In the context of energy production, the body can only make a specific maximal amount of energy each day from the substrates we consume, and this amount can be moderately influenced by external factors such as; exercise, stress, etc. The robust nature of our bodies ability to produce energy is down to the efficiency of our mitochondria, specifically the ability for them to produce ATP from carbohydrates and fats with the least amount of free radical leakage/generation. This is accomplished by having good control over the metabolic processes of energy metabolism which is an elegant dance of:
• Inflammatory set point & response
• Raw material and nutrient cofactors to supports kreb’s cycle and electron transport chain activity
• Well aligned cortisol rhythm/nervous system states
• Good glycemic and endocrine responses to fed & non-fed states
• State of the microbiome phyla ratio
The other side of the coin is that we are able to take in an unlimited amount of energy (as much as can be consumed) and this energy must either be metabolized and utilized or metabolized and stored. This sets the tone for a cascade effect if we are in a chronically overfed state.
When the body has a large energy flux (from an intake perspective), and all the foods are energy dense and nutrient deficient, the stresses to the system are as follows:
1. The gut microbiota must process the everything, and food choices can influence the ability of the microbes to harvest calories from food gets more efficient. This can also result in a functional change in the GI that predisposes us to ratio changes in SCFA production and the overall metabolic abilities and default health status of the gut itself.
2. Excessive amounts of energy being taken in can place a stress on mitochondrial function and the conversion of substrates into ATP is accompanied by a higher production of ROS generation which can ultimately lead to an increased state of oxidation in the cell when antioxidant defenses are not adequate.
3. Lastly the increased production of ROS can switch the cell into a state of metabolic inflammation. This inflammation can damage the mitochondria itself which can be via changes in their fictional capacity, structure, and replication as the mtDNA are close to the principal site of ROS generation.
Now we have a scenario in which the body has now reduced its maximal energy production potential because of compromised mitochondrial function. Any inflammatory based scenario in conjunction with extra stresses that are placed upon energy production demand (ATP synthesis) will result in poor function of this pathway. It will also likely result in perturbation of the endocrine system as it relate to satiety and stress response.
With higher circulating non metabolized energy levels, greater responsibility is placed upon the organs of metabolism and the endocrine system to process what has been ingested. The result is usually high levels of insulin with leptin having been dysregulated (the gut plays a role in this also) and the body is in a “constantly fed” metabolic state where fat metabolism is compromised. If insulin is always high, then fat metabolism is shut off in favor of glucose priority. To add to this, high insulin levels open the door for fat cells to uptake fat and store it. This not only further stresses the system but the inflammatory load can be supported by over-fed fat cells that can no longer sustain energy intake and start to produce their own inflammatory cytokines in the process.
What we end up with is a person who is struggling to find a way to intervene with their situation and has to consider the effect of the following variables as intervention:
• Endocrine dysfunction
• Metabolic insufficiency
This is a unique mix of potential variables as they relate to the person and it is likely never the same thing in two different scenarios. This also explains why caloric restriction and more exercise can only NOT be the answer to fix all problems BUT, it can cause further exasperation of the situation because the system will respond to two additional stressful inputs: lack of energy and more energy production requested.
By Roland Pankewich
Health Optimization Practitioner