Have you ever thought about eating algae? Yes, that green stuff that grows in your fish tank! Now don’t go eating the algae off your fish tank, but algae may make a great addition to your low-carb diet. Recent research demonstrates that microalgae can enable your mitochondria to capture the energy of the sun and produce ATP, like plants! What can I say? You are what you eat!
Think Like a Plant
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could be like plants and convert the Earth’s most abundant energy source into usable energy for your cells? Xu et. al. thought so too and began studying the ability of mammalian mitochondria to capture light and make ATP(energy) when mixed with a metabolite of chlorophyll.1 Just for some quick background, plants are photosynthetic, which means they have something called chlorophyll (plant pigment), critical to the process of converting light and other substrates to ATP. Humans don’t have chlorophyll. We don’t do photosynthesis. We do cellular respiration where we turn glucose into ATP without the use of sunlight in the little organelles called mitochondria found inside all our cells. Organelles are little organs inside cells.
Be the Plant
Back to the study! The researchers looked at this effect in isolated mouse mitochondria, mouse brain, heart and lens homogenates, homogenized duck fat, and live worms of the C. elegans type. In all of these cases, light exposure resulted in an increase of ATP. To keep it simple, pigments like chlorophyll absorb light at particular wavelengths. Penetration of these wavelengths is only limited by the consistency of tissues. For example, photons (beams of light) can penetrate about 25 cm of tissue and muscle of the calf at a wavelength of between 630 and 800. Adipose tissue (fat) can absorb a wide range of photons to excite the chlorophyll. This is something that needs to be studied further, but this implies that this phenomenon may be different over a person’s body and between people’s bodies depending on physique.
Eat Your Veggies
What should you take away from that study? Increased sun exposure and the consumption of green vegetables are linked to overall better health and longevity.2 This study provides a possible explanation as to why.
Let’s take a look at another study considering a specific alga and bone structure/function in mice on a low-carb/high-fat diet. In this study, female mice were fed red marine algae called Lithothamnion calcareum which is naturally found in the Atlantic waters near Ireland and Iceland.3 The purpose was to see if this alga could prevent bone mineral loss – which is exactly what it did. In fact, it’s already available as a supplement under the name Aquamin in Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America! It has been studied and proven successful in providing relief from knee osteoarthritis.4
Now, that is pretty cool! Consider adding algae to your daily regimen of vitamins and nutrients for optimum health as studies continue to provide support for its ability to improve your health. This may be especially important during your transition from a normal, carb-laden diet to a low-carb keto diet. Having that extra energy boost could be crucial!
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