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An amazing study published in the Journal of Cell Science reveals an entirely new reason why it is essential that you 'eat your greens,' as mother always said, namely: it enables your body's mitochondria to produce more ATP energy when exposed to sunlight.
The study titled, "Light-harvesting chlorophyll pigments enable mammalian mitochondria to capture photonic energy and produce ATP", indicates that by eating a chlorophyll-rich diet mammals (and by implication humans) can capture specific wavelengths of sunlight radiation that will translate into increased energy within the powerhouses of the cell known as the mitochondria.
The researchers, working out of Columbia University Medical Center, conducted a number of experiments in order to ascertain whether animals as well as plants can use light-absorbing chlorophyll molecules to capture light energy for ATP synthesis.
While it has been prevailing wisdom that only plants can use sunlight directly for producing energy (photosynthesis), it can not be denied that not only do many animals consume chlorophyll through their diet but that research has been performed showing chlorophyll metabolites "retain the ability to absorb light in the visible spectrum at wavelengths that can penetrate into animal tissues." (Ferruzzi and Blakeslee, 2007; Ma and Dolphin, 1999). Given these facts, the authors of the new study "sought to elucidate the consequences of light absorption by these potential dietary metabolites." What they discovered was simply remarkable:
We show that dietary metabolites of chlorophyll can enter the circulation, are present in tissues, and can be enriched in the mitochondria. When incubated with a light-capturing metabolite of chlorophyll, isolated mammalian mitochondria and animal-derived tissues, have higher concentrations of ATP when exposed to light, compared with animal tissues not mixed with the metabolite. We demonstrate that the same metabolite increases ATP concentrations, and extends the median life span of Caenorhabditis elegans [worm], upon light exposure; supporting the hypothesis that photonic energy capture through dietary-derived metabolites may be an important means of energy regulation in animals. The presented data are consistent with the hypothesis that metabolites of dietary chlorophyll modulate mitochondrial ATP stores by catalyzing the reduction of coenzyme Q. These findings have implications for our understanding of aging, normal cell function and life on earth.
For detailed descriptions of their study methods and results, view the full pdf online here.
The implications of this study are truly profound. ATP production is essential for the health of our body, from the level of the cell all the way up. When ATP production is compromised through suboptimal nutrition, environmental exposures, or non-adaptive stress, disease and accelerated aging are inevitable. Even when these adverse variables are not a factor, ATP production will naturally fall off as we age, leaving a role for nutritional interventions that can help to increase ATP synthesis without, for instance, increasing oxidative stress or causing exhaustion or imbalances elsewhere. Clearly, a plant-based diet rich in chlorophyll will have certain advantages over one without this compound (and its metabolites). Also, chlorophyll and/or it's metabolites may be an ideal nutritional and/or functional medical intervention for the growing number in the post-industrial world whose cellular machinery is already deeply compromised and functioning far below optimal levels.
If this cell and animal research holds true for humans, a chlorophyll-deficient diet, along with a deficiency of sunlight exposure, would lead to significantly lower ATP production. Given this possibility, wouldn't it be amazing to begin looking at the green wavelengths of color in the produce case as a source of energy for the powerhouses of the cell (mitochondria), as potential age-decelerating agents, or as a means to increase one's sense of energy and health by allowing you to capture the sun's energies directly within your body? I believe this is exactly what this research indicates and makes it all the more compelling to got out of your way to include deep green veggies and living, chlorophyll-rich foods in your diet on a daily basis, does it not?
Is A Radically New Understanding of Cell Bioenergetics On the Horizon?
It's really not that hard to believe that the human body can capture and utilize sunlight when you consider the extensive body of research that already proves we emit low levels of light (below the threshold of visibility) known as biophotons. And this study is actually only the tip of the iceberg! Two new studies just published and well worth reading, argue that our bodies evolved the capability to capture the energy of the Sun directly through melanin, as well as other components within our cells, in a process known as "extrasynthesis of ATP."
The first study, titled, "Did human hairlessness allow natural photobiomodulation 2 million years ago and enable photobiomodulationtherapy today? This can explain the rapid expansion of our genus's brain", argues that human hairlessness evolved approximately 2 million years ago because it made possible the conversion of sunlight wavelengths into chemical energy within our cells. By making possible the exposure of our skin to a consistent and significant source of ultraviolet radiation, the genetic mutation leading to hairlessness was positively selected for, leading to a number of downstream effects, including the accelerated growth of the energy-hungry neocortex portion of our brains. Here is the extraordinary abstract:
Present hypotheses to explain human hairlessness appear to be inadequate because hairlessness is not accompanied by any immediate benefit. A new, testable, hypothesis is advanced to explain our hairlessness based on photobiomodulation research, also known as low-level light therapy. This shows that red and near infrared radiation has a very beneficial effect on superficial tissues, including the brain. Random mutation/s resulting in complete hairlessness allowed early humans to receive daily doses of red and near infrared radiation at sunset. Photobiomodulation research shows this has a twofold effect: it results in increased mitochondrial respiratory chain activity with consequent ATP 'extrasynthesis' in all superficial tissues, including the brain. It also advantageously affects the expression of over 100 genes through the activation of transcription factor NFkB which results in cerebral metabolic and haemodynamic enhancement. It is also possible that melanin can supply electrons to the respiratory chain resulting in ATP extrasynthesis. These effects would start automatically as soon as hairlessness occurred resulting in a selective sweep of the mutation/s involved. This was followed by the very rapid brain evolution of the last 2my which, it is suggested, was due to intelligence-led evolution based initially on the increased energy and adeptness of the newly hairless individuals.
The second study, even more extraordinary in its hypothesis and implications, and titled "Beyond Mitochondria, What would be the Energy Source of the Cell?", argues that melanin (the archetypal pigment molecule) is capable of providing up to 90% of the cell's energy needs through capturing and converting sunlight into chemical energy (specifically, disassociating and reforming H20). If proven true, this view would profoundly decenter the glucose-centric view of cellular energetic which presently dominates cell biology, with many deep-reaching implications to the field of nutrition and medicine. Here is the amazing abstract:
Currently, cell biology is based on glucose as the main source of energy. Cellular bioenergetic pathways have become unnecessarily complex in their eagerness to explain that how the cell is able to generate and use energy from the oxidation of glucose, where mitochondria play an important role through oxidative phosphorylation. During a descriptive study about the three leading causes of blindness in the world, the ability of melanin to transform light energy into chemical energy through the dissociation of water molecule was unraveled. Initially, during 2 or 3 years; we tried to link together our findings with the widely accepted metabolic pathways already described in metabolic pathway databases, which have been developed to collect and organize the current knowledge on metabolism scattered across a multitude of scientific articles. However, firstly, the literature on metabolism is extensive but rarely conclusive evidence is available, and secondly, one would expect these databases to contain largely the same information, but the contrary is true. For the apparently well studied metabolic process Krebs cycle, which was described as early as 1937 and is found in nearly every biology and chemistry curriculum, there is a considerable disagreement between at least five databases. Of the nearly 7000 reactions contained jointly by these five databases, only 199 are described in the same way in all the five databases. Thus to try to integrate chemical energy from melanin with the supposedly well-known bioenergetic pathways is easier said than done; and the lack of consensus about metabolic network constitutes an insurmountable barrier. After years of unsuccessful results, we finally realized that the chemical energy released through the dissociation of water molecule by melanin represents over 90% of cell energy requirements. These findings reveal a new aspect of cell biology, as glucose and ATP have biological functions related mainly to biomass and not so much with energy. Our finding about the unexpected intrinsic property of melanin to transform photon energy into chemical energy through the dissociation of water molecule, a role performed supposedly only by chlorophyll in plants, seriously questions the sacrosanct role of glucose and thereby mitochondria as the primary source of energy and power for the cells.
For those with a serious interest, please contact me at email@example.com for access to the full studies and potential inclusion in a discussion group related to these topics.