Lipids / Trans fats

The Breakthrough - Evidence Of Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Evidence of the harmfulness of trans fats

In 1951, Dr Budwig began researching commercial fat. Post-war Germany was experiencing an economic revival. Gone were the times of rations and butter substitutes people were finally able to indulge themselves again. Rich and plentiful food was what the people sought after. The German food industry reported record profits. It was not an ideal time to be a fatty acid researcher whose studies in 1952 confirmed the harmfulness of trans fats. Dr. Johanna Budwig reflected upon these circumstances. From this point on she found herself unable to ignore the obvious relationship between diet and disease progression. She continued to immerse herself in the relevant subject matter.

Lipid Research A look back at the history of lipid research One of the central issues driving Dr. Johanna Budwig was her interest in the regulation of cellular oxygen uptake, along with any factors which might interfere with the process. Researchers such as Otto Warburg suspected that fatty acids were another important factor for the oxygen uptake of the cell.

In the 1950s, Dr. Johanna Budwig developed her technique of paper chromatography. She proved that the essential polyunsaturated fatty acids linoleic acid and α linolenic acid are of vital importance as interaction partners to the sulfur amino acids for oxygen uptake in the cell. The significant feature of these polyunsaturated fatty acids is their enormous electron potential. The energy contained in the double bonds of fatty acids is freely available for electro-physical processes in the cell. The negative charge of these fatty acids makes them an optimal binding partner for the positively charged sulfur containing amino acids. Together they form the battery of our cells and control their energy potential.

There were significant differences in the membrane structure between healthy and diseased mice. The cardiolipins of the diseased mice were composed differently, resulting in a disruption of one of the most vital aspects of metabolism namely electron transport and thus to interfering with the entire energy production process. These results support the Warburg hypothesis.

Current scientific results

Dr. Warburg, a physician and biochemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1931, had already discovered in the 1920s that cancer cells possess a unique metabolism. While healthy cells convert sugar from food into carbon dioxide and water while consuming oxygen during so called cellular respiration, tumor cells obtain their energy by fermenting the sugar to lactic acid. This process takes place even when sufficient oxygen is available.

In 2006, a collaborative research team under the direction of Prof. Dr. Michael Ristow from the Universities of Jena and Potsdam was able to confirm the over 80 year old hypothesis of the Nobel Prize winner, Otto Warburg. Using the example of colon cancer in animal models, the team of scientists demonstrated the process of oxidation in tumor cells. The suppressed cellular respiration in these cancer cells could be stimulated again through treatment with a certain protein. The result showed that the cells of the animals tested had lost the ability to form malignant tumors. This served as proof that the rate of tumor growth depends on certain metabolic processes and that these can be manipulated successfully.

US biologists, specifically a research team led by Michael and Thomas Seyfried Kiebish from Boston College, re-investigated the Warburg hypothesis in 2009. They concentrated intensely on the structure and function of the mitochondrial membrane in mice with different brain tumors. Mitochondria are cellular organelles called in other words constituents of the cell and the actual site of cellular respiration. In their observations, particular attention was given to a substance called cardiolipina phospholipid which stabilizes the mitochon drial membrane.