"If we learn to see problems in terms of a general disorder of energy metabolism, we can begin to solve them." - Ray Peat, PhD
The dark days of carbohydrate restriction bore more than the Teletubby version of myself; it created the concept of "safe-starches" and the universal acceptance of fructose being a toxin.
The benefit of "safe-starches" is that they soften the excruciating mental transition low-carbers face when escaping no-sugar island. Similar ideas helped me crawl out of my zero-carb coma a few years ago.
The downside, of course, is that the very idea of "safe starches" prevents the zombie corpse of carbohydrate-insulin-hypothesis (carbohydrates "spike" insulin causing disease) from entering its coffin.
If fact, I wouldn't be surprised if there was a direct correlation between the phrase "Is this a safe-starch?" and the mobilization of living dead.
Paradigm Shift: Support Your Metabolic Rate
Carbohydrates are an important aspect of restoring and supporting a healthy metabolic state. Because many have a history of restricting carbohydrates, the question of, "how many?" comes up frequently.
Instead of subscribing to a golden macronutrient ratio or a divine number of grams per day, let's answer this question right now, together.
Reader Exercise: Raise two fingers, plant them against your neck, and set a one minute count down on your Motorola PEBL™
Your pulse rate, along with your body temperature, mood, libido, and susceptibility to stress, may be a window into your body's ability to produce energy:
"The combination of pulse rate and temperature is much better than either one alone. I happened to see two people whose resting pulse rates were chronically extremely high, despite their hypothyroid symptoms. When they took a thyroid supplement, their pulse rates came down to normal. (Healthy and intelligent groups of people have been found to have an average resting pulse rate of 85/minute, while less healthy groups average close to 70/minute." - Ray Peat, PhD
If one finds a low pulse rate and/or low body temperature this may suggest suboptimal energy production. Taken in context with the idea that defects in health are the result of inhibited cellular energy, this is significant.
While it may seem far-fetched to influence cellular metabolism, there are several known factors that promote energy production.
Efficient Energy vs. Inefficient Energy
Peat's thesis is that energy and structure are interdependent. While our diet, lifestyle, and environment serve to "wear us down" overtime, the ability to "rebuild" depends on our production of energy:
"I see the interaction between the flow of energy (e.g. between a sugar and oxygen) and the structure as one in which the flow is retarded by the structure, and used by the structure, in maintaining and complexity itself. (Another way of looking at this is that if energy can do something, it does something; and what it it does is build structure. The life structure is a kind of energy charge, but the important thing is the spontaneous nature of the interactions, in the presence of an energy supply.) The chemical nature of the energy source (and the energy "sink," which is usually oxygen) influences the nature of the structure-building." -Ray Peat, PhD
A highly efficient way of producing energy is called an oxidative metabolism. Oxidation refers to the mitochondrial use of oxygen to produce carbon dioxide (CO2) and lots of energy (ATP).
Low levels of oxygen interrupt this process, shifting the cells energy production to glycolysis; a drastically less efficient way to obtain energy:
"A point made by O. Warburg and A. Szent-Gyorgyi and others is that there is an important difference between the energy provided by glycolysis and that provided by mitochondrial respiration. They felt that glycolysis was a more primitive form of energy production, and supported only primitive function and cell division, while the more efficient respiration supported cell differentiation and complex functioning." Ray Peat, PhD
Besides not providing as much energy as oxidation, glycolysis produces lactic acid instead of carbon dioxide:
"We know that glucose can be metabolized into pyruvic acid, which, in the presence of oxygen, can be metabolized into carbon dioxide. Without oxygen, pyruvic acid can be converted into lactic acid." - Ray Peat, PhD
Lactic acid can "burden" the organism by "using up" liver glycogen:
"Glycolysis is very inefficient for producing usable energy compared to the respiratory metabolism of the mitochondria [oxidative energy], and when lactate is carried to the liver, its conversion to glucose adds to the energy drain on the organism." - Ray Peat, PhD
If you'll remember, stress increases the need for glucose. If liver glycogen is depleted adrenaline will release free fatty acids from the tissue for fuel and glucose will be supplied by cortisol from protein. Free fatty acids in the serum reduce thyroid signaling, damage tissues, and inhibit the use of glucose via the Randle cycle.
Er... yeah, o.k., Danny-Roddy-college-drop-out-fantasy-synthesizer... How do you suppose we promote the use of oxygen?
Carbon Dioxide & Oxygen
Much of Peat's attention is given to the role of carbon dioxide in health. While the beneficial mechanisms of carbon dioxide are multifaceted, one of its key features is its ability to release oxygen into the tissues. In other words, you can't use oxygen efficiently without carbon dioxide:
"...Carbon dioxide, produced in the cells, releases oxygen into the tissues, relaxes blood vessels, prevents edema, eliminates ammonia, and increases the efficiency of oxidative metabolism." - Ray Peat, PhD
"[Glycolysis] Meaning the entry of lactate into the blood stream inappropriately, which would usually be called aerobic glycolysis, though you can't be sure how much oxygen is getting to the cells when CO2 is deficient, since its absence causes many problems in oxygen delivery and use." -Ray Peat, PhD
The production of carbon dioxide depends largely on thyroid hormone (T3) and the health of the mitochondria where CO2 is produced:
"The vitality of the mitochondria, their capacity for oxidative energy production, is influenced by nutrition and hormones. In healthy people, mitochondria work efficiently at almost any altitude, but people with damaged or poorly regulated mitochondria are extremely susceptible to stress and hyperventilation. Progesterone, testosterone, and thyroid (T3 and T2) are protective of normal mitochondrial function, by both local and systemic effects." - Ray Peat, PhD
Fat vs. Starch vs. Sugar: Which Supports CO2 Best?
In the context of supporting oxidative energy, there are several problems with using fat as a main source of fuel:
"When carbon dioxide production can be measured at the same time as oxygen consumption, it's possible to estimate the proportion of energy that is being derived from glucose, rather than fat or protein, since oxidation of glucose produces more carbon dioxide than oxidation of fat does. Glucose oxidation is efficient, and suggests a state of low stress." -Ray Peat, PhD
When deciding whether to obtain carbohydrate from "safe starches," low-calorie vegetable matter, or fruit, consider that sugar (especially fructose) is supportive of CO2 production:
"It is concluded that both fructose and glucose-induced thermogenesis occurs exclusively in extrasplanchnic tissues. Compared with glucose, fructose ingestion is accompanied by a more marked rise in CO2 production, possibly reflecting an increased extrasplanchnic oxidation of lactate and an accumulation of heat in the body."
Moreover, when glucose oxidation is inhibited (diabetes, Randle cycle), fructose provides pyruvic acid for oxidative energy:
"One of the points at which fatty acids suppress the use of glucose is at the point at which it is converted into fructose, in the process of glycolysis. When fructose is available, it can by-pass this barrier to the use of glucose, and continue to provide pyruvic acid for continuing oxidative metabolism, and if the mitochondria themselves aren't providing sufficient energy, it can leave the cell as lactate, allowing continuing glycolytic energy production. In the brain, this can sustain life in an emergency." - Ray Peat
Fat Soluble Vitamins & CO2
While carbon dioxide supports oxidative energy, it is also crucial for "activation" of fat-soluble vitamins:
"Both Vitamin D and vitamin K, another important calcium-regulating nutrient, are now know to prevent diabetes. Both of these vitamins require carbon dioxide for disposing of calcium properly, preventing its toxicity. When carbon dioxide is inadequate, for example from simple hyperventilation or from hypothyroidism, calcium is allowed to enter cells, causing inappropriate excitation, sometimes followed by calcification." - Ray Peat, PhD
Chris Masterjohn explains that carbon dioxide is "critical cofactor" in the use of vitamin K:
"Another point you might be interested in: when vitamin K "activates" proteins, it "carboxylates" them, which means to add a carboxyl group, which is COOH. The carboxyl group is derived from carbon dioxide. So it is essentially adding a carbon dioxide molecule to the protein, and thus carbon dioxide is a critical cofactor in vitamin K-dependent carboxylation or "activation" of proteins." - Chris Masterjohn
- Adopting the idea of "safe-starches" reinforces the idea that carbohydrates are inherently toxic.
- Pulse and body temperature are two self-diagnostics that can be used to guide the consumption of sugar, salt, protein, and saturated fats.
- A deficiency of CO2 causes problems with the delivery and use of oxygen by the mitochondria (inhibits oxidative energy).
- Sugar oxidation provides more CO2 than fat oxidation.
- Carbon dioxide is a co-factor for several important fat-soluble vitamins.