Mitochondria are believed to be involved in human ageing. Whilst it is clear that various mitochondrial DNA mutations do accumulate in human tissues with age, whether or not they interfere with respiratory chain function is uncertain. We question the results of previous studies which have measured respiratory chain function in human skeletal muscle with age. Whilst cytochrome c oxidase deficient fibres are a real finding in skeletal muscle, the contribution of mitochondrial DNA mutations to human ageing is still controversial. Our results show for mitochondria to be involved in ageing then it must be through a more subtle mechanism than a global decline in respiratory chain function.