Thursday, September 25, 2014

Uncoupling control in defence of FFAs

I've been reading this review on beta hydroxybutyrate and am struck by the concerns expressed throughout about the potential damage caused by free fatty acids, due to uncoupling, a sentiment I have picked up in several of Veech's publications which are heavily cited in the review.

I was particularly struck by how two papers I've recently discussed were described, so it's topical for me. One was the puzzling toxicity of a LCKD diet as published by Wang et al. This is the one using vegetable shortening of indeterminate trans fat concentration, a point sadly un-noted (or considered unimportant?) by the review. And second is the Kuwait study, described as LCKD in the review, which was not exactly glycogen depleting for a rodent.

Aside: This cited study starved rats for three days before ischaemia/reperfusion. That should have depleted glycogen AND raised raised FFAs (neither of which was checked, but any lipophobe should expect uncoupling combined with backup anaerobic glycogen reserve loss to be disastrous in ischaemia/reperfusion) as well as predictably increasing B-OHB. Combined starvation changes in fact reduce the damage produced and improve recovery. End aside.

So I'm a little ambivalent about the review and how much of the rest of their ideas I might take at face value.

Ultimately, thinking about free fatty acids, we have to talk about the control of uncoupling.

Recall this image from this study in part 29 of the Protons thread:

Free fatty acids are essential for proton transport across the inner mitochondrial membrane to uncouple oxygen consumption from ATP synthesis and to maximise electron flow down the electron transport chain with minimal resistance and minimal non essential superoxide generation.

No free fatty acids, no uncoupling. Free fatty acids are core to uncoupling.

But they are far from the only factor. For protons to be transported through the channel of the UCP by free fatty acids the channel must undergo a conformational change, which is highly dependent on the ATP status of the cytoplasm and the mitochondrial matrix.

So we have this picture from this very impressive study:

ATP in the cytoplasm fits in to a specific binding site, with each phosphate moiety of ATP fitting up against a specific arginine, all three aligning results in closure of the channel and inhibition of uncoupling, whatever the FFA concentration. Here is what the authors say:

"Moreover, residues R79 and R279 correspond to the arginines involved in nucleotide binding and protein inhibition in UCP1. According to the three-step binding model proposed for UCP1, β-phosphate of PN [phospho-nucleotide] binds first to R182 (helix IV, loose binding). The second step is the binding of γ-phosphate to R83 after protonation of E190 (tight binding). After the subsequent binding of α-phosphate to R276 (helix VI) the protein switches to the inhibited conformation"

Cytoplasmic ATP (and GTP) inhibit uncoupling. But not all of the time, despite the fact that there is normally always enough cytoplasmic ATP to inhibit uncoupling. So yet another factor comes in to play.

It is quite possible to inhibit the inhibition of uncoupling produced by cytoplasmic ATP.

You do this with mitochondrial ATP. ATP binding from the mitochondrial side of the channel interferes with the binding of cytoplasmic ATP but cannot reach the R83 arginine itself to close the channel. So elevated mitochondrial ATP keeps the uncoupling channel open, even in the face of rather high cytoplasmic ATP levels.

The logic to this is that if there is plenty of ATP within the mitochondria there is no need to preserve delta psi and it's fine to uncouple. If there is ATP in the cytoplasm but very little in the mitochondria the implication appears to be that ATP synthase is not generating enough mitochondrial ATP, i.e. we are either hypoxic or over-uncoupled. Continued glycolysis generates ATP on the cytoplasmic side so allows the uncoupling channel to close using this cytoplasmic ATP.

It's pretty logical.

So. Under hypoxia, whatever the level of FFAs, what happens to uncoupling?

It stops due to a lack of mitochondrial ATP. Should you fear FFAs? Only if you think you will continue to uncouple respiration under hypoxia. The balance of mitochondrial to cytoplasmic ATP should shut down uncoupling very rapidly when needed.

Just say no to Crisco (if that's how Wang et al got their result).

It has long worried me that in Veech's seminal paper on glucose, insulin and ketone metabolism in an isolated heart preparation the group was very, very careful to run the study without any involvement of free fatty acids. For those of us living in a temperate latitudes, lounging on the beach under a coconut palm while waiting for lunch to drop on our heads is not an option. Have you ever been to Lowestoft beach? No ketones without elevated FFAs at latitude 52 deg N on the North Sea coast. Fasting, or living on meat for a while, seems more likely than eating MCTs outside the tropics. I fail to see how the body would manufacture the miracle of ketones at exactly the same time as it releases the devil incarnate of free fatty acids.

Some folks like free fatty acids. Me, for one.

Some of us like uncoupling too, in the right place, at the right time.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ketones for ALS?

OK. I've been thinking a lot about ketogenic diets and motor neuron disease, which appears to me to be just one facet of Alzheimers, Parkinsons and a number of other neurodegenerative diseases.

The first thing to say is that they (ketones) don't seem to work terribly well. I picked up this paper via the Deanna Protocol website. I wrote an unpublished post at the time setting down what an abysmally written paper it is but I thought I would stick to the basics today. Feeding a ketogenic diet to the mice engineered to have an ALS-like disease delays their time to falling off a log but does not extend their lifespan:

"There was no statistically significant difference in the age at death between KD fed animals compared to SOD1-G93 transgenic mice fed a standard laboratory diet (133 ± 4 vs. 131 ± 4 days, p = 0.914)"

Some improved motor function, for a while, may be worth having if you suffer from ALS but I don't think it's exactly a cure or remission.

Although the methods section is very reticent about the diet, it is high in carbohydrate (20% of calories) and protein (20% of calories), so must be MCT based to achieve ketosis.

The findings are confirmed by a nicely written, very clear paper using caprylic acid as a supplement to standard CIAB mouse chow:

"SOD1-G93A animals on caprylic triglyceride diet had a median survival of 135 days. Although it was longer than the median survival of SOD1-G93A animals on control diet (129 days), it did not reach statistical significance (Mantel-Cox test, p=0.165)"

Things weren't much better here in the Deanna Protocol paper. Their ketogenic diet supplied 77% of calories from fat, type unspecified, and essentially zero from carbohydrate. Protein was high at 22% of calories. This is what you get as a result:

"Although the mean survival of SOD1-G93A animals was longer in all three treatment groups than the control group, this difference reached statistical significance only in the KD+DP (4.2%, p = 0.006) and SD+DP groups (7.5%, p = 0.001, Fig. 5, Table 5, Data S2)."

i.e. the ketogenic diet, without the alpha ketoglutarate of the Deanna Protocol, was no better than control mice on CIAB.

All of which is quite interesting and should be quite depressing for groups working with MCTs, ketone esters or ketone salts as managements for neurodegenerative diseases.

We can say certain things about the first two studies. Using MCTs on a moderate to high carbohydrate diet is unlikely to lead to the metabolic changes of a true ketogenic diet. Normoglycaemia is probably not on the menu. It will not lead to the sort of effects of minimal carbohydrate, just adequate protein, very high fat diet. The effect of such a diet has been described as unique.

Of course, a few grams of MCTs on a diet of standard lab chow will generate ketones. That is hardly equivalent to a true ketogenic diet with its reduced glycaemia and basement value insulin levels.

As the paper on the Deanna protocol reports:

"Blood glucose was not significantly different between the diet groups", not exactly what was reported for mice eating D12336.

Ultimately, no one yet appears to have looked at a true ketogenic diet in ALS.

The focus is on the ketones. Ketones are good, but they are not magic. There are people who believe that the ketones themselves are simply a surrogate for very low insulin levels, which is magic (You know who you are Wooo!) and that the benefits of ketogenic diets may stem from the low insulin levels rather than the ketones per se, certainly for obesity management. For neurodegenration I find this idea very appealing. I think that the low glucose/insulin might be particularly important within the brain. I can't see that the work has been done yet, too much of a focus on ketones.

As something of an aside, the Deanna Protocol is interesting in its own right. The core supplement is (arginine-linked) alpha ketoglutarate. From the Protons point of view, if the alpha ketoglutarate enters the TCA at alpha ketoglutarate dehydrogenase and leaves it at malate, it would appear to be a very FADH2 selective input at complex II, generating an NADH:FADH2 ratio of 1:1, i.e. it is functioning as a rather specific FADH2 input. We're all aware that complex I dysfunction is a hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases and, in the absence of beta oxidation (we're in neurons here), complex II is the primary route in to the CoQ couple for electrons via FADH2. Along with mtG3Pdh of course, if that happens to be active. I can see the logic to using this AKG to push complex II without the excess rise in non-usable NADH, which large amounts of acetyl-CoA provide. I'm not surprised AKG is the core component of the Deanna Protocol and hats off to her father for picking this up.

A further aside, Deanna tried coconut oil, caprylic acid and MCTs early on in her disease. Not a lot of help. Adding extra acetyl-CoA from ketones will be of limited help in a condition with complex I dysfunction. My interest still lies in ketones combined with low blood glucose, not as an add on to healthy starches.

It is quite clear from the last post featuring cardiac ischaemia and ketones that any old ketones will do when hypoxia is the problem: Bring on the MCTs. Logically ketones are fats, part pre-oxidised in the liver, so require less oxygen to complete their metabolism in the cardiac muscle. They do not uncouple protons from oxidative phosphorylation either, which we will probably come back to. And while normal fatty acids do uncouple ox phos, this effect is (under normal circumstances) completely lost when mitochondrial ATP levels fall. This probably happens rather quickly under hypoxia.

The energetic failure of neurodegenerative diseases is only partially amenable to ketones. We are looking at a rather different phenomenon to ischaemia and it might be worth looking at the problems of burning glucose in neurons next. And the problems from failing to generate adequate superoxide for maximal health. There's a lot to think about.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Should idiots be allowed to write the methods section of any "scientific" paper?

Time to get back to the blog. We had a great summer and life has just kept on being more interesting than blogging. There are about 20 comments I need to read and approve which I'll do my best to get around to, but I thought it was time to hit the keyboard after the summer holidays.

I thought I would just post briefly on the struggles of trying to work out exactly what a given paper is describing in dietary research. I did set out a post a few weeks ago, being rather derogatory, about this paper on ALS. Here is the preamble:

I feel I should like the paper. Really. What with all this iced water being poured over people's heads in the name of ALS research etc. But it's hard.

OK. We're looking at a ketogenic diet for mice endowed with an engineered model of ALS which is quite similar to one of the familial forms of human ALS.

Being me, I go to the methods section first, to see what they fed the poor mice on. From the philosophical point of view I expect the methods section of a paper to allow me to duplicate a given research protocol. All I am told in this case is that the ketogenic diet is 60% fat, 20% carbs and 20% protein and that it was made by Research Diet, Inc. New Brunswick, NJ. That's it. Now, until RD are bought out by some other multinational company, they have a website and this tells me that they supply only one ketogenic diet, D12336, which is 11% protein 89% fat and zero carbohydrate, pretty much what you need to get a rodent in to mild ketosis. So this research group are using a custom diet, what goes in to it is anyone's guess.

My guess is medium chain triglycerides. I don't think you can get a mouse in to ketosis with protein at 20% of calories and carbohydrate at 20%. You'd have trouble getting a human in to ketosis with this, unless you used MCTs.

This is important because I'm interested in teasing out whether there is any point in the enormous effort and endless tedium of eating a low carbohydrate driven ketogenic diet with thyroid deficiency, lethargy, brain fog, glucose deficiency and auto immune disease predisposition as routine sequelae, not to mention the constipation and halitosis (is this me?), when merely popping down to my local Caribbean corner store for a bottle of coconut oil might do the job equally well.

What goes in to the diet matters. Coconut oil is not safflower oil, is not butter. What goes in to the methods matters. Research must be replicable.

End of preamble. I wasn't best impressed.

Before I go on to think about ALS and what help medium chain triglycerides may or may not provide in another post, I thought I would just like to revisit the lethal effects of a VLC keogenic diet paper on the outcome of induced ischaemia and reperfusion of the myocardium in some hapless rats.

It is fairly clear that using "vegetable shortening" as your primary ketogenic source of calories is likely to destroy your myocardium if you have an ischaemic episode. Your first heart attack might be your last. It took an email to Research Diets to get the information about the probable trans fat content of their diet and confirmed to me that the research group had written a methods section which put their paper, and probably the researchers, in to the garbage category.

The same appears to apply to the flip side. I had wondered what a non vegetable shortening based ketogenic diet might do under the same circumstances. Well I'd missed the study, which fully reinforces my pro-LC confirmation bias. Ketogenic diets are the bees-knees for surviving a period of cardiac ischaemia, Crisco excepted.

So, what does the miracle diet for surviving your next coronary look like? I don't know. You don't know. You can read the full text. You still won't know.

The diet is 60% protein by calories! And 10% carbohydrate. The remaining 30% is "oil". Now you know as much as in the paper. Can you replicate the study, based on the methods? No.

BTW: They didn't even check ketone levels! I think we have to assume MCTs again and assume some degree of ketosis.


The scrutineers also need to be up against the wall come the revolution.

For all three papers. Crap. Even though I like the results.

Hiya all!