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Depression: 21st Century Solutions + The Dark Side of Wheat

Revisioning Cellular Bioenergetics: Food As Information and The Light-Driven Body

Chapter 10: K28658_Nutrition and Integrative Medicine: A Primer for Clinicians_Bakhru. ISBN: 978-1-4987-5948-9   TAYLOR and FRANCIS



Revisioning Cellular Bioenergetics: Food As Information and The Light-Driven Body

What if everything you ever thought was true about the body, and how it produces energy and communicates, was WRONG? 


Food, while being prerequisite for the possibility of all life itself, is rarely appreciated for its true power. We are all hardwired to be deeply concerned with food when hungry, an interest which rapidly extinguishes the moment we are sated. But as an object of everyday interest and scientific inquiry, food often makes for a bland topic. This is all the more apparent when juxtaposed against its traditional status in ancient cultures as literally the sacred substrate of our lives, the very divine clay from which we are fashioned.




The modern Western conception of food is a byproduct of a centuries old process of intense materialism, reductionism, and secularization (Owen, 1996).  Food is conceived largely in terms of its economic value as a commodity and its nutritional value as a source of physical sustenance. With regard to the latter, its value is quantified through the presence and molecular weight of macro- and micronutrients. In the process of reducing food’s value to these quantities, only to what is measurable, it has lost its soul. Food is no longer believed to possess a vital life force, much less a sacred one, lest those claiming such to be the case be accused of ‘magical thinking’.


Despite these reductionistic prejudices, consider how Nature designed our first experience of nourishment: breastmilk taken from the mother’s breast is simultaneously a nutritional, physical, thermic, microbial, emotional, genetic, and spiritual form of nourishment -- the very definition of wholesome and whole-making, which taken to together, can only be called sacred.


Indeed, the word sacred literally means “to make holy,” and the word holy shares an indivisible etymological root with the words “whole” and “heal” in proto-Indo European.  This is of course before the sacred and the profane, the soul and the body, were considered irreconcilably opposed modes or states of being with the inception of dualistic thinking.  


But the question still arises: how exactly does food make us whole? That is, how does its arrangement of atoms possess any such power to put us into our presently miraculous form? It is the information within food that helps to explain this mystery. And quite literally, information means “to put form into.”




The topic of food as information is a cerebral one, but so too is the act of eating, albeit in a slightly different way. The cephalic phase of nutrition, or the adaptive responses which prepare the body for the perception, digestion, and absorption of the food, literally means “in your head,” (Greek from kephalē ‘head’) (Zafra, Molina, & Puerto, 2006).  This instrumental initiatory phase reflects how you are actually experiencing the food: is it delicious? Are you feeling pleasure? These “subjective” aspects directly and profoundly affect the physiology of digestion and assimilation. Indeed, it has been estimated that cephalic phase of digestion, or the “set of food intake-associated autonomic and endocrine responses to the stimulation of sensory systems mainly located in the oropharyngeal cavity,” mediated largely by the efferent pathways of the vagus nerve, contributes greater than 50% to overall postprandial responses (Katschinski, 2000; Zafra, Molina, & Puerto, 2006, p. 1032).


Our experience of food, therefore, exists in a context that transcends merely physiochemical conditions and concerns. Just as the nocebo and placebo effects permeate the clinical setting of medicine and greatly affect patient outcomes, so too do psychogenic features apply to the realm of nutrition such that there exists intentionality and inseparability between observer-observed, or more aptly, the eater and what is eaten (Chavarria et al., 2017). And therefore, it is difficult to ignore how this important layer of nutrition: the firsthand, experiential element, has been lost at the expense of fixation on the chemistry and reductionism of “objective” food science.




Food does not only equate to sustenance, but it is also inextricably intertwined with social, supernatural, and economic realms of life, carrying “with it a range of symbolic relationships between man and man, between man and his deities, and man and the natural environment” (Helman, 2007, p. 52). Although there exists inter-cultural variation when it comes to how food is cultivated, harvested, marketed, prepared, served, and consumed, anthropologists such as Claude Levi-Strauss consider the perpetual transformation of raw food into cooked food to be one of the defining characteristics of human civilization, one that transcends arbitrary geopolitical demarcations and sociocultural boundaries (Helman, 2007).


According to social anthropologist Cecil Helman (2007), the firsthand experience of food can be conceptualized in terms of the following six types of food classification systems, including, first and foremost, identification of edible versus non-edible. Cultural stamps of approval are required for consumption of foodstuffs, such that, “No group, even under conditions of extreme starvation, utilizes all available nutritional substances as food” (Peters & Niemeijer, 1987, p. 19). Food is further differentiated by the sacred versus the profane, whereby religious or spiritually encapsulated beliefs either encourage or deter consumption of specifically prescribed or prohibited foodstuffs, consistent with a broader moral framework of purity and abstentions (Helman, 2007). Third, food can be operationalized in terms of parallel food classifications, such that foods are organized into a binary classification system of ‘hot’ and ‘cold’. This dualistic system, which echoes early Greco-Islamic humoral theories of physiology and encompasses a system of beliefs and values spanning well beyond food, is epitomized by many cultural groups and traditional medical systems in Latin America, China, the Islamic world, and Indian subcontinent (Helman, 2007).


With escalating concerns about food safety, food can further be delineated as poison, which is relevant in the context of modern concerns surrounding pasteurization, food irradiation, chemical additives, xenoestrogens, antibiotics, dioxins, organophosphate pesticides, phthalates, bisphenol derivatives, artificial colors, acrylamide, genetically engineered food crops, microbial contamination from factory farming operations, and other processes of industrial food production (Enticott, 2003). Next, foods are often imbued with social connotations, signifying an occasion for social intimacy, symbolizing social status or prestige, embodying the qualities of ritual symbols, and being used as instruments to engender and reinforce social relationships, solidarity, and cultural continuity (Helman, 2007). In this way, food serves as a form of social currency that is shared, exchanged, and ingested as a badge of group identity.


Finally, an ancient construct that is re-emerging in recent years is the revolutionary notion of food as medicine, a paradigm which incorporates ethnobotanical and scientific knowledge from lay, folk, and professional sectors of society. This final codification, which is being validated by contemporary science, is also emblematic of the idea that food is information, which can dictate cellular bioenergetics via epigenetic change.




We all eat when we are hungry. And we don’t think that much about it after satisfying our craving. But without food, we soon become disabled and die. As a consequence, nothing is more quintessential to the preservation of life. Therefore, nothing is more worthy of in-depth intellectual exploration than food. But to do so, perhaps we need to invoke the rallying cry of the early twentieth century school of thought known as phenomenology, whose founder, Edmund Husserl, named going “back to the things themselves” as the cardinal objective -- implying a return to a careful exploration of the phenomenon itself, stripped of our overlain assumptions and projections (Husserl, 1900). And so, this requires we start at intellectual ground zero by asking the question anew: what is food?


Nutrition facts labels make it appear that not much is going on beyond caloric content and the presence or absence of a relatively small set of essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals, defined by their molecular weight. Differences in quality, for instance, will never make it onto such a label.


Indeed, conventional nutritional principles are predicated on an understanding of the nature of food that does not account for its informational properties. Food, within this outdated view, is either a source of energy (caloric content) or material building blocks (macro- and micronutrients). The fact that food contains signaling molecules that affect and actively regulate gene expression, and even contains gene-regulatory nucleic acids such as non-coding micro-RNAs, is not taken into account. When food is understood not just in terms of its material and energetic composition and value, but as a key factor in the regulation of the genome and epigenome, or as an instrument of biosemiosis, it begins to assume its original meaning: “that which puts form into” the human body.




Our concept of food is still generally constrained to the Newtonian view that all things are comprised of atoms, externally related to one another, and built up from there into molecules, organelles, cells, and increasingly complex structural and functional components which participate in the physiological symphony. When we eat things, digestion breaks them down into their constituent parts and our bodies then take these parts and build them back up. This strictly mechanical, simplistic view, while true in limited ways, no longer rings true in light of the new biology and science. Along with this view of food as matter, is the concomitant perspective, that food can be “burned” for energy and that like a furnace or a car, food provides “fuel” measured by calories to drive its engines along.


This reductionistic view of food and its corollary principle, that envisions the body as a machine, is what I will call “the old story of food”, and this narrative focuses on two primary dimensions.


9.5.1 Food As Matter


If we are examining the “material” aspects of food, we are looking at the physically quantifiable or measurable elements such as weight and size. You could not, for instance, objectively “measure” taste, as it differs qualitatively from person to person (so-called “subjective” experience). And so, nutritional science focuses on what is presumably “out there” objectively, namely, tangible quantities like the molecular weight of a given substance, e.g. 50 mg of ascorbic acid, 10 grams of carbohydrate, or 200 mg of magnesium. In reality, these objective quantities are influenced by the type of measuring device we use -- and so, there really are no ontologically pure (i.e. “really real”) material aspects out there in and of themselves. But for the purposes of clarity, let us assume these material aspects are real, independent of the measuring device or person measuring. These material aspects, while providing information, are not considered to be “informational” in the sense of giving off distinct messages to the DNA in our body, altering their expression. They are considered part of the physical world, and therefore, while providing building blocks for our body, including its DNA, they are not understood to alter or control the expression of the DNA in a meaningful way. Food, therefore, is considered “dead,” and not biologically meaningful, beyond its brick and mortar functions in constructing the body-machine.


The other primary dimension in this old view depicts food strictly as a source of caloric energy.


9.5.2 Food as Energy


Energy is commonly defined as the power derived from the utilization of physical resources, especially to drive machines. In this view, food provides the fuel to power the body-machine. Food energy is conventionally defined in chemical terms. The basic concept is that animals, like humans, extract energy from their food and molecular oxygen through cellular respiration. That is, the body joins oxygen from the air with molecules of food through the vehicle of mitochondrial-based oxidative phosphorylation (aerobic respiration), or without oxygen, via cytosol-based glycolysis and fermentation, through reorganization of the molecules (Zeviar et al., 2014).


The system used to quantify the energy content of food is based on the “food calorie,” “large calorie,” or kilocalorie, equal to 4.184 kilojoules. One food calorie is the amount of heat required at a pressure of one atmosphere to raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. The alternate definition is the amount of food having an energy-producing value of one large calorie. The conventional way to ascertain the caloric content of a sample of food is using a calorimeter, which literally burns the food sample to a crisp, measuring the amount of heat given off (its caloric content). In order to account for the varying densities of material within a sample, such as fiber, fat, and water, a more complex algorithm is used today.


Again, in this view, while providing information in the form of caloric content, food is not an informational substance, but simply a source of energy which can fuel the life-sustaining activities of the body-machine.




The new view of food as replete with biologically important information is based on a number of relatively new discoveries in various fields of scientific research.


One of the first major indications that food possesses powerful “informational” properties came from Duhl’s dietary methylation experiments with obese yellow mice, where feeding yellow-coated pregnant mice (with an unmethylated agouti gene) a methyl-rich diet caused their offspring to have a brown coat color (methylated agouti gene) (Duhl et al., 1994). Obviously if folate, vitamin B12, choline and methionine -- four food components -- have the power to literally “shut off” the expression of genes, and profoundly alter the appearance of an animal’s offspring, food can no longer be adequately comprehended via the energy/matter dichotomy. Nor can epigenetic inheritance systems such as methylation patterns be considered secondary in determining phenotype in offspring.  


Since then, the field of nutrigenomics has expanded into a multidisciplinary exploration which not only investigates genomic (DNA and chromosomal damage/repair) and epigenomic alterations (DNA methylation and histone modification), but also RNA and micro-RNA expression (transcriptomics), protein expression (proteomics) and metabolite changes (metabolomics) (Fenech et al., 2011). In essence, the field acknowledges that food and/or food components have gene-regulatory properties whose significance is on par with the primary nucleotide sequences of protein coding genes. In other words, food can now be considered an instrument of biosemiosis, the process of communication among the components of living systems.


Nutrigenomics not only examines the effects of food constituents on the genome, but it also “has been defined by the influence of genetic variation on nutrition by correlating gene expression or single-nucleotide polymorphisms with a nutrient’s absorption, metabolism, elimination, and/or biological effects” (Gonzalez et al., 2014, p. 2).  In this way, the information conveyed by food is limited by what Dr. Roger Williams called a genetotrophic disease, where an individual’s genetic predisposition necessitates higher levels of nutritional cofactors to overcome the reduced binding affinity of a polymorphic enzyme for its coenzyme (Williams, 1950).


It has been discovered that nutritional components can affect gene expression by changing concentrations of reactants or intermediates in metabolic pathways, by modifying signal transduction pathways, and by serving as ligands for transcription factor receptors (Gonzalez, 2013). According to Choi and Frisco, “It appears that nutrients and bioactive food components can influence epigenetic phenomena either by directly inhibiting enzymes that catalyze DNA methylation or histone modifications, or by altering the availability of substrates necessary for those enzymatic reactions” (Choi & Frisco, 2010, p. 8).


For example, butyrate, a short chain fatty acid from fermentable fiber, sulforaphane, an isothiocyanate in broccoli, and diallyl sulfide, an organosulfur compound contained in garlic, all inhibit histone acetyltransferase (HAT), whereas genistein from soy and green tea catechin affect DNA methyltransferases (DNMTs) (Choi & Frisco, 2010). Other molecular targets for epigenetic modifications by bioactive food components are histone deacetylases (HDACs), histone methyltransferases (HMTs), histone demethylases (HDMs), and microRNAs (miRNAs), which similarly affect chromatin remodeling and therefore influence accessibility of DNA for transcription (Choi & Frisco, 2010).


There is likewise a plethora of literature indicating that food agents can inhibit master transcription factors such as nuclear factor kappa beta (NFkB), the gatekeeper to expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and cyclo-oxygenase (COX), the latter of which mediates expression of inflammatory prostaglandins and thromboxanes. For instance, nutrients such as quercetin, a bioflavonoid abundant in fruits and vegetables, kaempferol, a flavonol rich in broccoli, strawberries, beans, tea, and apples, and curcumin, found in the spice turmeric, down-regulate NF-kB, such that their use may be valuable in conditions where inflammatory cytokines play a pathophysiological role (García-Mediavilla et al., 2007; Şehirli et al., 2008; Henrotin et al., 2009; Somerset & Johannot, 2008). On the other hand, the nutritional components pterostilbene and resveratrol from red grapes enhance activity of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), which favorably influence carbohydrate and fat metabolism as well as mitochondrial function, inducing improvements in metabolic parameters (Rimando et al., 2005; Floyd et al., 2008).


Nutrigenomics, the newfound discipline which epitomizes the informational nature of food, may usher in an era of personalized nutrition recommendations based on genotypes, following in the footsteps of previous schools of thought such as Dr. Roger Williams’ biochemical individuality, Dr. Abram Hoffer’s orthomolecular medicine, Dr. Jeffrey Bland’s functional medicine, Dr. Bruce Ames’ triage hypothesis, Dr. Michael Friedman and Dr. Denis Wilson’s restorative medicine, and Dr. Michael Gonzalez’s metabolic correction (Gonzalez et al., 2014).


Epigenetics, in particular, or the study of how nutritional elements induce somatically heritable changes in gene expression by altering chromatin structure without interfering with the nucleotide base pair sequence, is revolutionary in that it confirms that genes alone do not dictate physiological fate. Such a notion is validated by a recent study published in Public Library of Science One (PLoS One) entitled "Genetic factors are not the major causes of chronic diseases,” which identifies that disease is 84.6% environmental, relating to epigenetic and exposome-related variables, whereas only 16.4% is genetic (Rappaport, 2016). In effect, the epigenetic effects of diet, via the many activators and suppressors of chromatin remodeling enzymes that food contains, can deprogram or reprogram vast quantities of genes regulating metabolic pathways, which in turn can influence the development of chronic, long-latency, and degenerative diseases.


Food’s role as an epigenetic modulator of DNA expression is a powerful demonstration of its informational properties, but this is not the whole story.


Food, when not artificially sterilized, is comprised of other organisms such as viruses and bacteria;, i.e. all food has a microbiome. What’s more, all organisms (except viruses) produce microvesicles, also known as exosomes, which function to deliver mitogenic lipids, signaling proteins, and RNAs for intercellular communication (Record, 2012). These exosomes contain non-coding RNAs, which have the ability to profoundly alter the expression of our DNA. In fact, there are estimated to be ~100,000 different sites in the human genome capable of producing non-coding RNAs, far eclipsing our 20-25,000 protein-coding genes (Iyer et al., 2015). It has been estimated that these RNAs orchestrate the expression of most of the genes in the body. They are, therefore, supervening forces largely responsible for maintaining our genetic and epigenetic integrity.


Food RNAs, particularly so-called micro-RNAs (miRNAs), are capable of affecting our RNA profiles, making them extremely impactful to our health.  They are carried by virus-sized microvesicles called exosomes, secreted by all plant, animal, bacterial, and fungal cells found in all the food we eat, and are capable of surviving digestive processes to significantly alter our gene expression. In 2012, a groundbreaking study by Zhang and colleagues entitled, “Exogenous plant MIR168a specifically targets mammalian LDLRAP1: evidence of cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA,” found that exosomal miRNA’s from rice altered LDL receptors in the livers of Chinese subjects. While controversial, Tthe study , while controversial, appears to confirm that our gene expression can be profoundly affected by what we eat. It also appears to prove that cross-kingdom regulation by microRNA exists. The ability of exosomes to mediate the transfer of miRNAs across kingdoms redefines our notion of the human species as genetically hermetically sealed off from others within the animal, plant, and fungi kingdoms. In this sense, foodborne exosomes are the mechanism through which all living things in the biosphere are interconnected, reminiscent of a key element of the Lovelock and Margulis Gaia hypothesis (Igaz & Igaz, 2015).




Acknowledging the microbiomes of food itself is a significant part of revising the conceptualization of food, from one circumscribed by constrained notions of energy/matter, to one inclusive of information. The genetic contribution of the bacteria, fungi, viruses, helminths, and archaea collectively represents a vast store of biologically meaningful information, which in the case of our human species eclipses the contribution of our genome alone by a factor of 99 or higher (Bordenstein & Theis, 2015). Everything we eat also contains a microbiome in its natural state, even if it is still largely unacknowledged by food and nutritional science.


One of the most powerful examples of how the food microbiome has profound implications for human health is the identification of a marine bacteria carbohydrate-active enzyme in the guts of Japanese capable of digesting sulfated polysaccharides (Hehemann et al., 2010). This bacterial gene was identified as having been derived from bacteria living on the edible seaweed (Porphyra spp. (nori)), and is believed to have “jumped” horizontally into a human gut bacterium sometime within the past few hundreds years. The result is that its unique digestive enzyme capabilities were transferred to the microbiome of its Japanese hosts.  In essence, the gene provided by these marine microbes vastly extended the genetic capability of our species. Suddenly, countless marine plants that were formerly indigestible became sources of food.


The human genome only contains about 17 carbohydrate-digesting enzyme templates, nine of which have not yet been fully characterized, whereas the gut bacteria contains genetic information capable of helping to degrade thousands of different carbohydrates (Cantarel et al., 2012). In this sense, then, the microbiome is an information storehouse that radically transforms the definition of food from the matter/energy dichotomy to a living reservoir of vitally important genetic information.


This revelation has innumerable implications for human health. First and foremost, food technologies like cold pasteurization (gamma irradiated food), and chemical treatments that alter the microbiome dysbiotically, will dramatically alter the qualitative/informational content of the food, even if this will never be visible or acknowledged via conventional metrics used to assess nutritional value.




Not only do the qualitative contents of food transfer information and microbes that activate or silence gene expression, as well as influence metabolic pathways, but food timing and quantity also deliver information capable of affecting bioenergetics and physiological functioning at a cellular level.


The ultimate manifestation of the effect of food quantity on human health is the longevity-promoting nature of caloric restriction (CR). Fasting, which has been an anchoring ritual in every major world religious doctrine, is rooted in evolutionary biology, as humans adapted to vacillating periods of feast and famine throughout evolutionary history. According to Mattson and colleagues (2016), “Because animals, including humans, evolved in environments where food was relatively scarce, they developed numerous adaptations that enabled them to function at a high level, both physically and cognitively, when in a food-deprived/fasted state” (Mattson, Longo, & Harvie, 2016, p. S1568).


Whereas caloric excess augments parameters of accelerated aging and chronic disease, CR represents the most empirically validated intervention for extending lifespan (Fontana, 2007; Genaro, Sarkis, & Martini, 2009). Ad libitum eating predicts pathophysiological processes such as insulin resistance, visceral adiposity, and endothelial dysfunction, the precursors to contemporary chronic diseases, while CR has been scientifically proven to reduce morbidity and enhance longevity (Mattson et al., 2016). The disease-mitigating effects of CR are conserved from lower to higher life forms, since, according to Longo and Mattson (2014), the cytoprotective effects conferred by caloric restriction “have likely evolved billions of years earlier in prokaryotes attempting to survive in an environment largely or completely devoid of energy sources while avoiding age-dependent damage that could compromise fitness” (Longo & Mattson, 2014, p. 2).


For instance, the lifespan of Escherichia coli (E. coli) is quadrupled when it is switched from a nutrient-rich broth to a calorie-free medium (Gonidakis, Finkel, & Longo, 2010). In similar fashion, transitioning common brewer’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae (S. cerevisiae), to water from a standard growth culture reliably multiplies its lifespan two-fold and leads to dramatic increases in stress resilience (Longo et al., 1997; Longo et al., 2012). Moreover, deprivation or dilution of food consistently extends lifespan of both the common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster (D. melanogaster), and the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) (Piper & Partridge, 2007; Lee et al., 2006; Kaeberlein et al., 2006).


At a biochemical level, the informatics conveyed by CR significantly inhibit inflammatory genes such as NFkB, AP1, COX-2, and iNOS (Choi & Frisco, 2010). Conversely, CR activates PPARs, and modulates intracellular sensors such as mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTORC) and adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK), which integrate environmental input and assess nutrient accessibility in order to determine cell fate (Gonzalez et al., 2014; Laplante & Sabatini, 2012). That mTORC1 in particular is an essential positive determinant of the competency of regulatory T cell (Treg) populations, which establish peripheral immune tolerance, may be responsible for the benefits fasting confers in autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis (Sundqvist et al., 1982; Choi et al., 2016; Zeng et al., 2013).


CR activates gene expression patterns that improve biomarkers of cardiovascular health, cognition, executive function, and metabolic rate (Heibronn & Ravussin, 2003). Periods of fasting likewise significantly reduce leptin, the pro-inflammatory adipokine implicated in type 1 diabetes, autoimmune hepatitis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, multiple sclerosis, Behcet’s disease, and ulcerative colitis, which has the effect of up-regulating immunosuppressive Treg subsets (Hutcheson, 2015; Liu et al., 2012). Further, fasting improves metabolic biomarkers such as leptin, lipids, glucose, and adiponectin, while favorably influencing insulin sensitivity, adipose tissue lipolysis, hepatic glycogenolysis, and anabolic activity in muscle, all of which cumulatively promote metabolic correction (Longo & Mattson, 2013; Mattson et al., 2016).


The absence of food also transmits information at the cellular level that facilitates DNA-based repair mechanisms, stem cell-derived regeneration, mitochondrial biogenesis, and autophagy-mediated clearance of dead cells, cellular debris, and misfolded proteins such as amyloid beta plaques and tau tangles which contribute to neurodegenerative disease (Mattson et al., 2016). Fasting similarly promotes neurological health via enhancements in neurogenesis, synaptic plasticity, neurotrophic factor synthesis, and attenuation of inflammation (Longo & Mattson, 2014; Mattson et al., 2016).


On a related note, consumption of food during restricted windows imparts information at a cellular level, such that, “It is hypothesized that some fasting regimens and time-restricted feeding impose a diurnal rhythm in food intake, resulting in improved oscillations in circadian clock gene expression that reprogram molecular mechanisms of energy metabolism and body weight regulation” (Patterson et al., 2015, p.7). Strategic food timing may moderate energy intake via changes in appetite-regulating hormones including xenin, ghrelin, and leptin, leading to lowered risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer, since abnormal meal timing may induce circadian desynchronization and interfere with restorative sleep (Patterson et al., 2015). Lastly, CR and time-restricted feeding may promote healthier composition of the colonic microbiota, leading to normalization of microbiota diurnal fluctuations, derangements in which are associated with obesity and glucose intolerance (Thaiss et al., 2014). A healthier microbiome may also result in less harvesting of energy from the diet by commensal flora, which in turn may influence energy storage and expenditure in a favorable direction (Patterson et al., 2015; Thaiss et al., 2014).


Hence, both the presence and absence of food, as well as meal timing, can serve as environmental cues to modulate both profiles of gene expression and levels of molecular signals, resulting in either benefits or detriments to human health. Therefore, the definition of food as information must be expanded to encompass the manner, frequency, and quantity in which food is ingested.




When food is perceived as a vital source of biologically important information which directly informs and affects the expression of our genome, it is much easier to understand how our ancestors considered its creation, production, harvest, cooking, and consumption sacred -- that is, sustaining of life itself.


Understanding food as information makes it easier to comprehend that food is a highly targeted and powerful form of medicine, capable of altering the expression of thousands of genes in a manner not reproducible via synthetic medicines.


Also, once the exosomal non-coding RNAs in the plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria in the “outside” world we use as food are acknowledged to be essential for maintaining and regulating our species’ own genetic and epigenetic template for well-being, no longer can we callously destroy or alter the biosphere without affecting ourselves, and the overall destiny of our species.


Today, with anthropogenic climate change, genetic engineering, and a wide range of industrial farming technologies changing the quality (and informational component) of our food, it is no longer sufficient to examine the material aspects of these changes alone. Food irradiation technology, genetic modification, pesticides, soil quality, processing and a wide range of other factors may greatly alter the informational state and quality of a good without being reflected in overt changes in grosser qualities like caloric and materially defined dimensions.




Increasingly, science agrees with the poetry of direct human experience:  we are more than the atoms and molecules that make up our bodies, but beings of light as well. Decades ago, authors described ‘an envelope of radiation surrounding living organisms’ (Van Wijk & Van Wijk, 2005) . It was later discovered that biophotons are emitted by the human body, can be released through mental intention, and may modulate fundamental processes within cell-to-cell communication and DNA.


Nothing is more amazing than the highly improbable fact that we exist. We often ignore this fact, oblivious to the reality that instead of something, there could be nothing at all, i.e. why is there a universe (poignantly aware of itself through us) and not some void completely unconscious of itself?


Consider that from light, air, water, basic minerals within the crust of the earth, and the at least three billion year old information contained within the nucleus of one diploid zygote cell, the human body is formed, and within that body a soul capable of at least trying to comprehend its bodily and spiritual origins.


Given the sheer insanity of our existential condition, and bodily incarnation as a whole, and considering that our earthly existence is partially formed from sunlight and requires the continual consumption of condensed sunlight in the form of food, it may not sound so farfetched that our body emits light.


Indeed, the human body emits quanta of electromagnetic energy called biophotons, also known as biophoton emission (BPE) or ultraweak photon emissions (UPE), with a visibility 1,000 times lower than the sensitivity of our naked eye. While not visible to us, these particles of light (or waves, depending on how you are measuring them) are part of the visible electromagnetic spectrum (380-780 nanometers) and are detectable via sophisticated modern instrumentation (Schwabl et al., 2005; Hugo et al., 2005). Although characterized by a very low emission intensity of only hundreds of photons per second, this low-level chemiluminescence is theorized to be intrinsic to cellular energetics and physiology, and is correlated with energetically-demanding processes such as cell metabolism, oxidative stress, phagocytosis, and neurological activity (Devaraj, Usa, & Inaba, 1997; Kataoka et al., 2001).


In fact, this photonic emission is hypothesized to be a heuristic and global indicator for health or debility, as BPE has been found to be associated with an array of pathological states, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, hyperlipidemia, and hemiparesis (Hossu & Rupert, 2006). Photon emission has been characterized from topical injuries, active wounds, and sites of skin disease (Cohen & Popp, 1997). In addition, subjects with hypothyroidism or surgically removed thyroid glands have less BPE than controls, which underscores the connection between biophoton release and metabolic rate (Van Wijk & Van Wijk, 2005). Further, left-right symmetry of UPE from hands is distorted in patients with hemiparesis compared to healthy controls, suggesting that asymmetry in photon emission may be a surrogate marker for pathology (Jung et al., 2003).


UPE may be modulated by mental intention, as some subjects are able to increase the magnitude of emission intensity via vibratory movements and deep breathing, such that a subject’s efforts to increase their ‘energetic field’ is proportional to the increase in the signal their body emanates (Van Wijk & Van Wijk, 2005). On the other hand, some data indicate that intentional attempts to decrease photonic emissions result in decreases in mean photon counts, or that the spectral characteristics of BPE can be altered by intentionality (Van Wijk & Van Wijk, 2005).


Further, the therapeutic efficacy of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) interventions, including acupuncture, chiropractic, cranio-sacral therapy, reflex therapy, and Reiki may make sense in the context of BPE, which has been shown to be affected not only locally but distally by different bodywork techniques (Hossu & Rupert, 2006). However, the effects of another mind-body practice, Qigong, on BPE, has demonstrated mixed results (Nakamura et al., 2000). In essence, there seems to be wide inter- and intra-individual variation when it comes to manipulating BPE with mind-body approaches characteristic of traditional medical systems.


Although energy medicine has conventionally been relegated to the realm of placebo, researchers state that, “the quantum behavior of the high energy processes of the human body that constitute the source of BPE are altered in some way by energy-based interventions” (Hossu & Rupert, 2006, p. 123). Not only does CAM influence the energetically intensive pathways in the body, but it also induces changes in the Q value, a measure of the coherence of the photonic field (Hossu & Rupert, 2006). That CAM therapies affect BPE both proximal and distal to the sites of intervention suggests that, “direct energetic input to the local tissue and the body’s reaction to that stimulation” may both be at play (Hossu & Rupert, 2006, p. 123).


Instead of eliciting its effect directly on physical structure, the efficacy of CAM interventions may lie in their direct interaction with BPE, and their effects on global regulatory processes (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004). In this way, the body of literature on biophotons challenges the prevailing lenses of the biomedical paradigm, reductionism and materialism, and constructs a foundation for CAM modalities that utilize bioinformation transfer carried by extremely minute energy signals, including spiritual healing, acupuncture, homeopathy, and electromedicine (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004). For instance, researchers postulate that the meridian grid system of Traditional Chinese Medicine may represent “a possible point of consonance and therefore a gateway of interaction” between the chemical-molecular body and the electromagnetic body that creates a standing wave surrounding the corporeal form (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004, p. 34).


Thus, recent developments are beginning to validate David Bohm’s vision, articulated decades ago, that life is comprised of a perpetual ‘holomovement’ or endless sea of light, whereby matter can be regarded as the crystallized

manifestation of light energy (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004).




The eye itself, which is continually exposed to ambient powerful photons that pass through various ocular tissues, emits spontaneous and visible light-induced ultraweak photon emissions (Wang et al., 2010). It has even been hypothesized that visible light induces delayed bioluminescence within the exposed eye tissue, providing an explanation for the origin of the negative afterimage (Bókkon et al., 2011).


These light emissions have also been correlated with cerebral energy metabolism and oxidative stress within the mammalian brain (Kobayashi et al., 1999; Kataoka et al., 2001). And yet, biophoton emissions are not necessarily epiphenomenal.  


Bókkon's hypothesis suggests that photons released from chemical processes within the brain produce biophysical pictures during visual imagery, and a recent study found that when subjects actively imagined light in a very dark environment, their intention produced significant increases in ultraweak photon emissions (Dotta et al., 2012). This is consistent with an emerging view that biophotons are not solely cellular metabolic byproducts, but rather, because biophoton intensity can be considerably higher inside cells than outside, it is possible for the mind to access this energy gradient to create intrinsic biophysical pictures during visual perception and imagery (Bókkon et al., 2010).



It has been observed that biophotons are used by the cells of many living organisms, including bacteria, plants, and kidney cells and neutrophil granulocytes from animal cells, in order to communicate, which facilitates transfer of energy and information that is several orders of magnitude faster than chemical diffusion.


In a study by Sun and colleagues, for instance, researchers were able to demonstrate that "...different spectral light stimulation (infrared, red, yellow, blue, green, and white) at one end of the spinal sensory or motor nerve roots resulted in a significant increase in the biophotonic activity at the other end" (Sun, Wang, & Dai, 2010, p. 315). Researchers interpreted their findings to suggest that conduction of biophotons along nerve fibers, secondary to light stimulation, serves as a transduction mechanism for neural signals (Sun et al., 2010).


In addition, blood has been demonstrated to be a constant source of biophotons, one which stores energy in the form of the electron excitation that occurs as a byproduct of reactive oxygen species (ROS) production in normal metabolic pathways (Voeikov, 2000). Within this model, whereby neutrophil-generated ROS play an essential transformative role with regard to the molecular oxygen transported by erythrocytes, the electron excited states (EES) within the blood exhibit exquisite sensitivity to infinitesimal fluctuations in the external photon field (Curtas & Hurtak, 2004). In addition, the propensity of blood to store energy as EES enables it to behave as a coordinated nonlinear and non-equilibrium system, whose contiguous units embody properties of holism, acting “with a conscious purpose as a whole system or organ rather than an aggregate of cells” (Curtas & Hurtak, 2004, p. 29).


Even when we go down to the molecular level of our genome, DNA can be identified as a source of biophoton emissions as well. One author proposes that DNA is so biophoton dependent that is has excimer laser-like properties, enabling it to exist in a stable state far from thermal equilibrium at threshold (Popp et al., 1984).


Technically speaking, a biophoton is an elementary particle or quantum of light of non-thermal origin in the visible and ultraviolet spectrum emitted from a biological system. They are generally believed to be produced as a result of energy metabolism within our cells, or more formally, as a "by-product of biochemical reactions in which excited molecules are produced from bioenergetic processes that involve active oxygen species” (Kobayashi, Kikuchi, & Okamura, 2009). Given the pivotal role that biophotons play in cell physiology, Einstein’s enigmatic statement a century ago that he would prefer to spend the rest of his life contemplating the matter of light is particularly astute (Curtas & Hurtak, 2004).




Because the metabolism of the body changes in a circadian fashion, biophoton emissions also vary along the axis of diurnal time (Kobayashi et al., 2009). Research has likewise mapped out distinct anatomical locations within the body where biophoton emissions are stronger and weaker, depending on the time of the day:


Van Wijk and van Wijk (2005) articulate, “Generally, the fluctuation in photon counts over the body was lower in the morning than in the afternoon. The thorax-abdomen region emitted lowest and most constantly. The upper extremities and the head region emitted most and increasingly over the day” (van Wijk & van Wijk, 2005, p. 96). In addition, it was found that the major spontaneous emission from the palms, forehead, and superior ventral region of the right leg occurred at wavelengths of 470 to 570 nanometers, whereas the central palm emitted between 420 and 470 nanometers, congruent with the range of UPE emission from the hand in the autumn and winter (van Wijk & van Wijk, 2005).


Thus, in addition to temporal variations in photon emission throughout the day, BPE exhibits seasonal periodicity. In a different experiment, subjects produced lower bilateral photonic emission readings at all points of measurement in the winter compared to the summer (Bieske, Gall, & Fisch, 2000). Age may be another governing factor for BPE, since Sauerman and colleagues (1999) found that elderly subjects had elevated levels of spontaneous photon emission (SPE) from their hands, which the authors attribute to increased oxidative stress in the stratum corneum proteins of the integumentary system of aging skin.




Because biophoton emission may be reflective of the cumulative physiological or pathological state of living organisms, technology that evaluates SPE can be employed in disease prevention and monitoring of health outcomes (Zhao et al., 2017). For instance, based on their observations of the diurnal and seasonal periodicity of BPE, researchers concluded that spectral analysis of photonic emissions can illustrate in vivo trends in peroxidative and anti-oxidative processes (van Wijk & van Wijk, 2005).  This has profound implications for routine evaluation of antioxidant capacity, peroxidative processes, and oxidative status of the skin, in particular, since current methodologies are invasive and labor-intensive (Van Wijk & Van Wijk, 2005).


Another potential application of technologies that measure SPE is cancer detection. Studies have indicated that SPE projected from lesion sites can differentiate human breast cancer-bearing mice from controls, and can predict tumor occurrence even in the absence of overt morphological disturbances (Zhao et al., 2017). Researchers state that as an optical methodology, SPE “may contribute to the preliminary screening of breast cancer, especially for early diagnosis, and it may play a critical role in curtailing the effects of breast cancer and improving the survival of patients in the future” (Zhao et al., 2017, p. 232).


In addition, spectral discrimination in photoinduced delayed luminescence (DL) has been observed between normal and leukemic serum samples (Chen et al., 2012). Delayed luminescence similarly allows tissues containing adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma lung cancer to be differentiated from adjacent normal tissue (Kim et al., 2005).  A significant difference between the BPE intensity from tumorigenic mice harboring ovarian cancer cells and control mice has likewise been observed (Kim et al., 2006). Further evidence that BPE could be used in cancer imaging comes from mouse studies showing that biophoton intensity correlates with tumor size after carcinoma cell transplantation (Takeda et al., 2004).


Another disease state in which biophoton release may represent an avenue for disease assessment is rheumatoid arthritis (RA), since mouse models of RA have demonstrated higher UPE after arthritis is instigated with repeated co-administration of type II collagen and lipopolysaccharide (van Wijk et al.,2013). UPE detection has also been shown to distinguish healthy subjects from those with the common cold via spectral peaks and spectral emission ratios, such that it could be used in the development of novel optical diagnostic tools (Yang et al., 2015).


Fundamentally, the paradigm-shifting reconception of human beings as bodies of light may pave the way for newfound modalities of detecting and treating myriad diseases, since, “Ultra-weak photon emission is a common phenomenon and carries information about its generating processes, and is closely related to photosynthesis, lipid peroxidation, catabolism, free radical reactions, radiation effects, detoxification and carcinogenic effects, aging and death process” (Yang et al., 2015, p. 1331).


In addition, because UPE is an intrinsic attribute of all biological systems, resulting from the relaxation of electronically excited species stemming from metabolic processes, UPE evaluation has been considered as an opportunity for assessment of food quality and medicinal properties of herbs (Hossu, Lun, & Wei, 2010; Pang et al., 2016).




Research has found an oxidative stress-mediated difference in biophoton emission among mediators versus non-meditators. Those who meditate regularly tend to have lower ultra-weak photon emission (UPE), which is believed to result from the lower level of free radical reactions occurring in their bodies (van Wijk et al., 2006). This is confirmed by studies documenting that the spectrum of UPE ranges from 450 to 630 nanometers, wavelengths which correspond to that exemplified by lipid peroxidation processes and production of oxygen-paired molecules in animal tissue (van Wijk et al., 2006). In one clinical study involving practitioners of transcendental meditation (TM), researchers found that experienced meditators exhibited the lowest UPE intensities (van Wijk et al., 2006).


Further, the authors conceptualize UPE as a partial representation of free radical reactions in living systems. They discuss, “It has been documented that various physiologic and biochemical shifts follow the long-term practice of meditation and it is inferred that meditation may impact free radical activity” (Van Wijk et al., 2006, p. 31). Thus, researchers hypothesize that the lower levels of photonic emission from transcendental meditators is correlated with lower stress levels, and that meditation may favorably alter the oxidative status of the body (Van Wijk et al., 2006).


Interestingly, an herb called rhodiola, well-known for its use in stress reduction (including inducing measurable declines in cortisol), and associated heightened oxidative stress, has been tested clinically in reducing the level of biophotons emitted in human subjects. In fact, a study published in 2009 in the journal Phytotherapeutic Research found that those who took the herb for one week had a significant decrease in photon emission in comparison with the placebo group, which was correlated with a significant decrease in fatigue (Schutgens et al., 2009).




Biophotonic processes are further beginning to demystify such elusive phenomena as consciousness and the electromagnetic body, the latter of which is both disparate from the chemical body and described as a “light circulatory system operating on an energetic level,” obeying fundamentally different laws and behaving in a fashion distinct from its bioplasmic counterparts ”(Curtis & Hurtak, 2004, p. 27). In other words, although conventional biology has failed to incorporate quantum physics and has extracted bodies from the energy matrices in which they are embedded, biophysics is acknowledging light-based modes of energetic communication and information transmission in the body apart from the physical nervous, blood, and lymphatic systems (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004).


Researchers suggest that this circulatory system of biophotonic light, which is connected to a conduit of internal current running through the bodily meridians illuminated by Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the mechanism through which acupuncture works (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004). For instance, after acupuncture treatments, the left-right asymmetry in BPE is dramatically reduced in subjects with hemiparesis (Choi et al., 2002). Emission intensity has also been observed to be higher from moxa and acupuncture points, and insertion of a needle or laser beam needle into acupuncture points leads to increases in BPE from non-stimulated acupuncture points (Yanagawa et al., 2000; Inaba, 2000; Inaba, 1999; Inaba, 1998).


Concepts of the electromagnetic body, which researchers speculate may be a medium through which consciousness is projected, incorporate knowledge on mitogenetic radiation (MGR), also known as UPE from living systems, and work from the Vernadsky-Gurwitsch-Bauer school of thought concerning the morphogenetic field (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004). According to the groundbreaking work of Gurwitsch (1944), MGR, which constitutes the high-energy transfer of energy that induces cell division via UPE, cannot occur without one photon of ultraviolet (UV) light (Voeikov, 2003). Not only do biophotons promote cell growth and differentiation, but they are also required for cell-to-cell communication (Popp, 1979; Chang et al., 2000).


Because the photon emissions are ultra-weak, the order of the radiation, and not its intensity, is what is integral to biophoton dynamics. It has likewise been established that biophotons embody the property of coherence, whereby biologic efficiency is inversely related to intensity, such that the coherence of biophotons exceeds even that of manmade lasers (Voeikov, 2003). Within this model, the human body exhibits not only entropy, adhering to the second order of thermodynamics, but behaves in a dynamic consistent with centropy, the inverse of entropy whereby order increases and matter is electrified (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004). In this sense, the body is understood to deviate from thermodynamic equilibrium and embody properties of chaos and dissipation (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004, p. 29).


This pioneering body of work also postulates that the body operates more as an energy biocomputer than as a mechanistic Descartes-style machine, and that biophotons, quantum coherence, and electron excitation comprise the essence of life (Curtas & Hurtak, 2004). In this view, because the body functions under non-equilibrium thermodynamics, it exhibits receptivity to bioenergetic fields and energetic forms of consciousness “that interpenetrate and commingle to form the totality that we call the human being” (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004, p. 28).


As such, a novel scientific jargon, elucidating many types of light, including superluminal, consciousness light, and photonic or particulate light, is emerging and re-defining what it is to be human. This brave new world of research, which is recognizing the human body as both a biotransducer for energy fields and a quasi-light body, which transduces internal and extraneous signals locally and non-locally, may pave the way for future biophoton therapeutic applications (Gariaev, Tertishny, & Leonova, 2000; Hurtak, 1996).




Perhaps most extraordinary of all is the possibility that our bodily surface contains cells capable of efficiently trapping the energy and information from ultraviolet radiation. A study published in the Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology in 1993, for example, discovered that when light from an artificial sunlight source was applied to fibroblasts from either normal subjects or individuals with the condition xeroderma pigmentosum, characterized by deficient DNA repair mechanisms, it induced far higher emissions of ultraweak photons (10-20 times higher) in the xeroderma pigmentosum group.  The researchers concluded from this experiment that, "These data suggest that xeroderma pigmentosum cells tend to lose the capacity of efficient storage of ultraweak photons, indicating the existence of an efficient intracellular photon trapping system within human cells" (Niggli et al., 1993, p. 281). More recent research has also identified measurable differences in biophoton emission between normal and melanoma cells (Niggli et al., 2005).


The concept that the body is capable of directly harvesting the energy of the Sun has received increased interest over the past decade. For instance, in a seminal paper published in 2008 in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Goodman and Bercovich (2008) offer a thought-provoking reflection on the topic in their discussion of the animal pigment melanin, which possesses complex physico-chemical qualities and is unique in its absorption across the ultraviolet-visual spectrum (Goodman et al., 2008).


Melanin appears in the skin, eyes, hair, feathers, and scales, as well as internal, extracutaneous areas associated with pathology such as the mammalian cochlea and sites in the central nervous system such as the leptomeninges, cerebral hemisphere, and medulla oblongata (Goldgeier et al., 1984; Goodman & Bercovich, 2008). Although traditionally confined to roles in skin protection and signaling, it has been discovered that melanocytes contain enzymes that act as carrier proteins for lipophilic compounds such as thyroid hormone and bilirubin, and that melanin likely serves endocrine functions as well (Takeda, Takahashi, & Shibahara, 2007). The physiological roles of melanin are complex, as it can absorb heavy metal cations, scavenge free radicals, play a role in charge transfer, and exhibit properties of both conductors and semiconductors (Goodman et al., 2008).


Birds, which have unique anatomical characteristics to overcome gravity, contain an intra-ocular, melanised organ called the pecten, comprised of a fan-like pleated lamina which projects into the vitreous from the optic disc (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008). The pecten, enclosed by a peripectenial membrane, contains pigmented melanocytes which anastomose with networks of capillaries (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008). Not only does an oxygen gradient exists from pecten to retina, but the pecten also contains high concentrations of alkaline phosphatase and carbonic anhydrase, which signal metabolic activity (Pettigrew, Wallman, & Wildoset, 1990; Bawa & YashRoy, 1972; Amamiya & Yoshida, 1980). Pigment exposure is further maximized as the capillaries that intertwine with melanocytes support the latter (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008).


The pecten, which is enlarged in birds enduring hypoxia, thirst, and hunger during long-distance migrations, may serve as an adaptive coping mechanism to meet “energy and nutrient needs under extreme conditions, by a marginal but critical, melanin-initiated conversion of light to metabolic energy, coupled to local metabolite recycling” (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008, p. 190). This is substantiated by data showing that pheomelanin can be reduced to molecular oxygen (Ye et al., 2006). In addition, the lability and polymeric heterogeneity of melanin, stacked in a disordered nano-aggregate architecture, helps to explain its “thermodynamically cheap means for broadband light absorption” (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008, p. 197). In other words, micro-spatial changes in melanin conformation can produce instability in electron states, causing alterations in the direct biochemical milieu of melanin that instigate repletion of metabolic intermediates and up-regulate local anaplerosis (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008). Especially critical is that light can stimulate NADPH by way of melanin, and generate oxygen and water through catalase via the hydrogen peroxide flowing through the pecten (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008).  


The pecten-mediated transformation of radiation into energy may not only support avian brain function during flight, but also help resolve what have remained mysteries in bird energetics, flight mechanics, and avian metabolism (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008). In addition, the authors discuss how the augmentation of melanin and reduction in body hair, which occurred in Central Africa during the course of human evolution, may have generated a process called photomelanometabolism (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008). Goodman and Bercovich (2008) speculate that this evolutionary event would not only have reduced energy expenditure required for hunting and gathering, but it would also have enabled the expansion of the energy-demanding cerebral cortex, leading to the development of higher cognition, which would pave the way for advancement of the human race (Goodman & Bercovich, 2008).


It is known that melanin can transform ultraviolet light energy into heat in a process known as "ultrafast internal conversion” (Meng et al., 2008). As a result, more than 99.9% of the absorbed UV radiation can be transformed from potentially genotoxic (DNA-damaging) ultraviolet light into harmless heat. Melanin, therefore, constitutes simultaneously both a “sun blocking” and energy conversion function.


Photomelanometabolism is thus so fundamental to our metabolism, that is has been hypothesized that human hairlessness can be explained through it. Hairlessness was a mutational/adaptive event, occurring approximately 2 million years ago, which traded off the protective and endothermically ideal hair covering for the metabolic advantages of melanin-mediated sunlight harvesting. This would also explain why the encephalization event most characteristic of our species began ~ 2 mya as well (Mathewson, 2015).


If melanin can convert light into heat, could it not also transform UV radiation into other biologically/metabolically useful forms of energy? This notion may not seem so farfetched when one considers that even gamma radiation, which is highly toxic to most forms of life, is a source of sustenance for certain types of heavily melanized fungi and bacteria (Dadachova & Casadevall, 2008). In fact, ionizing radiation exposure has been shown to enhance growth of certain melanized fungal species that inhabit nuclear reactors, space stations, and the Antarctic mountains (Dadachova & Casadevall, 2008). Researchers note that the existence of melanized organisms in high radiation conditions “combined with phenomenon of ‘radiotropism’ raises the tantalizing possibility that melanins have functions analogous to other energy harvesting pigments such as chlorophylls” (Dadachova & Casadevall, 2008, p. 525).


Another indication that the body can harvest sunlight directly came in 2014, when a Journal of Cell Science study exemplified the role that chlorophyll pigments play in converting photonic energy into ATP (Xu et al., 2014). It has been known that chlorophyll molecules, produced by the semi-autonomous mitochondrial analogs known as plant chloroplasts, can transform light energy into ATP. Likewise, studies have illuminated that chlorophyll metabolites, generated via plant consumption, retain capacity to absorb light in wavelengths of the visible spectrum that are able to penetrate animal tissues (Xu et al., 2014).


However, this study found that a metabolite of chlorophyll is taken up by mammalian mitochondria and is capable of capturing photons and as a consequence, photo-energizing mitochondrial ATP production (Xu et al., 2014). When exposed to light, ATP concentrations produced in isolated mammalian tissue and mitochondria incubated with chlorophyll metabolites exceeded those of animal tissues not exposed to the metabolites (Xu et al., 2014). As a corollary, when this chlorophyll-derived metabolite was administered to the worm Caenorhabditis elegans, an increase in ATP production was generated upon light exposure with a concomitant increase in lifespan (Xu et al., 2014). Revolutionarily repeated, Xu and colleagues (2014) likewise showed that a variety of mammals, including rats, mice, and pigs, can transform light into energy, as evidenced by the accumulation of chlorophyll metabolites in these mammals when a chlorophyll-rich diet is administered.


At a molecular level, dietary chlorophyll metabolites modulate reservoirs of mitochondrial ATP by catalyzing the reduction of coenzyme Q, the fat-soluble coenzyme of the electron transport chain that is instrumental to oxidative phosphorylation and is responsible for shuttling electrons to cytochrome C reductase of the respiratory chain (Xu et al., 2014). Importantly, the researchers speculate that, “Photonic energy capture through dietary-derived metabolites may be an important means of energy regulation in animals” (Xu et al., 2014).


Moreover, despite the increased output, the expected increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) that normally attends increased mitochondrial function was not observed; in fact, a slight decrease was observed (Xu et al., 2014). This is a highly significant finding, because simply increasing mitochondrial activity and ATP output, while good from the perspective of energy, may accelerate aging and other ROS-induced, oxidative stress related adverse cellular and physiological effects. Chlorophyll, therefore, appeared to make animal mitochondria function in a healthier way.


Researchers articulate that the transfer of photosensitized electrons originating “from excited chlorophyll-type molecules is widely hypothesized to be a primitive form of light-to-energy conversion that evolved into photosynthesis” (Xu et al., 2014, p. 394). This, in concert with the fact that sunlight-derived photons of red light have resided within nearly every mammalian tissue throughout evolution, lends credence to the notion that mammalian life harbors conserved molecular mechanisms designed to harness photonic energy (Xu et al., 2014). Fundamentally, this study reveals that animals are not just glucose-burning biomachines, but are light-harvesting hybrids. Technically, that knocks us out of the category of heterotrophs into photoheterotrophs.




It appears that modern science is only now coming to recognize the ability of the human body to receive and emit energy and information directly from the light given off from the Sun (Slawinski et al., 2005).

There is also a growing realization that the Sun and Moon affect biophoton emissions through gravitational influences.  Recently, biophoton emissions from wheat seedlings in Germany and Brazil were found to be synchronized transcontinentally according to rhythms associated with the lunisolar tide (Gallep et al., 2013).  In fact, the lunisolar tidal force, to which the Sun contributes 30% and the Moon 60% of the combined gravitational acceleration, has been found to regulate a number of features of plant growth upon Earth (Barlow et al., 2012).




Besides melanin, another conduit through which human beings exploit light energy may be water. Although the majority of our planet’s surface and our body’s interior is comprised of water, the orchestrated response of water molecules to light, and the coordinated organization of water molecules, has until recently remained a mystery.


In a dramatic departure from traditional schools of thought, which partitioned water into solid, liquid, and gaseous phases, a fourth phase of water has been unearthed by Dr. Gerald Pollack and colleagues (Pollack, 2013). This liquid-crystalline phase occurs proximate to hydrophilic, water-loving surfaces, which are surfaces typically capable of hydrogen bonding that thermodynamically favor interactions with other polar substances relative to hydrophobic, water-fearing solvents. This extensive fourth phase of water, which is ubiquitous in both nature and the human body, expands with absorption of electromagnetic energy in the form of light.


Radiant energy, ultimately emanating from the sun, transforms bulk water into fourth phase structured water, such that the magnitude of the fourth phase is directly related to the quantity of light absorbed (Pollack, 2015). Customary bulk water spontaneously absorbs ultraviolet, visible, and infrared wavelengths and is converted into this liquid crystalline water, also called ‘exclusion zone’ or ‘EZ’ water due to its exceptional omission of solutes (Pollack, 2015).


With a molecular formula H3O2, this ‘ordered’ or ‘structured’ fourth phase contains more molecular oxygen than H2O, and hence is both more dense and possesses a negative charge (Pollack, 2015). Although near infrared energy is most capable, the absorption of any spectrum of radiant energy splits water molecules into positive and negative moieties, with the former binding water molecules to create freely diffusing hydronium ions, and the latter constituting the elementary units that build the EZ (Pollack, 2015).


There is remarkable symmetry between this process, whereby additional assimilation of light energy engenders further charge separation, and the principal step of photosynthesis. In the process by which plants harness solar energy, hydrophilic chromophores, or light-absorbing molecules generally attached to a proteinaceous structure, catalyze the splitting of water molecules into oxygen and hydrogen (Fassioli et al., 2013). Light absorption by the chromophores transitions these antenna molecules from a ground state to a transient energetically excited state, and the excitation is transferred between chromophores until it ultimately arrives at a reaction center, where it induces a charge separation (Fassioli et al., 2013). A wide diversity of light-harvesting antenna structures exist in nature, such as chlorophyll, bilins, and carotenoids; however, each of these complexes retains the capacity to “convert the photo-generated excitations to charge separation with very high efficiency” (Fassioli et al., 2013, p.2).


In the analogous process by which EZ water is generated, Pollack (2015) describes how any generic hydrophilic surface, from a dissolved molecule to a large polymer, can serve as the catalyst in the hydrolysis of water. In plants, segregation of charges delivers energy via a series of successive electron transfer reactions which enable photosynthetic energy transduction from a photo excited reaction center (Fassioli et al, 2014). This separation of charges, which generates energy via a battery-like configuration, operates not only in the plant kingdom, but also in EZ water.


The consequences of Pollack’s revolutionary insights for human health are limitless, since 50 to 75 percent of the body mass is water, and because two-thirds of the total body water resides in the intracellular compartment (Bianchetti, Simonetti, & Bettinelli, 2009). Further, 99 percent of molecules in the human body are water molecules, which were formerly regarded as secondary compared to nucleic acids and proteins, the latter of which were considered more important due to their contribution to the central dogma of biology (Pollack, 2015). In sharp divergence from the antiquated view that considers water to be the background carrier of these other molecules, structured water has been found to envelop every macromolecule, and to be quintessential to every cellular process (Pollack, 2001).




For instance, the potential energy stored in water and amplified by additional incident light energy can power work in the form of flow. Experiments have elucidated that submerging hydrophilic tubes in water produces perpetual flow because of the radiant energy the water contains, with additional energy input eliciting faster flow (Pollack, 2013; Rohani & Pollack, 2013). Thus, Pollack (2015) demonstrates not only that EZ water can drive vascular flow in plants, but also rectifies the paradox of why pressure gradients across human capillary beds are negligible—radiant energy helps impel flow through capillaries, which would otherwise necessitate high driving pressure to overcome total peripheral resistance and enable red blood cells to navigate capillaries with smaller diameters than the cells themselves. In a sense, then, both sauna therapy and sunlight exposure constitute previously unexplored sources of vascular force via their contribution to the construction of the body’s structured water zones (Pollack, 2015).




In addition, Pollack (2015) explains that EZ water is the reason why joint sockets do not squeak as a result of frictional resistance during rotation under pressure, despite being situated at sites where bones abut one another. Hyaline cartilage, a semirigid avascular connective tissue consisting of a matrix of protein fibers in a gel-like ground substance, cocoons the ends of the bones to provide a sliding surface at joint articulations. Joints are in turn lined by fibrous areolar connective tissue enclosed by a layer of cuboidal or squamous epithelial cells devoid of a basement membrane called the synovial membrane, which consists of cells that secrete synovial fluid to decrease friction in the joint cavity. Because cartilage is a highly charged polymeric-like gel material, cartilage grows layers of EZ water in response to light (Pollack, 2015).


According to Pollack (2015), a concentrated population of hydronium ions are confined in the joint capsule, which repel one another maintaining distance between surfaces even in the presence of heavy loads, guaranteeing low frictional resistance. The double-layered joint capsule, comprised of a dense fibrous layer of connective tissue and an inner synovium, in turn ensures that the repelling hydronium ions do not disperse, which would jeopardize joint lubrication and cause asperities to make contact (Pollack, 2015).


With tissue injury and joint dislocation in particular, the full osmotic draw of EZ water is brought to bear. In theory, cells should generate an enormous osmotic water-attractant force since their cytoplasms are chock full of negatively charged proteins. However, the water-to-solids ratio of the cell normally remains at 2:1, versus 20:1 or higher for many gels, due to its complex cytoskeletal biopolymers such as actin filaments, microtubules, and intermediate filaments, which confer stiffness and establish cell architecture (Pollack, 2015; Fletcher & Mullins, 2010). The eukaryotic cell is able to resist deformation, adopt morphological changes during motility, transport intracellular cargo, and abstain from expansion to its full osmotic potential as a consequence of this cross-linking tubular network (Fletcher & Mullins, 2010).


However, when these cytoskeletal forces, which spatially organize the cell contents, are disrupted or contorted with injury, dramatic expansion occurs as an influx of EZ layers allows the tissue to massively hydrate (Pollack, 2015). Thus, healing, and reduction of swelling, will only take place with the successive reparation of these dynamic and adaptive cytoskeletal filaments and with the restoration of matrix mechanics.




Although hydration status and water homeostasis is recognized as a critical determinant of health, researchers state that, “Beyond these circumstances of dehydration, we do not truly understand how hydration affects health and well-being, even the impact of water intakes on chronic diseases” (Popkin, D’Anci, & Rosenberg, 2010). The pioneering paradigm of the fourth phase of water may fill in the gaps in this knowledge base. In essence, Pollack (2015) notes that the higher dipole moment of EZ water translates into better rehydration of cells, such that optimizing EZ water dynamics may be a future clinical priority.


He likewise states that EZ water may explicate the therapeutic properties of renowned healing bodies of waters such as the Lourdes and Ganges, which are fed by glacial melt or underground springs, many of which experience pressure from above that assembles ordered water from liquid water (Pollack, 2015). Further proof that these bodies of water build EZ water comes from studies which demonstrate that some glacial melt and spring waters exhibit a spectrometric peak at 270 nanometers, which is reflective of the ultraviolet wavelength at which EZ water absorbs light (So, Stahlberg, & Pollack, 2012).


Lastly, Pollack’s groundbreaking work on structured water shines a spotlight on the role of antioxidants. Pollack (2015) speculates that humans bear net negative charge, since cells, which comprise 60% of the mass of the body, and components of the extracellular matrix, such as elastin and collagen, all possess negative polarity and adsorb EZ water. In contrast, those bodily compartments that bear positive charge, or have low pH, include expired air, perspiration, urine, and the gastrointestinal system, which function to eliminate positive charge in the form of excess protons from the body (Pollack, 2015). While plants can discharge positive charge via direct connection to the negatively charged earth, animals require antioxidants to counteract oxidation—the molecular process by which electrons are lost, robbing molecules of their net negative charge.


In this way, food can again be envisioned as imparting information, this time in the form of antioxidants which preserve health by reducing molecules via electron donation to help maintain proper bodily negativity. Accumulation of free radicals, which are highly reactive molecular species with an unpaired electron in an atomic orbital, in the absence of antioxidants to neutralize them, culminates in oxidative stress, which mediates disease pathology via damage to proteins, lipids, and nucleic acids (McCord, 2000). Whereas synthetic antioxidants have proven deleterious to human health, food-based antioxidants from spices, medicinal plants, and traditional Indian cuisine in particular “prevent free radical induced tissue damage by preventing the formation of radicals, scavenging them, or by promoting their decomposition” (Lobo et al., 2010).




Thus, it can be argued that human beings utilize a process akin to photosynthesis, in that we use light energy to create work through the vehicle of water. In this sense, water can be re-conceptualized as an alternative to the traditional energy currency of the cell, adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Again, melanin may figure prominently in the conversion of light energy into chemical energy mediated by EZ water, in that this molecule absorbs the visible wavelengths and concentrates photons in such a way as to drive metabolic pathways (Herrera et al., 2015). Pollack (2015) further proposes that melanin could emit the absorbed energy in the infrared band, which in turn could power establishment of the EZ, division of charges, and generation of cellular energy.


Rather than merely engulfing and bathing the more integral molecular figures in the biochemical symphony, water constitutes a central player in the orchestra and represents an informational powerhouse. Thus, investigating the clinical applications of structured water may yield future dividends for improving health.




Even human intention itself, the so-called ghost in the machine, may have an empirical basis in biophotons. This notion was echoed by Max Planck, the German theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery of energy quanta, who conceived of matter as a derivative of consciousness (Curtis & Hurtak, 2004).


A recent commentary published in the journal Investigación Clínica addressed this connection.   Bonilla (2008) discusses how biophoton emission is the vehicle through which intention, or a targeted train of thoughts meant to engender certain courses of action, elicits its effects. Rather than serving as mere epiphenomena, “Direct intention manifests itself as an electric and magnetic energy producing an ordered flux of photons” (Bonilla et al., 2008, p. 595). Thus, the directed emission of streams of photons, which are stored in the genetic material and can be altered in states of ill health, can send messages from one body part to another and to the extraneous environment.


As highlighted by Bonilla (2008), “Our intentions seem to operate as highly coherent frequencies capable of changing the molecular structure of matter” (Bonilla, 2008, p. 595). Therefore, abstract and esoteric phenomena such as hypnosis, extrasensory perception, stigmata, the placebo effect, the efficacy of prayer, and instances of spontaneous remission or remote healing may be conceptualized in terms of the power of beliefs and intention, mediated by photonic light particles. Moreover, because BPE is synchronized with macrocosmic-level gravitational, diurnal, and geomagnetic forces, its healing power could theoretically be harnessed by taking advantage of the lunar, solar, and seasonal cycles. This seems to fit the hypothesis advanced by Ji (2017) in his article, “Waves as the Symmetry Principle Underlying Cosmic, Cell, and Human Languages,” that cellular, human, and cosmic languages are connected through waves: electromagnetic, mechanical, chemical concentration and gravitational.




The notion of what it means to be human, and the nature of our body, is also being redefined by research exploring bioelectromagnetic interactions between individuals. Not only does the human body radiate light in the form of ultra weak biophotonic emissions, but it also emits electromagnetic fields, since electromagnetic waves are generated when electrical charges move, according to Maxwell’s equation. Our corporeal bodies, therefore, cannot only be perceived as entities of light, but also as beings of electricity.


That there is “an incredible amount of activity at levels of magnification or scale that span more than two-thirds of the 73 known octaves of the electromagnetic spectrum” in the human body elucidates how bodily systems are entrained to operate as a globally coherent system rather than displaying discordant and erratic behavior (Rosch, 2014). This integrated coherence, whereby body systems both function autonomously and collaborate interdependently with the whole, is responsible for defining qualities of living systems including exquisite sensitivity to signals, efficient energy transfer, and far-ranging coordination of activities (Ho, 2005). This coherence of the body, according to Rosch (2014), has implications for the energetic nature of social interactions, the contribution of bioelectromagnetism to physiological processes, the role of positive emotionality in health, and the interaction between people and the electromagnetic field in which the earth is enmeshed.


Positive emotions are associated with greater degrees of coherence, defined as more stable and harmonious interactions in the rhythmic activity of the oscillatory systems of the body (Rosch, 2014; Tiller, McCraty, & Atkinson, 1996). For instance, when an individual employs coherence-building techniques by exuding positive emotionality to produce feelings of gratitude, the synchronization between the alpha waves of their brains and their cardiac cycle significantly increases (McCraty, 2002). In addition to synchronization between the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, which also occurs with physiological coherence, Rosch (2014) notes that entrainment can occur between cardiac, respiratory, digestive, neurological, and craniosacral rhythms, as well as other biological oscillators including fluctuations in blood pressure and the electrical conductance measured in the skin. This occurs because the subsystems of the body begin to vibrate at the resonant frequency of the holistic system (Rosch, 2014).  These notions can be reconciled with the idea promulgated by Petoukhov, that organisms are systems of resonant oscillators, or are akin to musical instruments (Petoukhov & Petukhova, 2017).


A constellation of evidence is also evolving to demonstrate that group communication, social unity, and collective group intentions can be explained by an unseen bioenergetic field that connects and informs behavior of members in highly coherent groups (Rosch, 2014). Rosch’s coherence construct is reinforced by a theory proposed by neuroscientist Karl Pribram and sociologist Raymond Bradley, who showed that bioenergetic interconnectivity is the global thread that organizes group members into governing social hierarchies and a fabric of coherent social networks (Rosch, 2014).


This mechanism may function through the electromagnetic field radiated by a person’s heart, which encodes frequency spectra that communicates information about an individual’s emotional state into the social milieu (Rosch, 2014). Research in neurocardiology is confirming that the heart, which has metaphorically been conceived as the seat of emotional experience, behaves as a sensory organ, transmits afferent signaling to higher cognitive centers that are critical to integration and processing of emotional stimuli, and is capable of executive decisions independent of the cerebral cortex (Rosch, 2014; McCraty, 2002). The heart, which produces an electromagnetic field 5000 times stronger than that of the brain, communicates with the brain via immune-mediated humoral pathways, neurological pathways, and bioelectromagnetic and biophysical (pulse wave) modes of signal transduction (Rosch, 2009, p. 304).


The heart in particular mediates inter-individual bioelectromagnetic communication, conveys emotional information, and can promote synchronicity in physiological rhythms between individuals, as evidenced by experiments showing that couples in stable and long-term relationships exhibit heart rhythm synchrony while they sleep (Rosch, 2014). Social rituals can likewise cement heart rhythm synchronicity, as illustrated by a Spanish fire-walking ritual where synchronized arousal developed between participants and related spectators (Konvalinka et al., 2011). Morris, in contrast, found that heart rhythm synchronization was dependent upon degree of bonding between subjects (Morris, 2010). Because the heart’s signal can be transferred via radiation, even individuals sitting next to each other have a propensity to develop similar heart rhythms (Rosch, 2009).


Bioelectromagnetic communication between people and animals has also been confirmed by experiments showing that a child consciously radiating feelings of love for his dog led to synchronous shifts in the heart rhythms of both the boy and his pet, despite lack of physical contact or interaction (Rosch, 2014). Resonance between a mother’s brain waves and her infant’s heartbeats, in the absence of physical touch, has also been detected, when the mother actively expended mental energy focusing on the baby (Rosch, 2014). In addition to group dynamics, bioenergetic processes can therefore account for the repulsion or attraction between people, as well as related phenomena such as empathy and the enhanced efficacy of an empathetic physician or therapist during a therapeutic encounter (Rosch, 2014; Rakel et al., 2009).




Biofields may similarly account for the success of energetic medicine, which has long been acknowledged by Eastern traditions but dismissed by the conventional biomedical paradigm. For instance, skin punch biopsy incised full-thickness dermal wounds healed significantly faster in subjects treated by a hidden therapeutic touch of a practitioner compared to those who received sham treatments (Wirth, 1990). Compared to ill controls who did not receive ‘laying on of hands,’ subjects who received this intervention produced statistically significant changes in hemoglobin values (Krieger, 1974). Further, a 70% average reduction of pain was exhibited by individuals with tension headaches who were subjected to therapeutic touch, compared to half that level of improvement witnessed in those who received placebo touch (Keller, 1986). Therapeutic touch also decreased state anxiety in hospitalized inpatients in a cardiovascular unit compared to patients receiving casual touch or no touch (Heidt, 1981).


Another biofield-based therapy, reconnective healing, has been shown to amplify the autonomic arousal and energy of both healer and healee, produce improvements in pain and range of motion, and potentially entrain the biofields of individuals when performed in a group setting (Baldwin & Trent, 2017).  Further, both a Cochrane review and a separate systematic review of randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies concluded that biofield therapies are supported for reducing pain (Jain & Mills, 2010; vanderVaart et al.,2009). Evidence also exists that biofield-based modalities implemented as an adjunctive therapy in cancer improve persistent fatigue, depression, diurnal cortisol rhythms, natural killer activity, and other biomarkers of clinical significance  (Jain et al., 2015).


Energetic healing modalities, which may invoke physiological coherence, are likewise promising for dementia, heart disease, and arthritis, and are so powerful at a molecular level that they can even elicit changes in structure of water and DNA conformation (Rosch, 2014; Jain et al., 2015). Paul Rosch (2014) catalogues how increased coherence within and between the bioelectromagnetic systems of the body, which can also be invoked with feelings of appreciation, is associated with enhanced hormonal profiles, humoral immunity, cognitive performance, psychological health, and improvements in disease states such as asthma, diabetes, congestive heart failure, HIV/AIDS, and hypertension.




Due to our enmeshment within the greater macrocosm of the solar system, cosmic, gravitational, diurnal, and geomagnetic forces entrain human biological rhythms such that energetic variations emanating from these fields have profound implications for human health and global behaviors (Rosch, 2014). These forces influence human biofields hand in hand with their effects on biophoton emission. For example, magnetically intense storms are correlated with an increase in psychiatric hospital admissions, and low-frequency electromagnetic fields are capable of suppressing melatonin secretion (Rosch, 2009). Further, changes in daily cyclic light may influence pineal gland synthesis of psychoactive neuropeptides such as dopamine and serotonin (Rosch, 2009). Thus, solar, lunar, and gravitational forces can elicit physiological aberrations associated with pathological states. This underscores the deeply rooted belief, emphasized by many traditional medical systems, that harmony with cosmic, planetary, and environmental forces is essential for health.


In summary, the bioelectromagnetic body is a reincarnation of the ancient notion of a “life energy” which pervades many traditional cultures. As articulated by Paul Rosch, “Variously called qi (chi), ki, the “four humors,” prana, “archaeus,”“cosmic aether,”“universal fluid,”“animal magnetism,” and “odic force,” among other names, this purported biofield is beginning to yield its properties and interactions to the scientific method” (Rosch, 2009, p. 297). In the future, these concepts may not only provide a firm evidence base for many of the energetic healing arts, intangible psychic and social phenomena, and food-as-medicine therapeutic approaches, but they may also be harnessed to enhance human health in myriad other ways.


While this research is only preliminary, and calls into question basic assumptions about cellular bioenergetics and human physiology, the truth is that we have been immersed in hoary assumptions of a mechanistic and reductionistic bent that no longer accurately describe the thing itself: the human body and what sustains it.

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