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ATP; the Current of Life

Adenosine triphosphate or “ATP is referred to as the ‘current of life’ or ‘molecular currency’ as it is literally the energy transfer or power source that makes life itself possible in every living organism. This includes all cellular activity; DNA replication, regeneration and healing, collagen and elastic synthesis, near transmission, and of course, muscle contraction. As the skins the largest organ of the body, and is living, it too requires amounts of ATP to thrive, regenerate and renew itself.” - an extract of an article by David Suzuki, Founder and CEO of Bio-Therapeutic.

ATP is a storage unit for energy derived from sources such as carbohydrates, protein and fats. These nutrients are then used for cellular activity to support life. Carbohydrates, protein and fats are not directly used by the body but ATP, the ensuing energy is. The term ‘currency of life’ is therefore used to describe ATP as it is the only energy molecule which living cells ie a body utilises to support itself.

The body does not store energy for a rainy day but ‘manufactures’ or utilises it on a need to have basis. This function is known as ATP Synthesis or ATP Synthase. You can’t collect food and liquid credits in a bank for the body to use later down the line. The trick therefore, is to provide a constant and consistent supply of nutrients to maintain ATP behaviour at optimal levels as well as a healthy operational environment for ATP.

Studies have shown that a healthy body utilises the equivalent of its own weight in ATP every day. By the age of 60, this production would have diminished by 50%. Without the energy to regenerate and renew, cells will deteriorate and cease to function so getting old literally means running out of energy. Based on this biological process, a lack of ATP in living cells is the top contributor to the ageing process. By default, we can therefore safely state that by assisting the body in upholding ATP’s liaison function of storing energy from sustenance and then supplying cells to live, we can reduce and reverse the signs of ageing.

There are three main chemical reactions which drive the manufacture or synthesis of ATP to support cellular wellbeing; Phosphocreatine (Energy source), Glycolysis (Essential Fatty Acids) and Mitochondria (Oxygen). Let’s take a look at each in a simple way.

Phosphocreatine (Energy source)

Phosphocreatine (or creatine phosphate) is an organic compound which occurs naturally in muscle tissue in the body. Its aim is to contract the muscles with an intense burst of energy which lasts no more than 8 - 12 seconds.

Think of an athlete performing a heavyweight powerlift or a quick sprint. This quick injection of Phosphocreatine is considered to be anaerobic. Anaerobic contractions occur when the body performs at 80 or 90% of a maximum heart rate. The dosage of oxygen required for this explosive muscle contraction will exceed an oxygen supply so the body will look for an alternate energy source, like phosphocreatine.

Phosphocreatine is vital as it help produce ATP. While ATP is the actually chemical process for muscle contractions, very little is stored in the muscle tissue. During a quick and intense burst of exercise, ATP is used within seconds and thereby replenished by Phosphocreatine. Get it?

Glycolysis (Fatty Acids)

The second form of ATP synthesis is known as Glycolysis, whereby glucose is broken down to form pyruvate acid and then stored in muscles. This is also an anaerobic process as oxygen is not required. Unlike the phosphocreatine method which acts in under 12 seconds, glycolysis kicks into gear later, making it almost a secondary ATP reaction.

Glycolysis is the main form of energy for strenuous activities which last between 10 seconds and two minutes. Pyruvate acid is also a vital intermediary in the conversion of carbohydrates to fatty acids which assists the body in fighting inflammation.

Both phosphocreatine and glycolysis represent about 10 - 12% of ATP energy manufactured by the body with both used for quick or intense physical movements.

Mitochondria (Oxygen)

What does your lifestyle activities entail; being sedentary or active? The latter plays a key role on ATP Synthesis. The long term or most consistent form of energy is generated in the mitochondria of the cell. This energy-converting process requires oxygen. So the more aerobic you are, the more your muscles use up oxygen thereby creating a smoother, fluid movement.

We often hear of active individuals testifying to having more energy. This rings completely true. A highly oxygenated environment is the best for ATP synthesis which is why individuals who are in good shape, look and feel better, and maintain strong immune systems.

Now that we know a little about the current of life, we can start applying external energy sources which can be used by the mitochondria to maximise ATP Synthesis and fight the signs of ageing in our skin.

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