Crestone and Beyond wishes to advance some expanded thoughts about our obesity problem, and associated metabolic concerns. This Journal is a biochemical follow-up to the prior health editorial Journal, and will delve into the subject of mitochondrial chemistry, and ways to enhance this important life chemistry. I’ll cover micronutrients, food and eating ideas, and some lifestyle practices which help mitochondrial health.
These recommendations are substantiated by past experience and clinical study of the obesity issue ever since I performed a series of gastric bypass surgeries during my surgical residency training in Baltimore in the early 1980’s, a time period when morbid obesity was just beginning to hold sway in social consciousness and population epidemiological trending.
One of my surgical professors was known for this type of surgery, and so we surgical residents participated in kind when on his service. It was a great way to learn how to operate in the difficult confines of the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. However, since those days, I never again performed gastric bypass surgery, now known as bariatric surgery. I have tried to interest patients in metabolic accountability practices instead.
This Journal writing details some of the biochemical workings of the cellular organelle known as the mitochondrion. More than one mitochondrion is referred to in the plural, or, mitochondria. I’ll use this latter terminology.
The mitochondria are the organelles in the cellular cytoplasm where oxygen, proteins, carbohydrates, and fats are metabolized via the Kreb’s cycle and the electron transport chain to produce the energy molecule of life known as adenosine triphosphate, or, ATP. These 2 biochemical pathways are complicated, but very important, and have resulted in the awarding of some Nobel prizes.
Think of the mitochondria as the energy factories of cellular life. Every biochemical process in our cells, and in our lives, is dependent on healthy and robust production of ATP. ATP is the central molecule of life energy at the cellular level. Mitochondrial health is a cornerstone of good health and vitality.
Here is a collection of many helpful images of mitochondria.
If all of the correct intracellular chemicals are present to assist the Kreb’s cycle and electron transport chain in the production of ATP we can garner a maximum theoretical yield of 38 molecules of ATP per pass through the pathways. This number is customarily reduced (in the literature) to 30 molecules of ATP per chain reaction due to mitigating and neutralizing factors at work in the cellular dynamics.
As it turns out, 30 molecules of ATP per cycle process is ample energy for cellular vitality and intelligent cell expression. If the production of ATP drops off due to insufficient cellular biochemistry, then we have varieties of mitochondropathy; a subject now gaining in traction and recognition in the biochemical and nutritional circles of research and clinical application. It is likely that a great many more clinical disorders and aging parameters will be connected to mitochondropathy causality, if not all of them.
The chemicals which are essential co-factors for mitochondrial production of ATP are:
- B vitamins
- Co-enzyme Q10
- Lipoic acid
- Omega fatty acids
Critical to the production of ATP in the mitochondria and also to the production of DNA and RNA, ribose is a 5 carbon sugar which is essential for our healthy and energetic lives. You can see some technical information on this sugar here, as well as in an informative writing appended to the end of this Journal posting in the References.
There are several other chemicals which are also very important in assisting mitochondrial health.
A non essential, but very helpful co-factor utilized in ATP production is creatine. Both carnitine and creatine are present only in meat, or in nutritional supplements. This becomes a rather important consideration for vegetarians and vegans.
Another very important molecule which protects mitochondria from oxidative stress and assists in mitochondrial biogenesis (creation of new mitochondria) is pyroquinoline quinone (PQQ). By supporting mitochondrial biogenesis, PQQ is critical for the promotion of healthy aging and optimal energy production by the mitochondria. This molecule is very important in brain and heart health, as well as recovery from stroke and heart attack events. PQQ also helps recycle glutathione, which is the body’s most powerful antioxidant.
Resveratrol also assists in mitochondrial biogenesis. The molecular basis of mitochondrial biogenesis resides in the fact that mitochondria are the only organelles which contain their own DNA. This DNA is of maternal origin. Think on your mother’s energy dynamics for clues to your own mitochondrial health and bio-energy dynamics.
The most metabolically active organs in the body are the brain, heart, liver, and kidneys. These organs have the highest number of mitochondria per cell. The heart comes in with 2000-2500 mitochondria per cell, for instance. In contrast, fat cells only have about 10 mitochondria per cell. Interestingly, red blood cells have no mitochondria; a fact which may be related to their normal life span of only 120 days.
If a person has a morbidly obese amount of adipose tissue to carry, the sheer number of fat cells present will create a differential skewing of the usage of the essential mitochondrial co-factors by the excess of the fat cells’ mitochondria. In the ensuing numbers fallout, there may not be ample mitochondrial co-factor biochemistry to supply and run the more life critical high metabolizing organ cells, which have greater numbers of mitochondria, at full energy capacity.
Specialized labs like SpectraCell Laboratories offer an intracellular nutrient profile study which is helpful in discovering co-factor deficiency. This study analyzes for all of the 6 essential co-factors listed above, plus other very important cellular micronutrients.
A deficiency of mitochondrial function due to either nutritional co-factor insufficiency, or due to concomitant disease state toxicities, will effect optimal production of ATP. The ability to burn fat for energy will fall off due any kind of mitochondrial dysfunction. Likewise, I suspect that most disease conditions could be improved by improving mitochondrial efficiency.
I have recommended supplementation of individual mitochondrial substrates as part of my nutritional recommendations for the past 15 years. My recommendations were not always received well by oncologists. In past times my patients who had cancers and were undergoing chemotherapy would often tell me that their oncology team of chemoRx providers did not understand why I was recommending the same list of mitochondrial micronutrients to everyone.
Patients were told to stop the mitochondrial micronutrients I had recommended. The oncologists simply did not understand the basic biochemistry of how a cell lives well, or lives not so well. Patients receiving chemoRx for cancer treatment have better responses and less toxicity when they are also using good micronutrients during treatment.
Conventional health providers could do alot of good for their patients if they were to shift more into recommending nutritional biochemistry instead of just toxic pharmaceutical biochemistry.
The only nutritional supplement line I currently recommend for clients is Designs for Health. This company has formulated the best therapeutic compounds I have been able to find, all in one product line. The excellence is based on biochemical science, nutrient purity, and ingenious formulations, as well as absorption and assimilation considerations. This is the nutritional product line which is preferred by most holistic functional medicine practitioners. The products seem to work rather well, and practitioners appreciate this, as do the patients.
Examples of essential mitochondrial nutritional supplements from this product line which I recommend are:
A separate composite product contains all of the above, plus resveratrol and stabilized curcuminoids. These 2 additions assist in mitochondrial regeneration and biogenesis. Please see the description of Mitochondrial NRG. This supplement is good for daily maintenance of healthy mitochondrial function.
The effectiveness of mitochondrial function is also enhanced by the following co-factors which assist in enhanced ATP production, generation of new mitochondria, and preservation of existing mitochondria:
The product descriptions of each of these supplements, which can be seen in the links, will assist further understanding.
Vegans and vegetarians will inevitably suffer some degree of mitochondropathy problems due to deficiencies of those micronutrients which are abundant in meat: carnitine, creatine, carnosine, vitamin B12, and iron. While iron, best obtained from meat, is not directly important in mitochondrial function, it is very important in oxygen transport to the mitochondria, because it is the central element of the oxygen transport molecule hemoglobin.
Please keep in mind that the purpose of mitochondria is to make the energy molecule of life, ATP, abundantly available to the cell by burning oxygen, fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
Mitochondrial health is a very important consideration in every cellular process; from DNA replication and repair, to telomere health, to protein synthesis in the ribosome, to cell membrane integrity…and just everything else in the life of a cell that can be thought of.
As we age, our body produces fewer mitochondria. And when we burn carbohydrates for fuel, the mitochondria suffer more damage from free radicals caused by reactive oxygen species. The body was designed to run more efficiently on fats than on carbs. In shifting our metabolism to what’s called nutritional ketosis, we optimize mitochondrial function and the body’s ability to burn body fat.
The Ketogenic Diet
Mounting research suggests nutritional ketosis, which is the burning of fat for fuel by the mitochondria, may be the answer to a long list of health concerns. Burning fat as fuel is more efficient than burning carbohydrates for fuel. Fat burning by the mitochondria produces less toxic by-products in the cell which may otherwise damage DNA and DNA expression. Abnormal DNA expression causes abnormal cell life activity, and abnormal cell growth patterns.
The key to a ketotic diet is to eat less carbohydrates and proteins, and to eat more good fats.
The goal of a ketogenic diet plan is to improve well being through a metabolic change in which the primary cellular fuel source switches from carbohydrate based fuels (glucose and other simple sugars) to fat fuels and fat metabolism products called ketones. This fuel burning also occurs in the mitochondria and is achieved through a metabolic process called ketogenesis, and a body state called ketosis.
Ketosis is a normal metabolic pathway in which the body cells utilize ketones to make energy, instead of relying on sugar or carbohydrate. Humans developed an evolutionary ability to burn ketones as an adaptation to periods of time when food was unavailable. In like thinking, intermittent fasting is a healthy practice to incorporate in your lifestyle from time to time. It actually improves mitochondrial regeneration and the biogenesis of new mitochondria.
When your body is able to burn fat for fuel, your liver creates water-soluble fats called ketones that burn far more efficiently than carbohydrates. Ketone burning creates far less oxidation damage by reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals; both of which damage your cellular and mitochondrial cell membranes, proteins, and DNA.
To start a ketogenic diet the first step is to eliminate packaged, processed foods. The emphasis is on real whole foods, plenty of healthy fats and as few net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) as possible. This typically involves dramatically reducing or temporarily eliminating all grains and any food high in sugar, particularly fructose, but also galactose (found in milk) and other added and natural sugars.
Ketotic diets usually involve getting fat intake up to about 70-75% of total daily calories. Protein is limited to about 20-25% of calories, and carbohydrates are reduced to about 5-10% of daily calories. When eating like this our body shifts into burning ketones which is a more efficient fuel for the brain and other organs. Food cravings diminish and weight loss ensues.
Some good fats to use in a ketogenic diet are: olive oil, coconut oil, coconut butter, animal butter, avocados, nuts and seeds, omega 3 fats from deep cold water fish, grass fed meat, eggs from free range chickens, MCT oil (medium chain triglycerides), and other fats as is seen on this keto food resource page. There are now a number of good ketogenic diet books available.
A great deal of research is being done on ketosis as it relates to disease. Ketone bodies have some very beneficial effects on the human body, and elevating one’s blood levels of ketone bodies is an effective treatment for many disease conditions because it improves the function of cellular energy pathways and mitochondrial health. Ketogenic diets are now being used to treat medical conditions such as diabetes, epilepsy, autism, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and other conditions. The success of the ketogenic diet treatments is rooted in these cellular effects which are produced in the mitochondria as they shift to burning more fat as the fuel source to make ATP in a cleaner fashion with less oxidative damage to cellular constituents.
Our cells replicate and replenish themselves at the rate of about 10 million cells per second. This means that 10 million cells are coming on-line as 10 million cells are going off-line in every second. We become a new cellular specimen about every 5-6 months, with the exception of the more slowly metabolically active bone matrix, which takes a few years. One can think of a 5-6 month period as a time period to practice deeply nourishing the cellular matrix.
Apoptosis, Autophagy, and mTOR Signalling
This metabolic turnover is assisted by the normal and important cellular process known as apoptosis. This is the term for programmed cell death. If programmed cell death does not occur in a normal fashion, or if the cell does not apoptose should it become abnormal in its DNA repair, replication, and cellular expression, then abnormal or chaotic cell growth can be initiated and promoted. An example of chaotic cell growth and expression which everyone is affected by in some manner is cancer cell growth.
Please consider that cancer cells are obligate sugar feeders, and so they will thrive in a sugar (carbohydrate) biochemistry. Cancer cells can be weakened by taking away their sugar sources. You can look up the ketogenic diet as an example of such an approach. Once again, here is one of the best ketogenic diet resource websites.
The editors over at Southern Living (see the prior Journal) may consider running a special edition on such health thinking in order to make up for the kinds of consumerist toxicities they are currently promoting. This just seems like a balanced thing to do, but our overwrought post WWII consumerist trends currently do not support an expression of global and individual health by practicing minimalism. The current addictive promotion of consumerist trends is unsustainable for the planet. This consuming trend is being driven by peoples’ insecurities, greed, and acquisitiveness. This is a type of cancer energetic in and of itself. People can opt and choose to consume fewer resources by practicing minimalism. It is not necessary to have so much stuff in one’s life.
The initiation and promotion of chaotic cell expression (cancer and other diseases) is likely assisted in part by mitochondrial dysfunction due to insufficient mitochondrial co-factors. This hypothesis is a reasonable and logical one, as it currently relates to apoptosis chemistry. However, it remains to be more fully elucidated in regards to other aspects of mitochondrial biochemistry. In addition to healthy mitochondrial function, vitamin D and melatonin are also important supporters of healthy apoptosis.
Mitochondria also support the important cellular process known as autophagy. This process involves the breakdown and recycling of old and excessive cellular components. Both apoptosis and autophagy are very important processes to insure ongoing health of cell lines. The role of inadequate apoptosis and autophagy in the origination and promotion of cancer is an active area of research.
As one can learn to wean from the addiction of carbohydrate over-consumption, one can also begin the health practice of assisting robust mitochondrial production of ATP. This will insure for maximum vitality, health, fat cell burning, weight loss, and detoxification.
I should state something which is well accepted in functional medicine nutrition circles , metabolomics circles, and paleo lifestyle circles: fat consumption is not the main culprit in weight gain. Carbohydrate consumption is actually the problem to consider. Biscuits are almost pure carbs, and so biscuits and “biscuit poisoning” took the editorial hit in the previous Journal writing. The best diet style is one which is higher in fats, much lower in carbohydrates, and much lower in protein, as was expressed above.
By limiting protein consumption to only what your body needs, you suppress an important metabolic pathway called mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). This will lower cancer risk. The upper limit of protein consumption is 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. To suppress mTOR you should limit protein consumption to 0.5 to 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Your kilogram weight can be calculated by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2 pounds per kilogram.
mTOR signalling pathways are rather complex as these images will attest. It is best to cycle in and out of high fat vs. low fat and high protein vs. low protein dieting. The biochemical benefits are accrued in the re-feeding phase of the cycle. In order to get to this phase one must first enter the stage of relative starvation. Such cycling helps reset mitochondrial sensitivity and other important hormonal cellular signalling pathways which aids in weight control and lean muscle mass gain.
More Biohacking for Mitochondrial Health
Aside from cyclical ketosis dieting and cyclical mTOR activation, other types of biohacking to improve mitochondrial function include intermittent fasting, infrared light exposure (sunlight), cold thermogenesis, and high impact exercises such as rebounding or using vibrational power plate platforms.
Environmental toxins inhibit mitochondrial function. Such toxins can be natural ones, such as mold, or synthetic ones such as the 100,000 types of petrochemical derivatives which have arisen in the post WWII consumerist and technological splurge. Glyphosate, used in GMO crops, is a particularly potent mitochondrial and cellular toxin. The other prominent form of environmental toxin which has taken over in the age of modernity is all types of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) smog. I think the most toxic of the EMF emitters is cell phones.
There are many other kinds of EMF which have infiltrated our lives. We are now awash in an ocean of such radiation exposure. One should consider means to mitigate and reduce one’s exposure to such. I have provided a couple of links to helpful articles on this website in the Reference reading at the end of this Journal.
There are some important baseline lab studies which are helpful in understanding one’s basic biochemistry energy metabolic considerations. It is very helpful to request a proper thyroid panel (TSH, free T4, free T3, a T3 Uptake, and a Reverse T3), a fasting insulin, a fasting leptin, and an adrenal stress index (ASI) from your practitioner to make sure that these basic parameters of metabolism are normal. The ASI should be a salivary study, not a blood study. Holistic functional medicine types of practitioners understand this difference, and can help you get started with the right testing.
Last, but not least, please consider this simple visualization…Imagine that you are a tiny submicroscopic person and you get to take a tour inside of your cells. Or imagine that you can project your consciousness inside of a cell. When you are inside of a cell, you would be able to see the entire workings of the cell.
You would be able to see it because all of the biochemical reactions of energy production and exchange create and spin off biophotonic light which would illuminate your viewing of the amazing intricacies and beauty of cellular life. All of the adjacent cells would also be teeming with Light.
This cellular light is a manifestation of a divinely intelligent Consciousness…That which is who we are.
Signing off from Crestone and Beyond.
You are full of Light…
Other Helpful References:
- The Dangers of Cell Phones
- The Smorgasbord Melange of EMF Delights
- Effects of Stress and Mitochondrial Health
- Rejuvenating Mitochondria with PQQ
- CoQ10–A Nutritional Powerhouse for Mitochondrial Health
- Exploring D-Ribose
- Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster
- How Your Mitochondria Influence Your Health
- Burning Fat for Fuel Increases Quality and Quantity of Life