Nutrition, logic and information

From time to time,one reads a truly exciting article. Such an article is printed in Nature written by Paul Nurse ( Nature 2008 Life, logic and information vol 454 pp 424-5) and has made me think how nutrition fits into his massive picture of the future.
Biology has over the recent decades learnt so much of how genes, cells and organisms function.
However the connecting networks, general cellular homeostasis, maintenance of cellular integrity, the generation of special and temporal order, inter and intra-cellular signalling , cell memory and reproduction are not fully understood.
Nutrition has lagged behind this revolution and has less to contribute than the central position of our science merits.
Nutrition has a central role in such thinking.
There is too much emphasis on the effects of nutrition on the aetiology of disease and not on normal function. Maybe the grant giving boards are to blame.
Living organisms are complex. To understand the interconnections of living systems we need a new language and logic, drawn from systems analyses of living organisms.
The needs are
To describe molecular interactions and biochemical transformations as logic circuits showing how information is managed. The cell is the basis for such a description.
Logic circuits need to broken down into individual segments , eg negative feed back loop and positive feed back loops. The control of the cells intake of nutrition and how it asks for more of this and that nutrient is important here. What happens in excess circumstances and in reduced circumstances.
Detailed biochemical descriptions are required for this. Knowledge of the anatomy of the cell, rate constants , strengths of integration allow interaction models to be built and differential equations to be created.
How these modules operate and link together allows us to understand the flow of information.
How is information gathered. For nutritionists this is a long path from the plant seed and animal foetus to the farm to the shop to the consumer to the table, to the mouth , intestine, to the storage and transport systems and then allocated to a cellular system.
The basis of the cellular systems are the nucleic acids information storage and the DNA and histone methylation , protein kinase and phosphatases which act antagonistically as switches.
Detailed modelling might show that certain molecules are associated together in particular ways. The interactions of vitamin B12 and folic acid is a good example.
This would enable pathways and the limiting factors and interactions to be identified.
Such logics have been used in other fields of endeavour eg transportation , flight routes
Biological systems are more flexible and constantly changing
The temporal organisation and dynamics of the biological process would then make more sense.
In nutrition this system analysis would be enriched by behavioural analysis.
A brilliant prospect. Which requires a group of thinkers akin to the splitting of the atom and to better purpose.

Martin Eastwood
Back to top