Limiting the formation and/or mopping up those excess pesky free radicals, is probably the key to eternal youth. Okay, maybe living forever is something that only happens in movies, but living healthy into your eighth decade and beyond, definitely requires this ubiquitous stress too be dialled down.
Fighting oxidative stress
Now there are lots of ideas out there on how to do it….
- Gobble down foods that are loaded with anti-oxidants, such as peas and carrots and raw eggs.
- Swallow medicines, that have anti-oxidant properties, such as statins and aspirin
- Starve yourself, if you’re not up to it, at least cut your calories SIGNIFICANTLY. Not just for the week after Christmas, for the duration of your life.
The last one seems to work for most living things, from worms to rats, but it is not something seen too often in humans – most of us eat too much. Genuine starvation, usually amps up stress and hastens demise, because it is accompanied by infectious disease.
But scientists at the Gladstone Institute, believe they have uncovered the chemistry beyond the “starvation” effect – and the good news, you don’t actually have to starve to get it to work.
All you really need to do, is change your body’s fuel source.
The tale of two fuels
There are two types of fuel your body runs on.
Carbohydrates, or more specifically glucose and fat.
Now the irony of the current state of affairs, is despite most humans have an ample supply of fat – few of us genuinely run on the stuff. In fact, this is the precise problem in an obese person, instead of running on fat, the overweight person is working really hard to store up fat, for a rainy day, of course. But in our world of feasting (not famine), rainy days don’t come around too often – so the endless supply of fuel just piles up. The extra rolls leave us not looking too good in a bikini and put us at as risk of all sorts of health troubles, especially diabetes.
The reason the modern human body prefers sugar, is both biological and behavioural.
The biological part of the deal, is that burning sugar is a whole lot less work. It requires less oxygen to get the fire going………… and, just like you, the cells in your body are not going to work harder than they need to, to achieve the desired goal. New one carbs on the mount
Burning sugar lights oxidative fire
Eating carbs is inherently more stressful, than eating fat. The stress comes because of the fundamental biochemistry of sugar – it is sticky and abrasive. If the sugar levels inside of your blood vessels rise, immediately after your high carb snack – this is potentially dangerous.
Your body has to do something about it. If everything is working fine, your pancreas releases a truck load of insulin, which drives the sugar into your cells. First destination is the cells that need the sugar to do their thing e.g. muscle cells. If these cells are already adequately supplied, then it goes into short term storage, as glycogen, in the liver and muscle cells, or long term storage in your fat cells.
But, the real oxidative stress begins inside the cell. This is why cells dealing with an oversupply of calories, often shut the glucose gates. When this happens you’re said to be insulin resistant.
Creating oxidative stress
The cell has to turn that fuel, whether it be in the form of a sugar or a fat, into ATP – this is the energy currency of the cell. The process is a real zinger – the electrons from the fuel molecule, get shot into the mitochondria, the cell’s energy factory. The electrons are packed full of energy and as they bounce up and down, the energy in the electrons is channelled in such a way, that it is captured inside the ATP molecule.
There are two different entry points for the electrons.
The first entry point is where sugars are typically channelled, the second entry point is where fats, in the form of ?-hydroxybutyrate, a.k.a ketones, enter. The official names of these entry points are complex I and complex II. The starting point influences the route the electrons take, but in the end the electrons zing around creating cell energy. In the final step, the electrons which have lost a lot of their zing, but not all of it – plop into the arms of an oxygen molecule.
The oxygen molecule catches the last remaining bit of zing – and screetches around looking for a way to dissipate the charge. In a cell, which is functioning well – there are plenty of anti-oxidants which reach out to the super charged oxygen and lend it a hand.
What does oxidative stress DO ?
Nothing much, as long as the cell is not overwhelmed.
In an overburdened cell – there is a high probability that the anti-oxidant help, is not forthcoming and the super charged oxygen crashes into something. The crash and burn………. causes damage, which the cell has to deal with.
Again, depending on the state of play, most cells have contingency plans for such crash and burn events , so they just send in a mop up crew.
But when the cell environment turns into a demolition derby… bad things happen.
Oxidative stress and the demolition derby
If the damage is too big to fix, the cell makes a strategic decision to self-destruct. The self-destruct sequence is called apoptosis, programmed cell death – it can cause trouble, when key cells are missing, think Parkinson’s. (In Parkinson’s disease the dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra are missing).
On rare occasions, if the damage is in just the wrong place i.e. on a strategic piece of the DNA code, the cell does not implode, but instead explodes – going nuts and dividing uncontrollably. The explode scenario often progresses to a tumour. The tumour could be benign or cancerous.
Of course, if the damage is unrelenting – the fix up crew, struggle to keep up as more and more bits, don’t work quite the way that they should, the cell continues to exist, but only just.
Aging is due to oxidative stress
The run down state is what is going on in the aging process. It is inevitable, but for cells having to cope with oxidative stress ALL THE TIME, time speeds up. The cells end up being old before their time.
So for optimum health – you want to keep the levels in check. And the fuel you’re running on matters.
Fuelling the power station
A cell can throw either fuel into the mitochondrial fire – but which fuel is thrown on the fire, changes the cell’s chemistry, since it takes a different set of enzymes to do the job.
There are lots of ways cells regulate which genes are turned on or off. One of the major ways is through enzymes known as HDAC – HDAC stands for histone deacetylases. Histones are a type of protein, which help to wind up the DNA – there is a huge amount of DNA inside the nucleus of a cell, the cell has to keep it all neat and tidy, or it would end up like a ball of knotted wool – unusable. It uses histones to keep the DNA organized. The histone deacetylases move the histones around, allowing different bits of DNA to be exposed and available for use.
When the cell is opting to use ?-hydroxybutyrate (fat), it interferes with the functioning of HDAC1. This causes a shift in the arrangement of the DNA – allowing a transcription factor, a little piece of DNA which switches on genes with the matching code, to go into production.
The transcription factors which are turned on in the prescence of ?-hydroxybutyrate, include FOXO3A and MT2. I know it looks a bit like alphabet soup – but the point to get is, FOXO3A and MT2 are the good guys, when it comes to oxidative stress. They help turn on the cell’s protection mechanisms.
So at the end of the day – a cell burning fat, is actually way better off, than a cell burning sugar, because the cell is not under quite as much metabolic stress.
This research suggests that encouraging a cell to preferentially burn fat, is going to be a better health move in the long run.
Burning MORE fat
The million dollar question is how to do that.
Too burn fat – you have too options.
You need to eat very few calories, significantly less than you need to keep going, so your body reaches into the cookie jar and begins to burn the fat is has stored for a rainy day. This is the premise behind the eat less move more message – the trouble is, this is really difficult to sustain because you’re STARVING ! And your body does not appreciate this state of play and moves you to do something about it – this may include raiding the fridge at two in the morning or turning you into a certified couch potato.
You need to eat a lot less carbs and eat a lot more fat. This is the premise behind low carb diets. The body is going to use what is available, so if you continually supply your body with copious amounts of sugar, whether it be in the form of a low fat twinkie or a plate of pasta, this is what it is going to use.
NB. Fat burning primarily happens at night – so go to bed early.
Running on fat is healthy
I know, for many readers this is heresy, but there is a growing body of scientific evidence, to support the idea that the route to optimum health, is a more low carb, high fat (specifically saturated fat) approach.Suppression of Oxidative Stress by ?-Hydroxybutyrate, an Endogenous Histone Deacetylase Inhibitor. Science (2012) 6 DecTadahiro Shimazu, Matthew D. Hirschey, John Newman, Wenjuan He, Kotaro Shirakawa, Natacha Le Moan, Carrie A. Grueter, Hyungwook Lim, Laura R. Saunders, Robert D. Stevens, Christopher B. Newgard, Robert V. Farese Jr., Rafael De Cabo, Scott Ulrich, Katerina Akassoglou, Eric Verdin.
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|Old dogs can learn new tricks when oxidative stress is less||The body is a master of war games most of the time||Use peanuts to power gold medal sports performances|
The 7 Big Spoons™…. are master switches that turn health on.
|Balance Eicosanoids||Rein in insulin||Dial down stress||Sleep !||Increase Vit D||Culivate microflora||Think champion|
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