Traditionally, biologists have used the concepts in Newtonian physics to explain biological phenomena but this has never proved to be very satisfactory. So I was delighted to watch Professor Jim Al-Khalili, in his series “The Secrets of Quantum Physics”, explore how quantum physics explains some of the mysteries seen in biological systems.
Episode 2 of his series “Let There Be Light” focusses on interesting problems which have never been satisfactorily explained before - questions like 'how do birds navigate so accurately?', 'how does chlorophyll capture light so effectively and transform it into physical matter?','how do enzymes work so efficiently?' and the 'mechanism of DNA mutation'.
Newtonian physics describes how matter is constructed in simple terms and is easy to visualise and understand. It is seductive in terms of using it to explain the natural world because it makes sense to our minds. Matter appears to our experience as solid and acts in a consistent manner and therefore Newtonian physics appears to describe how our world works.
Quantum physics, on the other hand, can be quite difficult to bend our minds around as it describes our world as being made of particles which can either be in a state of a particle or a wave and can be both at the same time. It depends on what method we use to try and visualise these particles as to whether we see them as particles or waves.
The exciting thing, to my mind, about using quantum physics to look at biological systems, is to imagine the interactions between different molecules occurring as vibrations (waves) rather than a physical entities. This makes it easier to see how the energy that is contained within molecules affects how they interact.
I had a kind of eureka moment, from watching some of his explanations, of how our receptors interact with molecules to give us our sense of smell and realised that this explains beautifully how synthetic molecules differ from biological ones.
Biological molecules are in a higher energy state due to the amount of energy captured from the sun in the form of photons. As long they do not have too much physical processing applied to them, they remain in a high energy state when they are consumed which will affect the amount of energy they can give us and how good we feel when we eat these types of food.
This explains why we feel better and do better on foods which are closer to nature such as wholegrain brown rice, compared to rice krispies. Rice krispies are ultimately based on rice grains but they have had all the nutrients processed out of them, using chemicals and high levels of heat, and goodness knows what else, and have had synthetic chemicals put back in, so that they can still be called food.
You can easily prove the difference between these two “foods” to yourselves, by trying to eat a diet which consists solely of either rice krispies and water, or cooked brown rice and water. The first diet is very unsatisfactory to the body and would be difficult to sustain for any length of time. The second, whilst being boring to the palate and the mind can be much more satisfying to the body and has been used as a great healing tool to assist digestive distress by many nutritional therapists.
How do we apply this understanding to the differences between synthetic and natural or food state supplements?
Most interactions that occur in biological systems occur through binding to receptors. That means binding to the receptors on cell membranes to trigger a reaction within the cell or binding to the receptor sites found within enzymes to allow chemical reactions to occur much more quickly.
We can use the description given by Professor Al-Khalili of how our sense of smell works to understand that the bonds within molecules will vibrate at different rates depending on how the molecule is structured. The molecular bonds within a synthetic molecule will vibrate at a different rate than the molecular bonds found within food or foodstate molecules. This means that when the more natural molecules are attached to the receptor sites they will trigger a reaction more effectively and work more efficiently in the body. The net result of this is that natural foods and food state supplements are absorbed more effectively into the body, they are held onto for longer by the body and make a bigger difference to the biochemistry of the body. The end product of this is that that we get more energy, better hormone balance, improved digestive function and better immune system support. Over time this means restoring your body to a better state of health and this is why, as part of the Natural Fertility Centre, I developed our food state supplements.
When you come to read this blog it is likely that the programme “Let There Be Life” by Professor Jim Al-Khalili may no longer be available on iplayer, however, it is still likely to be found on youtube and also Professor Jim Al-Khalili can be found on Ted Talks. His talks are always entertaining and illuminating.
Dr Jane Jamieson PhD, Nutritionist, The Natural Fertility Centre