The human physiology and working of nutrients
Every day, as I increase in knowledge of the function of the human body together with the workings of herbs and the nutrients in them, I am amazed at the power of GOD to have put so much scientific knowledge in place for mankind.
Today, I want to show how the body works to produce energy for all its functions. We shall also see problems that might arise if any of the nutrients is too little or in excess of what may be required for optimal function.
Cellular respiration is the process by which cells convert fuels (chemicals, nutrients) into energy. Energy production (cellular respiration) is the commonest reaction that occurs in the body. The reason for this is not far fetched. Every process or function in the body requires energy and this energy has to be produced in all the 75 to 100 trillion cells in the body. This energy is known as ATP and I intend to give a simple and brief description of what goes on in the body as this energy is produced. There are majorly two types of cellular respiration: aerobic (in the presence of oxygen) and anaerobic cellular respiration. Aerobic cellular respiration requires that oxygen [a powerful electron acceptor] have to be in constant supply. In the absence of oxygen, the human being or organism may die.
ATP stands for ADENOSINE TRIPHOSPHATE. A lot of energy is stored in the phosphate bond of a molecule of ATP. When these bonds are broken, energy is released for work anywhere in the body. These ATP molecules can only store the energy for a short time. The fuels – glucose and fats, take up this role of storing the energy for a longer time. A molecule of glucose produces about 36 molecules of ATP in a single cell. In aerobic respiration where oxygen is required as I mentioned earlier, glucose is needed as the nutrient. This process takes place in the mitochondria, an organelle in the cell, which is otherwise known as the powerhouse of the cell. The mitochondria are specially designed to breakdown glucose and generate energy. The oxygen that we breathe in is what burns the oxygen in the mitochondria. Also, oxygen is the most efficient electron acceptor in nature and it is capable of pulling electrons through the electron transport chain of the mitochondria. This glucose molecule is broken down into carbon molecules, which get attached to oxygen, giving rise to carbon dioxide, a by-product of this reaction.
This is a critical point in energy generation and an attempt in weight loss and weight control. For the human being to lose weight, they have to increase oxygen supply to efficiently burn more glucose or fats and produce more energy. What is important is to deplete the glycogen (glucose stores) and fat cells by making sure they are burnt. This is what happens when an individual does more exercises in order to lose weight. On the other hand, such an individual may decide to go into a dieting programme to reduce the amount of glucose and fats that may be available for storage (storage of excess glucose and fats will lead to increase in weight). For weight loss to take place, more oxygen has to be supplied to burn more and more glucose and fats. Looking at the flip side of this, one would think that in the absence of oxygen, the tendency would be to put on weight. This is not necessarily true because human cells to some extent are able to produce energy when oxygen supply is low. This process, which is an anaerobic cellular respiration, is known as FERMENTATION.
Fermentation leads to what we commonly refer to as lactic acid accumulation and the reason is that lactic acid will be produced in an anaerobic cellular respiration when an individual gets involved in an unaccustomed and strenuous exercise. It is this lactic acid that causes pain in the muscle.
Factors that may affect this reaction one way or the other include oxygen supply, the condition of the arteries and the ability of the heart to pump blood. Furthermore, the availability of the fuels – glucose and fats play an important role. As we can see, phosphorus is needed to form the phosphate bonds of ATP. Supply of phosphorus is also critical to the formation of ATP. We shall be looking at these factors and more in next Thursday’s edition of the Guardian Newspaper.