Our cells are pretty smart little machines when you study them closely. We eat foods, and the nutrients are processed in the digestive system, and then distributed to the bloodstream. These nutrients enter the cells and a series of chemical reactions occur. The mitochondria in our cells are responsible for energy creation. AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) has been found to increase the number of mitochondria in the cells. As cells age, the number of mitochondria decreases.
Our body’s energy is dependent on the production of ATP (adenosinetriphosphate). As the number of mitochondria decline with age, we create less energy. The output of the mitochondria is an energy molecule called ATP. As the body needs energy, ATP is released. There is a byproduct of this energy release. It is adenosinemonophosphate (AMP). The cell starts out with three phosphate atoms in the ATP molecule and ends up with one.
As ATP is used up in the cell, AMP levels rise. As the AMP levels rise, AMPK is activated within the cell. The cell is losing ATP which is the primary energy source. AMP cannot continue that function; however, AMPK can cause increases in fatty acid oxidation and glucose transport. These two mechanisms cause energy to be extracted from stored fats. AMPK promotes energy release from fat storage and inhibits energy storage as fat. As a result, the cell’s ability to provide energy never goes below a pre-set level. The energy needs of the body are met by the cell and fat storage.
Animal studies show that high levels of AMPK extend their lifespan by 30 percent. The animals are more active in their later lives with normal biomarkers of health. The body has an ability to clean up dead wood, so to speak. Cells become dysfunctional (unable to perform their intended functions) over time. These cells that have outlived their usefulness are recycled in a process called autophagy. The damaged parts of a cell are eliminated. If left untreated, disease can grow from damaged DNA and other non-functioning cellular components (misfolded and damaged proteins, for example).