Bones, connective tissues, muscles, organs, heart and vessels, brain and nerves are composed according to Brozek on average to
- 62% water
- 6% minerals
- 16% protein,
- 10 to 30% fat (15% in men, 23% in women)
Not to be confused with body mass compositions where we do not see total water but extra-cellular water (28%).
Minerals but bone tissue with its proteins and water (7%).
The proteins but the muscles with their water (25%) and the viscera with their water (20%).
Pure fat mass, but adipose tissue with its water (on average 20%).
Water is a solvent (agitation of hydrogen bonds at 18 tera Hertz) which allows the circulation of all molecules.
Minerals, all “essential” (brought in from outside), come from the earth, plants or the meat of animals that have consumed soil or plants, are classified in.
- macro-elements: Ca, Mg, P, S, Si, Na, Cl, K
- and trace elements: Fe, Zn, Cu, Mn, Se, Cr, I, Mo, Co, Ni
There is more than 5g total body of each macro-element, less than 5g of each trace element Other mineral elements are present in the body without playing an “essential” role such as fluorine, boron, strontium ( all three bone strengtheners), vanadium, letain …
It also contains toxic minerals: Hg, Pb, Cd, Al, As, Pd …
Minerals and trace elements play multiple roles:
- structure (bone)
- protein configuration (metalloproteins)
- osmotic balance (Na, K)
- electrical conduction (by ionic exchanges)
- secretion of neurotransmitters
- co-enzymatic activation
- activation of receptors (phosphorylation by Mg)
- gene expression (Zn)
- neutralization of certain toxic substances and free radicals (Se, Zn, Si)
Most organic molecules (proteins, carbohydrates, fatty acids) are based on the four atoms: H, N, C, O
Vitamins, 13 in number, are classified as fat soluble A. D, E, K and water soluble: B and C. Fat soluble vitamins:
- A (retinol)
- D (calciferol)
- E (tocopherols)
- K (phylloquinone)
- with carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, astaxanthin, etc.), carotene being a provitamin A
- B1 (thiamine)
- B2 (riboflavin)
- B3 (nicotinic acid)
- PP (nicotinamide)
- B5 (pantothenic acid)
- B6 (pyridoxine)
- B8 (biotin)
- B9 (folic acid)
- B12 (cyanocobalamin)
- C (ascorbic acid)
They play roles
- coenzymes or key activators of the biochemical operations that allow us to function
and also non-enzymatic roles, such as that of antioxidant protection of cells and molecules that circulate either within them or in extracellular environments
Nucleic acids make up the DNA of genes that code for protein synthesis, and messenger and transfer RNAs. Those are :
- pyrimidines: thymine (T) and cytosine (C)
- purines: adenine (A) and guanine (G).
The arrangements of these 4 “letters” hold all the information necessary for the entire manufacture of an individual, biochemical tools which allow him to function, to protect himself, to repair himself, to reproduce.
Amino acids are the briquettes that form proteins from genes.
Essential amino acids (not synthesized by the body and must be provided by food):
Conditionally essential amino acids (the synthesis capacities are not up to the needs under certain conditions):
And non-essential amino acids
- Glutamic acid
- Aspartic acid
Amino acids have multiple functions:
- modulation of genetic expression (eg methylation from methionine),
- assembly of structural proteins forming tissues (muscle, bones, organs, etc.) and functional proteins, the enzymes responsible for biochemical operations,
- synthesis of peptides (ex glutathione),
- detoxification (methylation, glutathione synthesis),
- synthesis of neurotransmitters,
- direct action as neurotransmitters (taurine, glutamate, aspartate),
- production of biofactors (ex histamine),
- source of calories (e.g. hepatic gluconeogenesis, glutamine in white blood cells and enterocytes)
The oses assemble in carbohydrates. None are essential, they are:
- incorporated into DNA and RNA and proteins (glycoproteins),
- a major source of calories,
form hepatic and muscle reserves of calories (glycogen),
- turn into triglycerides (lipogenesis),
- can block enzymatic functions (glycation).
Saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids form lipids. They are :
- are incorporated into circulating lipoproteins,
- form cell membranes,
- are a major source of calories,
- form caloric reserves (adipose tissue),
- serve as thermal insulation (subcutaneous adipose tissue),
- are precursors of biofactors such as prostaglandins and leukotrienes.
Cholesterol plays an essential membrane role (fluidity, rafts on which the membrane proteins are attached). It is a precursor of steroid hormones (cortisol, DHEA, androgens, estrogens…) and of coenzyme Q10.
Lecithin and choline are precursors of acetylcholine.
Only two are essential:
Cis-linoleic acid (omega 6) and alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3).
We also find in the body a considerable number of other non-nutritional molecules, knowing that each food contains from several hundred to several thousand molecules. For example fibers, polyphenols, non-nutritional carotenoids like lycopene and lutein, hormones (phytoestrogens), neurotransmitters, terpenoids, etc … as well as contaminants
The body also contains 10 to 100 times more microorganisms than cells (viruses, archaea, bacteria), including the very important flora of the colon, which represents approximately 2 kg per individual. The genetic information (microbiome) contained in these “aliens” is 25 to 40 times richer than that of our cells (genome).
In addition, each cell contains from 0 (red blood cells) to several thousand mitochondria. They are exbacteria integrated into cells by endosymbiosis (Margulis), possessing their own genome and capable of duplicating themselves autonomously.
Relations between genes and coenzymes
The DNA of each cell is 2 m long. He is very withdrawn. Only 2% of DNA contains genes. 20% do not seem to have any function, but the other 78% have regulatory functions (Encode Study, 2012). Three “letters” among the 4 nucleic acids (T, C, A, G), code for an amino acid (universal code, Watson).
Each amino acid has a particular angulation. The linear information contained in DNA is therefore transformed into spatial information, the enzyme, responsible for biochemical operations. The 3D configuration is completed by electrical attractions and repulsions of the various amino acids and the integration of minerals (e.g. : Zn which has strong affinities for thiol -SH groups).
Most of the biochemistry works on the principle ” key-lock ”
The final form of the enzyme is a lock, the shape of this lock is initially inactive.
Activation is done by means of an enzymatic key, which, once inserted, gives the active conformation of the lock which will then have the exact shape to receive the substrate that it must handle. The attachment of the “key” substrate in the lock will make it possible to perform the biochemical operation for which the protein is intended.
The activating co-enzymatic keys are vitamins and minerals.
We understand better that neglecting the diagnosis and correction of deficits has considerable medical implications. This is the explanation of the major deficiency diseases: beri-beri, pellagra, scurvy, etc …
The deficiencies and even more the deficits (less deep deficiency) being prevalent in the whole population, this has health consequences (eg: the magnesium deficit is the first cause of fatigue, infections, musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular disorders, digestive disorders, psychological and sleep disorders, overweight, etc., in our populations).
These co-enzymatic roles, along with others, such as direct modulation of gene expression, explain the foundations of nutrigenomics. Genetic expression is powerfully modulated by nutrients.
This theory was developed in 1950 by Roger Williams, discoverer of pantothenic acid (B5), under the name of “genetotrophic” concept. It is one of the foundations of nutritherapy. A genetic alteration can be compensated by the use of its vitamin or mineral co-enzymes which revitalizes the failed operation.
Example of 100% genetic hereditary diseases, for which the only treatment is, in general, nutritional (Department of Vitamin-dependent diseases, created by Prof. Saudubray at Necker Hospital). Most of the more common pathologies in which the genetic factor oscillates on average between 20 and 30%.
From in utero development, genes are influenced by diet, deficits, hormones, stress, pollutants… They can be dephosphorylated / phosphorylated, methylated / demethylated, which will modify gene expression. Genetic evolution takes place over tens of thousands of years. Epigenetic adaptation can be immediate. On the other hand, it is reversible if conditions change.
Enzymatic reactions can therefore be activated, but they can also be inhibited.
For example, vitamin E inhibits cyclo-oxygenase, so it is an anti-inflammatory “coxib”.
Another example: polyphenols inhibit aldose reductase, an enzyme responsible for the accumulation of water in the lens and nerves, causing early cataracts and peripheral neuropathies in diabetics.
Relationship between food and body lipid composition
While our protein composition is 100% determined by our genes and independent of food proteins (with the exception of essential amino acid deficiency), our lipid composition (circulating, cell membranes and adipose tissue) is especially the reflection of the quality of the lipids that we ingest.
The current diet provides too much saturated fat, omega 6, not enough monounsaturated and omega 3. These imbalances:
- are a source of overweight (incombustible saturated fats),
- are found in circulating lipids and are a cause of dyslipidemia and cardiovascular pathologies,
- promote pro-inflammatory prostaglandins, factors of allergy, vasoconstriction, platelet aggregation, estrogen-progestogen imbalance and immuno-depression,
- are a risk factor for cancers, especially breast and prostate
Activation or deactivation of receptors, transporters, biofactors
The receptors, transporters and biofactors if they were permanently activated, would cause cacophony in the cell. It must be able to turn them on or off, like turning a television or radio on or off.
This is done either by
- oxidation (in general extinction) / reduction (in general ignition), phosphorylation (addition of P04) catalyzed by magnesium,
- the separation of subunits in the cell membrane (the reunion of subunits which allows ignition is modulated by membrane fluidity, omega 3s, very flexible therefore boost information flows) or in the cytoplasm (the reunion subunits is modulated by affinity factors, eg the interleukin 2 receptor on white blood cells).
Modulation of cellular communications (transduction and second messengers)
Likewise, communications from the inside to the outside of the cell and from the inside of the cell to the nucleus containing the genes are modulated or activated.
As the proteins cannot cross lipid membranes due to their spatial conformation (except in stressful situations where the “heat shock proteins” unwind them), their message is relayed by second messengers. These second messengers can either be activated or extended, or inactivated or have their lifespan reduced.
Ex: noradrenaline triggers both the penetration of calcium into the cell and the increase of cAMP in the cell. The passage of calcium is modulated by magnesium, the lifespan of cAMP depends on the presence or absence of xanthines, such as caffeine.
Almost all endocrine systems are modulated by nutrition.
- The synthesis of thyroid hormones by the availability of iodine (average daily intake of 100 mcg in France while the RDI is 150 and the optimal intake of pregnant women / children 200 mcg in France).
- The activation of the “dormant” form T4 into T3 by deiodinases is catalyzed by selenium (average intake in France 45 mcg for AQR of 70 mcg and optimal intake of 150 mcg).
- Sex hormones come from cholesterol which gives DHEA, which gives androgens, which gives estrogen
- The lack of cholesterol (vegetarian diet, low in cholesterol and rich in phytosterols and therefore statins) can reduce the synthesis of sex hormones, especially with age.
- Estrogens are not only synthesized in the ovaries, but also in fatty tissue via aromatase. Being overweight therefore increases the amount of estrogen, including after menopause.
- Estrogens are transported by HDLs. If HDL contains a lot of saturated fat, their shelf life is increased, if they contain a lot of omega 3, their shelf life is reduced.
- Estrogens are catabolized in the liver thanks to pyridoxal phosphate, an active derivative of vitamin B6 (more than 90% of women in deficit), catabolism increased by phytochemical factors such as Indole 3 carbinol (cruciferous).
- The estradiol receptor is also modulated by pyridoxal phosphate and phytoestrogens.
- On the whole, the nutritherapist, instead of giving progesterone, powerful potentiator of the risks of breast cancer, can effectively modulate the hyperestrogénias by a global approach with the positive side effects.
Energy metabolism and radical leaks
Energy is the foundation of life and the “sinews of war” for all locomotor, metabolic, cardiovascular and cerebral functions, but also immune, anti-inflammatory, antitoxic, cell repair, reproduction, etc.
The first duty of the nutritherapist is to re-optimize the energy of the patients.
Energy production depends on oxygen (complete breathing techniques), calories (slow carbohydrates versus fast carbohydrates, omega three fatty acids versus saturated), the speed of calorie intake to the mitochondria (better distribution of calories, avoid large meals), magnesium catalysis (100% of the deficit population), the number of mitochondria (proportional to muscle mass and physical activity)
Special feature: enterocytes and lymphocytes preferentially use glutamine as fuel. Contributions in glutamine, a conditionally essential amino acid, are therefore very useful in immuno-nutrition and in dysbiosis, digestive pathologies, in particular inflammatory and food intolerances associated therewith.
Carbohydrates and lipids are burned with oxygen, enter the Krebs cycle, and electron transporters, such as coenzyme Q10, concentrate them in ATP, the molecular engine that enables all cellular functions.
5 to 6% of the electrons are not condensed and escape , resulting in superoxide anion, a free radical (comprising an unpaired electron). This unstable molecule, like its radical derivatives, such as the hydroxyl radical, peroxynitrite or simply oxidizing agents such as hydrogen peroxide or bleach, are capable of damaging any molecule.
This radical leakage is the main cause of aging and degenerative pathologies (the frequency of which increases with age): cataracts, AMD, presbycusis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, inflammatory and autoimmune pathologies, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, decline in intellectual faculties, vulnerability to infections, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases….
The other sources of oxidative stress are the activation of white blood cells (or “inflammation”), pollution, protein catabolism.
Catabolism and molecular recycling
Tissues renew themselves at varying rates (except myocardial cells and neurons). All the used molecules are catabolized and either eliminated or recycled To be destroyed, a protein must first be oxidized, then “tagged” by a protein called ubiquitin, finally digested, the amino acids obtained can be reused for other syntheses . These digestions can be carried out in the cell by the lysosomes, or in the white blood cells which have more complex apparatuses, capable of presenting selected antigens (proteasomes).
Blocking, chelation, elimination, detoxification
150,000 xenobiotics reach us from air, water, food, clothing, buildings, workplaces, transport, cosmetics, drugs…
We can block their penetration by different nutrients: fibers, selenium, silicon, zinc, calcium, proteins rich in thiols… We can chelate them in the blood and promote their urinary elimination or neutralize them in the cells, in particular by glutathione. Fat soluble can be eliminated through bile secretions, which is promoted by taurine.
They can be neutralized in the liver by enzymatic reactions modulated by polyphenols and sulforaphane (found in crucifers).
The digestive flora and its multiple functions
The digestive flora is made up of nearly 4000 species of microorganisms whose genetic complexity is only just beginning to be known (microbiome). Half the weight of the stool is due to microorganisms. They are able to digest cellulose, to manufacture alcohol from sugars, to synthesize vitamins (B12, PP, K), to manufacture immunomodulators, anticancer protectors (butyric acid), to modulate appetite, the speed of gastric emptying, modulating blood pressure, influencing cerebral neurotransmissions,… The flora is unbalanced by the excess of sugars, saturated fats, alcohol, iron (meat, supplements), sweeteners and additives, undigested nutrients that arrive in the colon (insufficient chewing, stress that agitates the digestive tract), the use of antibiotics (already present in tap water and food). An unbalanced flora, coffee, aggressive spices, constipation, lead to inflammation of the colon. These factors of digestive dysbiosis and inflammation, present in the vast majority of the population, are major factors of food intolerance, overweight, inflammatory and allergic pathologies, malaise (opioids competing with endorphins), hyperactivity, autism… all pathologies which have experienced exponential growth in recent decades.
Conversely, plants rich in fiber and polyphenols, complex carbohydrates, omega 3s, zinc promote a “friendly”, anti-inflammatory symbiotic flora.
Author Jean-Paul Curtay
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