Your body needs energy for its survival. To meet its energy requirement, you eat carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. The breaking down of these nutrients occurs through a process called catabolism. Catabolism is the breakdown of complex molecules in living organisms to form simpler molecules along with the release of energy. The first step in the process of catabolism is called phosphorylation. For example, phosphorylation of sugar allows cells to accumulate the sugar that you have eaten.

The ability to gather sugar is vital as your body dislikes foreign particles and its first response is always to attack and eliminate anything that goes into your body. Phosphorylation prevents the molecules from diffusing back across the transport system that brought them in. This ability to retain nutrients is vital else you would die. You might wonder how did an organism begin the process that allowed nutrition to enter without which you and I would not be alive?

Research discovered that diamidophosphate or DAP combined with imidazole acting as a catalyst could have bridged the gap from early compounds that were formed several billion years ago. This process was the first possible step to external nutrition entering a living organism thereby providing them the energy to grow. Some DAP at room temperature, for example, managed to phosphorylate amino acids or protein. Others could do the same with glycerol and fatty acids or carbohydrates and fat.

We live life every day without giving much thought to the many processes that keep us alive. Very few of us manage to spend too much time thinking about the origins of these vital factors that keep us alive. Every once in a while, something catches our attention that makes us stop and wonder. How did we manage to become organisms that live on carbs and protein anyway? Why not bark or stone or something else entirely random? Perhaps there was an organism that lived on bark but didn’t make it?


Ritesh is a born again health enthusiast and holds a Certificate in Physiology from Harvard Medical School and a Certificate in Nutrition from Tufts University.