Anti-Aging Benefits of Carbon Dioxide

antiagingarticleIn the 1950′s Dr. Denham Harman proposed that highly reactive molecular pieces known as free radicals are a major component in the aging process. Free radicals are atoms or molecules containing a unpaired electron, and because electrons normally exist in pairs, a singular electron is far more unstable. The problem begins when the free (radical) electron in looking to get ‘paired up’, steals a electron from its neighbor causing that molecule to morph into another radical. These reactive oxygen and nitrogen species wreak havoc on cell membranes and DNA in the mitochondria underlying a host of inflammatory illnesses as well as the major killer’s cardiovascular disease and cancer. Harman’s theory now forms the basis of anti-oxidant research especially as it is applied to free radical damage in the mitochondria.

The mitochondria are far more susceptible to these reactive molecular species then are the cells themselves because the mitochondria are in much closer proximity to oxidative phosphorylation pathway that generates adenosine triphosphate ATP, the body’s energy currency along with molecules that have the potential of forming reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Nitric oxide is a critical signaling molecule produced by immune cells, nerve cells and endothelial cells and necessary for these systems to function. Peryoxynitrate is a reactive nitrogen species and highly damaging, and at the cellular level one of the main causative factors in mortality. When you think of old age, think of peryoxynitrate.

There are a few scavengers of peryoxynitrate that help keep it in check and glutathione is regarded as the body’s chief anti-oxidant but in fact has little ability to scavenge the worst of the offenders, peryoxynitrate. Alpha lipoic acid does bind with super oxide oxygen radical in the cytoplasm which limits peryoxynitrate. According to the Oxford Textbook Of Medicine, it is carbon dioxide that is the chief scavenger of peryoxynitrate. It should be noted that carbon dioxide is one of the end products in the production of ATP through the oxidative phosphorylation cycle and as such not only functions in its capacity as a free radical scavenger, but also forms the basis of four out of the nine Krebs cycle intermediaries on the ATP transport chain.

Peryoxynitrate is formed by one nitric oxide molecule and one super-oxide molecule. Glutathione peroxidase helps to break down super-oxide but can be inhibited if mercury is present that displaces selenium needed for the enzyme to break down the super-oxide into water. If your immune system is over activated due to infection from a virus or bacteria, the immune cells will be producing excess nitric oxide and setting you up to get hit by the peryoxynitrate that is formed.

Superoxide is a byproduct of ATP as is carbon dioxide, so when you are making ATP and the system is working as it should; you produce the very thing needed to scavenge the peryoxynitrate, CO2. Another one of nature’s wonders – Nitric oxide is found outside the mitochondria; super-oxide is inside the mitochondria and as long as they remain compartmentalized then mitochondrial DNA is protected. However, sufficient free radical damage to the mitochondria will affect a switch over from oxidative metabolism to fermentative metabolism where overall energy production is considerably down-regulated. Not only do you produce less ATP, but carbon dioxide is no longer created as an end product in fermentative metabolism.

The net result now is that you are trapped in a downward metabolic spiral characterized by a smoldering metabolism that produces little energy and a cascade of free radical damage let loose on cell membranes and mitochondrial DNA. The loss of endogenous carbon dioxide due to the shift to fermentative metabolism induces an extreme stress throughout the system and is characteristic of the aging process as well as many chronic illnesses.

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