoods like raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and avocados which provide vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients.

Nutrients like lipoic acid, zinc, B vitamins, coenzyme Q10, ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E), selenium, and carnitine to name a few play a big part in mitochondrial health and optimal function of the mitochondria.It is therefore important to eat a varied diet that includes choices from all of the food groups.

In addition to energy production, the mitochondria are also involved in getting rid of toxic metabolites, cellular stabilization, as well as glucogenesis and ketogenesis. Acetyl-l-Carnitine, an amino acid, is also essential in supporting healthy mitochondrial function and various pathways.6 You may also want to consider speaking with your healthcare provider about dietary supplementation to help fill those nutritional gaps.


The 12 Hallmarks of Aging — What’s Driving the Process

According to research, there have been 12 hallmarks of aging that have been established focusing on the molecular, cellular, and systemic contributors to the aging process. They are further categorized into three distinct groups: primary, the antagonistic, and the integrative hallmarks.  

Despite classification, it is important to remember that all of these aspects of aging intersect with each other and therefore, all play an intricate role in helping us to understand how we can approach and improve health during aging.

The 12 hallmarks of aging are categorized into the three main groups below:7,8,9

The primary group below includes the primary reasons behind the aging process.

  1. Genomic instability. Cells are constantly dividing, and the DNA is being replicated. There are chances for error or damage to the DNA that can occur.
  2. Telomere attrition. Telomeres are on the ends of DNA-carrying chromosomes. With ongoing cell division, the telomeres shorten. They can get so short that eventually they cannot divide and turn into senescent (zombie) cells or die.  Health and longevity are affiliated with the long telomeres. 
  3. Epigenetic alterations. Epigenetics refers to changes that occur in gene expression that don’t change the DNA sequence itself. Some genes can be turned off and on such as a lifestyle including a healthy diet rich in polyphenols found in fruits and vegetables may positively affect aging.
  4. Loss of proteostasis. There is loss of protein as we age and the inability to maintain protein balance is a sign of aging. 
  5. Disabled macroautophagy. This process of ridding the body of dysfunctional cell components is sometimes disrupted and can lead to issues associated with aging.

The second group is the antagonistic group which reflects responses to damage and plays a more subtle role in the aging process.

  1. Deregulated nutrient-sensing. As we age, our cells may have issues with detecting and responding to some nutrients. This in turn can impact metabolism and a person’s overall health. 
  2. Mitochondrial dysfunction. With mitochondrial dysfunction, we can see a decrease in cellular energy and an increase in oxidative stress.
  3. Cellular senescence. Here we see that aging, obesity and metabolic syndrome, and lack of physical activity can lead to biological aging known as senescence.
  4. Stem cell exhaustion. There is a decline in the number and function of stem cells with age. This therefore decreases the cells’ ability to repair tissues and produce immune cells.

Lastly, the third group, the integrative hallmarks are noted by the accumulated damage from the primary and antagonistic groups. See below.

  1. Altered intercellular communication. As cells age, there are roadblocks to intercellular messaging, impacting tissue function and repair processes.
  2. Chronic inflammation. Inflammation can lead to a variety of chronic health concerns.
  3. Since the gut house is a large part of immune defense when there is an imbalance of good and bad bacteria this can lead to health concerns including inflammation.


A Healthy Conclusion

As you can see there are so many factors that affect aging, demonstrating that genetics, nutrition, and lifestyle are all part of the aging equation.  Taking a look at your routine, dietary intake and health history can help you asses changes that you should consider making to foster good lifestyle habits.

Become mindful of the things you can control on a daily basis that will allow you to stay active and involved in your family and community. This will help to support your physical, mental, and social well-being which are all gold stars when measuring quality of life as we age.


These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Individual results may vary. The information provided in this blog is for educational and informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice.



  1. Bornstein, Rebecca et al. “Mitochondrial pathways in human health and aging.” Mitochondrion 54 (2020): 72-84. doi:10.1016/j.mito.2020.07.007. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7508824/ . 
  1. Jang, Ji Yong, et al. “The Role of Mitochondria in Aging.” Journal of Clinical Investigation, vol. 128, no. 9, 30 July 2018, pp. 3662–3670, https://doi.org/10.1172/jci120842. 
  1. Chistiakov, Dimitry A et al. “Mitochondrial aging and age-related dysfunction of mitochondria.” BioMed research international 2014 (2014): 238463. doi:10.1155/2014/238463. 
  1. Srivastava, Sarika. “The Mitochondrial Basis of Aging and Age-Related Disorders.” Genes, vol. 8, no. 12, 19 Dec. 2017, p. 398, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5748716/#:~:text=Aging%20is%20associated%20with%20progressive,respiratory%20chain%20activity%20and%20adenosine, https://doi.org/10.3390/genes8120398. 
  1. Wesselink, E et al. “Feeding mitochondria: Potential role of nutritional components to improve critical illness convalescence.” Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland) 38,3 (2019): 982-995. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2018.08.032. 
  1. Virmani, Mohamed Ashraf, and Maria Cirulli. “The Role of l-Carnitine in Mitochondria, Prevention of Metabolic Inflexibility and Disease Initiation.” International journal of molecular sciences 23,5 2717. 2022, doi:10.3390/ijms23052717. 
  1. López-Otín, Carlos et al. “Hallmarks of aging: An expanding universe.” Cell 186,2 (2023): 243-278. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2022.11.001. 
  1. Knudsen, Molly. “There Are 12 Hallmarks of Aging — This Vitamin May Improve All of Them.” Mindbodygreen, 2024, www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/vitamin-d-and-the-hallmarks-of-aging. Accessed 3 June 2024. 
  1. MD, Mark Hyman. “How and Why We Age.”  Mark Hyman, 19 Jan. 2023, drhyman.com/blog/2023/01/19/podcast-ep662/. Accessed 3 June 2024.


Author Bio:

Ken Swartz, MS is the founder and chairman C60 Power, a health and wellness company committed to delivering the highest quality Carbon 60 products available. Ken earned a Master of Science degree from the University of Colorado at Denver and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Arizona State University.