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The body’s power grid
Depends on billions of mitochondria, tiny energy furnaces, locked inside virtually every cell in the body.
The furnaces can be fuelled by carbs or fats, but to get the fuel burning – the furnace needs to be alight. Since keeping a furnace fully powered continuously, is a costly exercise – the system should only fire up when energy demands require it.
Energy demands fluctuate throughout the day, but as a rule, energy demand spikes when you STOP eating, which should happen, when you’re sleeping.
Striking the match
Quite a few enzymes need to come to the party to get the mitochondrial furnace fired up, but the nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase (NAMPT) is the enzyme who makes the call. This little guy strikes the match to get things going.
He does this by churning out nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide, NAD+ for short. (Aren’t you glad scientists love abbreviations – try saying nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide quickly. Eish !)
The NAD+ is like a key, it turns on lots of things, among them deacetylase SIRT1, which floods the mitochondria with sirtulin 3.
And…………… lift off.
The furnace is firing on all cyclinders.
Who decides when to strike the match ?
Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine were curious…..
So they set about exploring what prompted NAMPT (nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase)
to strike the match ?
- the furnace only needs to light up when fuel supplies are low
- and fuel supplies are low when you’re not eating.
- and you don’t eat when you’re sleeping
The team suspected – clock genes must be involved in the furnace lighting ceremony.
So they created a situation which would require the furnaces to light up in mice – they stopped the little guys eating. They did this experiment in two different groups of mice.
- Group 1 – were normal mice
- Group 2 – were mice with a broken body clock, these mice had been genetically modified in such a way they were missing the main clock gene.
Striking when the clock strikes
As expected, in normal mice, the mitochondrial furnaces fired up, when the energy demand spiked.
So the cells in the mice never went hungry.
But in the mice whose body clock was defective, despite the shortage of energy, the furnaces never fired. NAMPT (nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase) never bothered to strike the match ?
So in these mice, the cells were HUNGRY ! A HUNGRY cell is going to be UNHAPPY and vulnerable.
But, matches are not the only way to start a fire !
Flicking a bic
The research team discovered that they could fire up the furnace without the help of NAMPT (nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase).
Remember, NAMPT set things in motion by churning out NAD+. The team discovered, simply adding NAD+ is able to get the furnaces firing.
So what ?
NAD+ is vitamin B3 in disguise…………….. better known as niacin.
Getting enough vitamin B3 is a requirement – diets deficient in niacin, cause a condition known as pellagra (“rough skin”). The condition is serious, it is characterized by more than just skin troubles, it can cause dementia and death.
But………….. it is pretty hard to be short of vitamin B3.
In the modern world, you far more likely to have TOO MUCH. And it has been speculated that the too much, could be contributing to problems like insulin resistance, obesity and diabetes.
This research explains why – the mitochondrial furnaces are NEVER turned off. They’re churning out energy and in the process creating lots and lots of reactive oxygen species, 24/7.
And those reactive oxygen species, get up to all sorts of mischief, because they cause oxidative stress.
Mitochondria need down time too
So work on co-ordinating your diary with your body clock and supplement wisely.
NB. Too much of a good thing, can be a bad thing – strive to get the nutrients you need from your food i.e. JERF (just eat real food).
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