How Enzymes Work
In order to understand some of the principles, I am going to take an enzyme known as pyruvic dehydrogenase as an example. This enzyme initiates energy production by stimulating the metabolism of glucose, the sugar that is used in the body as fuel for its cells, particularly those in the brain. The combustion of glucose is achieved by its combination with oxygen, the principle of all forms of combustion. We have many different names for this process, depending on the speed of the reaction. Singeing, fire and explosion represent the different speeds of combustion and it must be emphasized that it is never complete. There is always ash.
However, in the body this is a very unique process. The combination of glucose with oxygen begins the complex process of energy production. The “ash” is carbon dioxide and water. The enzyme functions by bringing the oxygen and glucose together but the combustion, known as “oxidation” can only be achieved in the presence of vitamin B1 (thiamine) and magnesium. These are known as cofactors to the enzyme and are supplied in the organic food which we are designed to consume. It is important to understand that this is the gateway to the production of energy which enables us to function and explains why thiamine and magnesium are essential ingredients of health through diet. Without their sufficiency, energy production suffers and an incomplete supply of energy interferes with normal activity of the entire body and brain. This oxidation initiates action in the citric acid cycle, essentially the “engine” in each of our cells. It is a complicated process that I do not need to discuss here, but it leads to the production of a chemical substance known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This substance stores energy and the nearest comparison is a battery. For this reason, it is sometimes referred to as “energy currency”.
An Enzyme Is a Protein
I pointed out above that the protein in food is broken down to amino acids that are absorbed into the body and reconstituted to form the biologically useful proteins known as enzymes. An enzyme is created by collecting a group of amino acids together in a bunch to form a chain. The electrical properties of the atoms and molecules in these amino acids enable the chain to be created by what is essentially a magnetic action between its ingredients.
The next thing that happens is absolutely vital to the biochemical action of the protein/enzyme. The protein has to be folded for storage and unfolded for action. The action of folding is repetitively unique to the enzyme. Research that is going on concerning this process is essential to a better understanding of an associated disease process. Mother Nature dictates the folding process which is exquisitely complex. In order to understand how this automatic process takes place, we need to know the exact design and electrical properties of the chain, facts that are still hidden in mystery. What we do know is that there is a whole series of diseases where the enzymes are misfolded or even completely unfolded. Unlocking the exact method by which folding and unfolding takes place leads to an understanding of the basic cause of the respective disease in which this mechanism has failed. There are about 50 different diseases in which this mechanism is responsible. As a group, the respective diseases are known as proteopathies. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are both known as examples of proteopathies and their solution depends on our understanding of this folding and unfolding process. A review of this field of science refers to the advances that have been made over the last decade in our understanding of the fundamental nature and consequences involved.
The Role of Thiamine in Protein Folding
It has long been known that thiamine is involved in the metabolism of Alzheimer’s disease and some attempts have been made to use megadoses of thiamine in its treatment. In fact, the earliest and perhaps best example of an interaction between nutrition and dementia is related to thiamine. Throughout the last century, research showed that thiamine deficiency is associated with neurological problems including cognitive deficits and encephalopathy. Multiple similarities exist between classical thiamine deficiency and Alzheimer’s disease. Benfotiamine, a derivative of thiamine ameliorated the clinical and biological pathologies that define Alzheimer’s disease. A 12-month treatment with this agent tested whether clinical decline would be delayed in the treated group compared to a placebo group. There was a “nearly statistically significant improvement” in the treated group, a fact that the authors have concluded that they need to repeat the study. A huge number of proteins that occur in the body have to be folded into a specific shape in order to become functional. Because of the known involvement of thiamine, it has been hypothesized that it plays an important part in the folding and unfolding mechanism of the respective proteins.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
We have hypothesized that thiamine deficiency disease is common in America because of what we have called high calorie malnutrition. It has suggested that this common form of diet acts as a forerunner to one of these proteopathies because of the prolongation of the deficiency. We have suggested that the symptoms caused by high calorie malnutrition are those that collectively give rise to “the walking sick”, the individuals that are haunting the offices of physicians and who are being so frequently diagnosed as psychosomatic disease. Many of these patients have done their own research work and have concluded that the symptoms are arising from vitamin deficiency disease. Many have learned this from the posts on this website. When they go back to their physicians, claiming the true cause of their symptoms, they are almost invariably ignored and often considered to be psychiatric cases. Without a proper discussion concerning diet, many of these individuals continue with the symptoms indefinitely, concluding that they have untreatable disease. Perhaps they are not particularly surprised and may even be a little relieved when new symptoms have appeared and are diagnosed as a recognizable neuropathy such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. That is why it has been hypothesized that thiamine and magnesium are “keys to disease“.
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