Does the change of day to night alter the way energy flows within our cells?
The answer will determine the course of action for the brain to take to help adapt to our environment: do we need to dump excess energy, or do we need to store more energy? For instance, when our energy status is high, we no longer need to store food as energy and on the contrary, when energy status is low, we do need to store more food as energy. To make this clear, we all know that when our gas tank is low in our vehicles, we get a warning indicator on our dashboard. This is the signal that we should try to pull into a gas station as soon as we can to refill the tank. As we do so, there is a gauge that determines when the tank is full. Once the tank is full, the gas dispenser automatically shuts off, and we are ready to pay our gas bill. What happens when we continue to keep pulling the trigger on the gas dispenser? The tank overflows, and gas leaks out. This means that excess energy is simply unused and dumped back to the environment.
You may not realise this, but our brain and fat stores work in precisely the same way utilising a biochemical pathway that few know about. In fact, everything that is alive or uses energy follows the same basic principles, because these are laws of thermodynamics. This should be a major clue to you that food and excess calories are NOT the mechanism for obesity. If our fat stores are full, then any excess calories from food will be released from the body, yet conventional wisdom tells us that excess calories are stored as fat. How can this be so if our fat stores are already full? To give you another perspective, why do trucks have larger gas tanks, and yet still do not have the same fuel efficiency of small cars? The difference lies in the size of the engine. Size is negatively correlated with the flow of energy, and it turns out the larger an object, the more energy is required to maintain its current state (or fill the storage tank to satisfy energy requirements). This is another clue that obesity might be linked to a HIGH metabolism, not a LOW one, but we’ll get into that a little later.
Our fat tissue (also called white adipose tissue – WAT) stores energy from food in fat cells known as adipocytes. When we eat food (especially carbohydrates), our blood sugar increases and a hormone known as insulin is secreted from the pancreas to transport sugar from food to cells that require stored energy (i.e. muscle and fat tissue). So feeding is essentially a way for us to “fill up” our fat stores which is equivalent to filling a gas tank. Refueling with food/carbohydrates is ALWAYS a function of daytime and summer in particular, because we are designed to eat when carbohydrates are available and when we are awake and active in summer months. Additionally, when the sun is up, light is shining on us, which means our cells are designed to expand and take up energy. The laws of thermodynamics state that energy always flows from a higher state to a lower state, or from hot to cold. Humans are ALWAYS in a lower energetic state and lower temperature than the sun, and considering food is made through photosynthesis (a quantized process driven by sunlight), the same rules apply with eating. Daytime is all about harvesting and collecting energy and information from our environment to store in our cells.
Now, what happens when the sun sets and the temperature drops and we go to sleep? The flow of energy changes in the opposite direction. Remember, energy flows from hot to cold. Humans are supposed to be fully charged up by sunlight by dusk, and our fat cells should be nice and full from the foods we consumed. As I mentioned in part 1, cold/darkness condenses matter. This means our cells get smaller at night, which now creates an overflow in our cells, and excess energy dissipates back to the environment in the form of heat. This is essentially how we burn our excess fat at night while we sleep, condense our cells to reduce our metabolism and energy requirements which enhances the thermodynamics within our cells so we can become more energy efficient during a time when it is safe to run all the bodily repair and regeneration programs. See evolution has allowed our bodies to sense a “safe” environment from a “dangerous” (stressful) environment. A “safe” environment is one where we have excess energy, and a “dangerous” (stressful) environment is one where we need to store more energy. It would be detrimental to utilize energy for regeneration during the day when we are in an active state and we need all our energy for immune function, exploring, hunting, fighting, fleeing, eating and reproducing. This is how biology adapted to the laws of physics we are all governed by.
Now let’s talk about how light and temperature affect our ability/inability to maximize energy storage capacity. REMINDER: light and heat UNCONDENSE matter. This means during the day, our cells swell and get bigger so they can store MORE energy when it is available from our environment (i.e. sunlight, food, water). This allows us to maximize energy storage. On the contrary, cold CONDENSES matter. This means at night, our cells shrink so they require LESS energy when it is no longer available in our environment (i.e. darkness, sleep). This allows our cells to increase energy efficiency by lowering the metabolic rate.
So what is the take home message? We are designed to collect as much energy from our environment as possible during the day. The way we do this is by uncondensing our cells using sunlight to increase our storage capacity. On the contrary, we are designed to minimize the amount of energy required to regenerate our body at night while we sleep. So what happens when humans live outside of our evolutionary biology and break these laws of physics? What could the implications be of a lack of sunlight and energy from a natural, outdoor environment be? On the contrary, what could the implications be of using fake light at night? Could it alter the way energy flows within our cells? Could it also inhibit the feedback loop between the brain and our fat tissue, inhibiting the brain’s ability to properly account for energy?
We will delve into these concerns in future blogs and explore the biochemical pathways between the brain and fat tissue in more depth.