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.

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