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Lesson - Chemistry

Welcome to our second lesson. It is on Chemistry. A topic not necessarily my favorite, but one supremely important to us for understanding how our body functions. I tried to make the material interesting by weaving in some pearls of wisdom that can help us understand the chemistry of food better.

This lesson is large and spans 2 classes. Please print or download the Class Notes provided below. I also suggest you print the Preview Questions. Then, please watch the Lecture Videos, answer the questions, and email them to me at Do this before class as it will give you credit points towards the final grade.

Class Notes:

Lesson 2 - Chemistry (full pager)
Lesson 2 - Chemistry (2 slides per page)
Lesson 2 - Chemistry (3 slides per page)

Lecture Videos:

Learn about BLOOD to avid problems.
(start listening at 4:30 minutes)

Learn why TRANS FATS are so horrific!
(go to 2:20' - 5:00')

Preview Questions:
(printable version)

Part 1

  1. Everything we can touch in the universe is considered matter. A table, the car, clothes we wear, even our own body, the list is endless. Water is a good example. For once, we are made up of a lot of water. But also, it comes in different forms depending on its temperature. Below 0º Celsius, water will become ice, and above 100º C, it becomes steam. What are the 3 states of matter called?
  2. Energy manipulates matter. For example, making tea requires heating up water. It is energy, such as from a stove, that will do that. Energy is flowing and hard to contain. If it is in action, we call it being kinetic; if it is stored for later use, potential energy. Give some example how that applies to your body?
  3. Energy comes in many different types. How does our body use chemical energy? (it’s in the video)
    Which body system utilizes electrical energy heavily? How do you see the body using mechanical energy?
  4. Changing the type of energy is generally smooth. For example: potential chemical energy in your muscle becomes kinetic, mechanical energy as soon as you, or your brain, decides to move. Energy conversion produces a by-product that the body can make good use of; for example when you shiver to get warm. What is lost during energy conversion?
  5. Let’s go back to matter and understand a few things of how it is made up. The universe is made up of many different elements. To study of how these elements work and how they are made up, we look at the smallest possible piece and learn to understand it. What do we call one element’s fundamental particle?
  6. Structurally, the particles are made up similar to our solar system (or at least that’s what we think and use to explain). There is a center, a nucleus, which is kind of like the sun. And then there are things (we are not sure if they are physical particles or simply energy fields) encircling the center, just like planets do. What do we call the 3 tiny substances that make up the nucleus and orbits?
  7. Many things in our world are based on 2 opposites; night-day, hot-cold, on-off, etc. Atoms are structurally held together by the interaction of charges. A positive charge is attracted to the negative one. Which part of an atom is positive, which negative?
  8. Combining atoms with one another makes molecules. Water for example has 3 atoms combining, 2 hydrogen ones and 1 oxygen. How those atoms combine is interesting. Which parts of an atom take part in creating links (or bonds) with another one?
  9. The outermost orbits of one atom most likely touch and interact with the ones of another. What is the outermost orbit of an atom called?
  10. Most atoms seem to like 8 electrons in their valence (octet rule). If they don’t have 8, they react with other atoms to get to that magic number. If an atom’s valence is naturally filled with all of them, it becomes stable, or non-reactive. What do we call such elements?
  11. Chemical bonds, or connections between atoms are done by either sharing electron(s) of each other’s valence, or fully transferring one electron from one atom to another. If one atom get’s an electron, and the other doesn’t, we are making salts (like table salt). When you put salts in water (solution…or body fluids), they separate and become charged ions, which, in the body can help make an electrical current. What do we call that type of bond?
  12. What’s the sharing type called? That one can be between more than one electron becoming double or even triple bonds. When it’s more then one, the molecules loose their ability to rotate around that axis. We see this in the difference between oils and fats.
  13. Also, those bonds can be charged, or not. Water’s hydrogens for example are attached with charged bonds to the oxygen molecule. These molecules have more positive and more negative areas. Water molecules are most interesting, because they use that quality to make their own weak connections between a more positive area of one H2O with a more negative area of another. What do we call those bonds?
  14. Chemical reactions generally are of 2 types; things are either built or destroyed. Making a muscle for example requires for the body to synthesize, or build, protein. It does that by taking the necessary elements and ‘bonding’ them together. We call this an anabolic process. On the other hand, what do we call the destructive process?
  15. The body uses molecules called enzymes to help specific chemical reactions. Enzymes help in making or breaking bonds. What other factors influence the rate of a chemical reaction?

Part 2

  1. Carbon is one of the most important elements for us on earth. It is found in all living things. Molecules forming with carbon are generally large. What are these types of molecules called?
  2. Water (H2O) is the most common molecule in our body: it fills us up to the armpits! Life really came from the oceans. It’s like we are ocean with a skin-suit around it. I try to remember that to drink more water! Can you list, and maybe even understand the properties that make H2O such a superstar molecule?
  3. Salts are very important for our bodies. They are particles that carry a charge. We can use them to make small electrical impulses; nerves for example use this to send signals through the body. What do we call a solution filled with these ions?
  4. 2.18. H2O is everywhere in the body. That means there are a lot of hydrogen and oxygen atoms. If they split off from other molecules and float freely in solution as H+ (hydrogen ions) or OH- (hydroxyl ions), they can become dangerous if the concentration is too high. Acids give off H+ easily and bases OH-’s. What does the pH measure?
  5. Balancing these ion concentrations is very important. What do we call molecules that are weak acids or bases and pick up excess H+ or OH- ions?
  6. What are the 3 main macronutrients that make up the bulk of organic compounds?
  7. Synthesizing (making) a large molecule (polymer) from two small ones (monomers) requires the creation of a bond. Both monomers have to give up some atoms in order to combine with one another. The atoms they ‘let go’ happen to combine to a water molecule. What is this process called?
  8. Carbohydrates consist of many different foods: vegetables, fruit, but also bread as well as soda belong to that group. Glucose is the universal energy food, so we often eat carbs to get energy. Glucose is a monosaccharide (mono- means one). Sugars are disaccharides (di- means 2). Besides glucose, what other monosaccharide makes up table sugar (cane sugar)?
  9. Another important concept in understanding body function is the difference between hydrophyllic and hydrophobic. Hydro- means water, -phyllic loving, and –phobic means fearing. How a molecule behaves in a water environment is fundamental since we are so much of it. Think of oil and vinegar, they repel each other, oil will separate out in a water environment. Carbs and protein are hydrophyllic. What makes them chemically this way?
  10. Since glucose is the universal fuel, it is good for the body to store some for quick energy. Both the liver and muscle can store long chains of glucose molecules called polysaccharides. What do we call those molecules?
  11. If you have noticed, a lot of people these days deal with overweightness and obesity. There are reasons for that, and some are found in the food manufacturing industry. Food manipulation is a big, deadly industry. Our brains are quite easily manipulated, especially with the overwhelming bombardment of commercial’s subliminal messages. One of the wrong concepts is that fat in food makes you fat. The problem is, the body needs quite a bit of fat, your brain for example is mostly fat! Fats also satisfy when eaten, which means when we don’t have them, we eat more sugar containing foods. What does the body do with excess sugar?
  12. Carbs are broken down by the digestive system. The monosaccharides absorb into the blood stream. From there, the glucose needs to enter cells. Insulin is a hormone from the pancreas, which alters a protein channel in a cells wall, so that glucose can enter it and be used to make energy. The problem is that blood sugar makes the blood sticky, which can be damaging to the body as sticky blood gets clogged in small arteries and make one very sick. If we eat foods that enter the blood quickly, the pancreas needs to work overtime, which makes it tired and at some point unable to make insulin efficiently. That’s when one develops diabetes. What does the glycemic index describe?
  13. Neutral fats, the ones we eat the most, are known as tri-glycerides. Chemically, they look like the letter ’E’: 3 chains of carbons arising from what is called a glycerol backbone. The carbons in the chain are covalently bonded. When all the connections are single bonds (which means the molecule can freely rotate around itself), the carbon chains can arrange parallel and pack tightly. That structure will be solid at room temperature. A good example is butter. How do oils (liquid at room temperature) differ?
  14. So, what oils/fats should we eat and which avoid? Generally, the more processed a food, the less you should eat it! When we dive into the body and analyze lipids more, we touch on the term prostaglandin (PG). PG’s are converted lipids in our body that act like hormones; they chemically influence body functions such as inflammation and blood pressure for example. In our modern life, body inflammation is one of the most important things to understand when discussing aging and suffering, as well as longevity. We know of 3 PG types. To keep healthy, they need to be balanced. Most our commercial foods spike the inflammatory PG’s. Most dangerously are trans fats, which are engineered by humans. Margarine is likely the most famous example. Why are those foods so dangerous?
  15. A completely different lipid is the phospholipid. Lipids are hydrophobic, which means they separate out in water. We can use that quality, if we can have a molecule that is both ‘oily and watery’. An oil film can create a great boundary, because water can’t penetrat it easily. Phospho-lipids have a hydrophyllic end (the phosphate) and a hydrophobic end (the lipid). If we stack them tightly next to one another in a double row with the hydrophobic tails pointing at each other, we create a great boundary. What fundamental body structure is made of a phospholipid bi-layer?
  16. And lastly in the lipid department, we have to talk about cholesterol. This ‘bad rap’ molecule is actually a most important building block for many functional molecules. List some of them.
  17. Lipoproteins carry fat molecules around in the blood stream. HDL (high density lipoprotein) carries fats from the body to the liver for processing. LDL (low density l.) distributes the fats from the liver to the rest of the body. Which of the 2 is known as the good cholesterol?
  18. Proteins are our work molecules. They are good for construction such as in a tendon or ligament as well as provide many functions to the body such carrying oxygen in a red blood cell (RBC) or attacking a virus and help the immune system fight it. Fundamentally, they are made up of chains of Amino Acids (AA), which are their basic building blocks. We have 20 different kinds. 8 of them are known to be essential. What does that mean?
  19. The sequence of AA’s determines the type of protein. They are 3D structures that twist and fold. Fibrous proteins are more string-like that help bind structures together. A good example is a tendon or ligament. Globular proteins on the other hand are more complex as they are functional. A good example is the hemoglobin carrying the oxygen in the RBC. Which type is quite easily destroyed?
  20. Enzymes are some of the coolest proteins. They help the body’s chemical reactions by making or breaking bonds between molecules. They are unique for each reaction and give great control to what goes on in the body. Enzymes are named by their function, such as ‘lipase’, which breaks down lipids in the gut. What is the suffix used to name enzymes?
  21. You probably heard of DNA, the part of a cell that holds the information of how to make all the different types of proteins a body uses. In it’s fundamental make-up, it is a strand of 4 different molecules (nucleotides). They are arranged in a very specific sequence, which codes for the sequence of amino acids that make up protein. Can you name the 4 nucleotides used in DNA?
  22. Adenosine Tri-Phosphate (ATP) is the body’s energy storage molecule. For us of importance are the 3 (tri) phosphates that are attached to the adenosine. Breaking the bond that attaches the 3rd phosphate to the molecule liberates a great amount of energy that the body can use for work; muscle contractions for example. Once the bond is broken and the energy is released, the molecule has only 2 phosphates. What is it called?

Please email me the answers before the class meets to Thank you.

Class videos discussion of questions:

Instructor Lecture Slides

PreQ slides

These next talks inspired me. They discuss of how even my posture can influence how I feel or what hormones my glands secrete. Fascinating. Or, check out the power of a smile.

These next talks are not as happy making. I find them a bit scary, but nevertheless most important to be informed about. One discusses medical costs, the other is about studies conducted on medicines.

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