January 26, 2015

303 Free Radicals & Aging [26 January 2015]

In his book “Life – the Epic Story of our Mitochondria” Lee Know explains the mitochondrial theory of aging.

The Electron Transfer Chain (ETC) which produces ATP energy in our cells’ mitochondria also produces most of the free radicals that occur in our body. Free radicals are not long-haired hippies on the loose but are highly reactive negatively charged ions which can damage the mitochondrial DNA. If you recall from #301, mitochondrial DNA is not protected in a nucleus (as is our cellular DNA) and occurs throughout the mitochondria often near the sites of the ETC. As DNA damage by free radicals accumulates the mitochondria lose their ability to produce energy and eventually die. When enough mitochondria in a cell die, the cell dies. As the cells die, the function of the affected organs decline with resulting chronic illnesses of old age. Then we die. This in a nutshell is the mitochondrial theory of aging. There are two different strategies that we can use to slow this process and hopefully live longer healthier lives.

The first is to reduce the creation of the free radicals. Free radicals form when something interrupts the electron transfer chain. Normally the electron safely passes through each step, handed from one complex to the next, until the final step in which water and ATP are produced. If one of the units of a complex is missing or in short supply, electrons will build up at that step and spill over into molecules (usually oxygen) in the surrounding matrix, forming free radicals. Ensuring we have sufficient of all of the nutrients mentioned in last week’s article is important. For example if CoQ10 is in short supply electrons will build up in Complex 1 (which by the way has the highest production of free radicals in the ETC). Electrons will also back up if the end product ATP is not being used fast enough. Following a meal with exercise rather than a nap will slow the aging process.

The other strategy is to ensure sufficient antioxidants in the mitochondria to neutralize the free radicals before they cause damage. Glutathione, the most important antioxidant in the cell, requires selenium (see #208) and the amino acid cysteine. More on glutathione next week.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 19, 2015

302 Mitochondria Nutrients [19 Jan 2015]

Last week I wrote about a book by Lee Know, ND, called “Life – the Epic Story of our Mitochondria”. In it I was impressed by the interrelationship among the many nutrients required for mitochondria to function properly and produce the energy our bodies need for health.

The TCA Cycle which converts glucose and fatty acids to acetyl-coA requires vitamins B1, B2, B3 & B5, minerals iron, sulfur, magnesium & manganese, the amino acid cysteine and alpha lipoic acid (ALA). The Electron Transfer Chain (ETC) which converts the acetyl-coA to ATP energy has CoQ10 (#159 Apr 2012) as one of its essential steps. The ETC also requires vitamins B2 & B12 and minerals iron, sulfur, copper & zinc.

The amino acid L-carnitine (#168 June 2012) is essential for moving long chain fatty acids into the mitochondria where they can be burned for energy. Oxygen is essential for efficient production of ATP by oxidative phosphorylation and requires iron in the form of hemoglobin for transport to the cells. Without adequate oxygen ATP is produced anaerobically resulting in the buildup of lactic acid (causing muscle pain including angina) which requires carnitine to clear it.

In addition to its role in the TCA cycle, ALA is necessary for the production of the antioxidant glutathione. Glutathione is the most important antioxidant in the mitochondria (more on this next week). ALA is also essential for regenerating NADH back to NAD+ so the first step in the ETC can be repeated. As I explained in an earlier article on ALA (#89 Nov 2010), only the R(+) isomer of ALA is bioactive.

Creatine holds and donates the phosphorus ion to convert ADP to ATP; when used as a supplement creatine increases endurance in athletes and improves brain and heart function.

A deficiency of any of these nutrients slows the production of ATP energy in the mitochondria causing fatigue and the reduced function of the organ(s) involved. That’s why there is no simple answer to the question “Why do I feel so tired all the time?”

Next week – free radicals and the mitochondrial theory of aging.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 12, 2015

301 Mitochondria [12 Jan 2015]

I’m reading a fascinating little book by Lee Know, ND, called “Life – the Epic Story of our Mitochondria”. Mitochondria are organelles in animal cells that produce most of the energy used by the animal. It is in these little “powerhouses” that our food is combined with oxygen (essentially burned) and converted to energy in the form of ATP that our bodies then use for all the biochemical processes needed for health and life. This conversion of food to energy is called “cellular respiration”.

Mitochondria are unique in that they come with their own DNA, called mtDNA. Unlike the cell’s nuclear DNA (nDNA), mtDNA is not protected by a nuclear membrane so is more susceptible to mutations from free radicals (more on this in a future article). There are hundreds to thousands of mitochondria in each cell, comprising about 10% of our body weight.

In a very complex series of biochemical pathways, glucose and fatty acids are first converted to acetyl-coA which then enters the Tricarboxylic Acid (TCA) cycle (a.k.a. Krebs cycle) where it is converted to CO2 and two molecules called NADH and FADH2. Electrons from these two molecules then get passed along in a series of steps from one enzyme complex to the next in what is called the Electron Transfer Chain (ETC) until finally combining with oxygen to form a water molecule. At each step protons (H+ ions) are transported out of the inner matrix into the space between the inner and outer mitochondrial membranes. This proton gradient represents stored energy which in the final step flows back through the inner membrane and in the process converts adenosine diphosphate (ADP) to adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Lee Know compares it to pumping water into a reservoir behind a dam which then flows through a turbine to create electricity.

One significance of all this to our health is the large number of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other compounds like CoQ10 and ALA that are required for energy production. Without sufficient quantities of each of these we would not only lack energy but, depending on which organs are affected, could develop many different degenerative diseases. More on this next week.

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.

January 5, 2015

300 Medicate or Nutrate? [5 Jan 2015)

For my 300th article (and the first for 2015) I’m going to follow up on #297 from Dec 8 on mental health.

Dr. Julia Rucklidge in her TEDx talk suggested we reconsider our current treatment approach to mental illness – psychiatric medication first, followed by psychological therapies, with nutrition as an afterthought (if considered at all). Instead she proposes the first priority be lifestyle factors (healthy eating, exercise, supplements) and when necessary psychological treatment, and save medications for when these approaches prove insufficient.

Anthony Stephan, founder of TrueHope, argues that it’s better to nutrate our brains than to medicate them. He prefers to call mental illness “nutritional deficiency mood disorders” and believes that given sufficient nutrients the body can heal itself.

Putting nutrition first makes sense to me. The brain makes up 2% of body mass but consumes 20% of our energy and uses a disproportionately high amount of our daily intake of nutrients. How can we expect it to function properly if our diets are depleted in essential nutrients? Kaplan & Rucklidge in their December 9, 2014 madinamerica.com article “Nutrient Boosting of Medications” put it more technically:
...psychiatric symptoms may be the result of inborn metabolic dysfunction associated with slowed metabolic activity caused by insufficient vitamin and mineral cofactors.
Note that nutrient dosages much higher than the RDA are usually required to compensate for these metabolic dysfunctions.

Research on micro-nutrition and mental illness (25 published studies to date) shows positive often dramatic improvements with a broad spectrum high dose nutrient supplementation on a variety of conditions: depression, bi-polar disorder, autism, ADHD, OCD, PTSD, stress, anxiety, mood & behavior, and addiction. Over the last 16 years TrueHope and its micronutrient supplement has helped tens of thousands of people with mental illness return to a normal life and either reduce or eliminate their psychiatric medications. Shouldn’t this be our primary treatment for mental illness: nutrate rather than medicate?

For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.