- Series: Oxford Landmark Science
- Paperback: 368 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (December 11, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199205647
- ISBN-13: 978-0199205646
- Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.9 x 5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 132 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life (Oxford Landmark Science) Paperback – December 11, 2006
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"Full of startling insights into the nature and evolution of life as we know it."--The Economist
About the Author
Dr. Nick Lane is an honorary senior research fellow at University College, London. His first book, Oxygen: the Molecule that made the World, was published to critical acclaim by Oxford University Press in 2002.
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The book explains a number of things I've wondered about:
(1) Why does a mother's environment affect the children of her daughters? It's because the unit of growth is the cell, not just DNA, and the daughter's eggs are formed in-utero. So if the mother is stressed nutritionally early in the pregnancy, it affects her daughter's children by reducing the robustness of her daughter's eggs.
(2) Why don't antioxidants increase longevity? It's because the cell uses ROS as a signal for proteins needed by the mitochondria and to grow more mitochondria, and needs a finely tuned level of internal anti-oxidant machinery in order to hear the signal, yet not be damaged by it. So taking extra Vitamin C or E reduce the internal signaling, and might cause premature apoptosis of the cell because it degrades the health of your mitochondria. This ties into studies showing that Vit C and/or E reduce the benefits of exercise, by shutting down the internal ROS signaling pathways.
(3) How can we improve our own longevity? It looks like the major factor is the rate of leakage of ROS from mitochondria. So things that reduce this leakage make a big difference: (a) where possible, have your cells run on fat instead of glucose, because that reduces free electron leak from complex I, and (b) make sure you have balanced levels of omega-6 and omega-3 PUFA, as that appears to also make a significant difference (at least in mice...)
There is much more, and I have a much better framework now for my research on how to optimize my health. Highly recommended!
Two other books in the same class are The Fourth Phase of Water: Beyond Solid, Liquid, and Vapor, and Cells, Gels and the Engines of Life.
The reading here is necessarily dense because the subject matter is. I'm a former history major who enjoys reading science books written for laypeople, but this does not read as easily as Stephen Jay Gould, Norman Doidge or Jonah Lehrer, because the subject is so complicated and much of mitochondrial research is so new. Reading this really taxed my working memory. Fortunately, I had the Kindle edition which made it easy to review sections and look up terms.
Although I was primarily interested in human biology, I found the beginning section on mitochondria and evolution to be quite fascinating and I really enjoyed the information about birds, metabolism, free radicals and longevity.
Everything: The format the book is written (it's divided in small sub chapters that you can read very quickly if you don't have time, i.e. in the morning instead of a newspaper article), the way Lane explains concepts (I even learned basic biology ideas I was never able to grasp), the way he presents the ideas itself...
Power, Sex, Suicide gives me the same sense of awe and admiration that Cosmos gave me the first time I saw it. I'd really wish Lane was as famous as Sagan in terms of popularizing science.
He (Lane) even presents ideas he doesn't agree with, which I really loved.
I'm looking forward to buying Oxygen and of course as you can see now I'm a really huge, huge Lane's fan.