Deuterium – Deuterium depletion and what it means.

I heard about deuterium for the first time recently. It plays such an important roll in health that I was consumed with trying to understand what it was and what the implications were on our health. The science is relatively new and the impact of deuterium on health is only now being understood.

Deuterium is an isotope of hydrogen. Hydrogen normally has an electron and proton while deuterium is hydrogen with both the electron and proton but also a neutron.  As we know, water molecule is made up of two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen. Water made from this hydrogen isotope is known as heavy water or deuterium and it’s twice the weight of a water molecule.  Deuterium occurs in nature at around 155ppm. In our body, which is 60% water, we should aim to have less than that at 120-130ppm.

The mitochondria in our cells make water, known as metabolic water. It is deuterium deplete. The mitochondria in our cells take hydrogen molecules, suck up oxygen molecules and produce water, carbon dioxide and energy in the form of ATP.  At rest the body will make about 1½ litres of metabolic water per day. This will rise with activity but can also vary with the composition of food we eat. 100 grams of fat will produce 110 grams of water compared to 42 grams of water from 100 grams of protein. How effectively this is done depends upon a good supply of hydrogen from our food and oxygen from the air.  If there is too much deuterium in the mitochondria from our food and water, the hydrogen molecules are less available, the system becomes sluggish and the process will not work as well.  Less oxygen comes into the cell, less water is made and less energy results. In the long term, having too much deuterium in your cells can lead to premature aging, metabolic problems, and a range of diseases.

Low deuterium in the body improves mitochondrial function, improving energy and health.

So how do we ensure the mitochondria do not get sluggish and operate at an optimum capacity? We need to make sure deuterium levels in the body are low and we can do this by eating foods that are low in deuterium and that produce the most amount of deuterium deplete, metabolic water as possible.

It comes as no surprise that processed foods, high carbohydrate foods, grains and starches, legumes and fruits are high deuterium foods. We should aim to eat foods low in or that lower deuterium. These are foods high in animal fat (grass fed), healthy plant based fats like avocado and coconut, nuts and green, leafy, low carbohydrate vegetables. In other words, a ketogenic diet will help deplete deuterium.

Oxygenating the body will help mitochondria function, as oxygen helps deplete deuterium in the body.  This is where exercise and movement are important.

Light, in particular red light also plays a part in deuterium depletion. Red light resonates with hydrogen; the biochemist can explain how this is important for plants in photosynthesis, but in the body red light has the effect of reducing the viscosity of the water and thus improving mitochondrial function.

Interestingly the water we drink at sea level is 155 ppm deuterium. Water and air at lower altitudes is higher in deuterium. This makes sense as the hydrogen isotope, deuterium is heavier than ordinary hydrogen. If we drink too much water it will raise deuterium levels in the body. Antidiuretic hormone (ADH), produced in the hypothalamus, regulates the amount of water in the body. If water is consumed at current recommendations of around the 2 litres per day, the release ADH will ensure excess water is excreted. Unfortunately this will include the deuterium depleted metabolic water. If we follow a high fat diet, we really don’t need to drink that much water.

Much of the information here came from the Centre for Deuterium Depletion. It’s worth a look –  Watch some of their explanatory videos and decide what you’ll do with the information. I’ve long understood the benefits of a ketogenic type diet and in my last blog Summer Eating, experienced the benefits as well. I’m fascinated to finally understand why I felt more energised, so I’ll be more aware of what I’m eating and I’ll be eating a lot more fat. Incidentally, I recently had some blood tests, my cholesterol has gone down, despite eating more fat!

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