The Energy of Life.
A popular science book by Guy Brown

Winner of the Wellcome Trust Prize

"Energy" is a word often used loosely to refer to any of a host of vague concepts hiding within spirituality and psychology, along with its more mundane technical meaning in physics. Embracing rather than rejecting our ambiguity, biochemist Guy Brown shows us how the E in E=mc2 influences and informs our cells, bodies, and minds in The Energy of Life: The Science of What Makes Our Minds and Bodies Work. As a working scientist specializing in human bioenergetics, Brown needs to know how to keep all his natural conceptions of energy separate but related, and he shares with the reader his understanding of how it all fits together.
Starting with an introduction to the basics of physical understandings of energy and thermodynamics, easily grasped even by English majors, he proceeds to break down how this quality of matter fuels our daily lives, from solar and geothermal radiation through platters of buffalo wings to maintaining alertness at all-staff meetings. Feelings of sexual and mental energy aren't excluded from his analysis; in fact, as focuses of attention for most readers, the author is savvy enough to emphasize them. Practical advice on maintaining nutritional energy balance to stay healthy and wide awake is interlaced with the more theoretical information, and this synergy makes The Energy of Life an invigorating read. --Rob Lightner

From Publishers Weekly
On any given day, you may exhibit--or need, or want--"energy": the get-up-and-go that allows you to apply for a job, run down the street or just read this page. Your body also requires, and gets (by processing food and oxygen), "energy" in the sense that physicists use the word--what your brain needs in the form of glucose, and what microscopic bodies called mitochondria package as a chemical called ATP. Brown, a biochemist at Cambridge University, has written an accessible book about both kinds of energy and the links between them. He explains how energy circulates in the body at the molecular level and how it controls what goes on in organs and organisms. ATP, mitochondria and calcium ions go to work whenever you move a muscle. You and your cat and her fleas all have a "metabolic rate," the speed with which an organism uses energy: multiply metabolic rate by life span for an assortment of animals, and you'll discover that "the total amount of energy used in an average lifetime is roughly equal" among species--though human beings are an exception, living longer than we "should." The brain has its own systems by which energy and information circulate every minute and every day. After elucidating those systems' roles in sex and sleep, Brown concludes with a slightly platitudinous chapter on emotional energy and fatigue, recommending regular exercise and "attainable" mental goals. Some readers may object to Brown's rapid pace and detect a few oversimplifications; most, though, will welcome this knowledgeable introduction to "body energy and mind energy what it is, how we get it, and how we lose it again." (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The enigma of human energy has been cracked. Biologist Guy Brown offers the first popular introduction to the cutting edge science of bioenergetics, one that provides a new understanding of the energy of life. We all know that something is happening to our energy levels on a sugar "rush," or a coffee "high," or following that afternoon nap, but now everyone can understand the smoothly operating human-energy machine, thanks to Brown's lucid overview of how energy courses through us at both the micro level of our cells and the macro level of our behavior.

At the micro level, the fundamental energy of our bodies is the frenetic movement within our cells that is powered by body heat. The nucleus, the mitochondria, and all ten thousand tiny bimolecular machines that fabricate and transport molecules around the cell do not sit still within the cell membrane but move about as if they were bubblegum balls in a vibrating gum machine. This movement puts every element of the cell in contact with every other every few seconds and enables the energy of the cell to flow. The energy comes from mitochondria, those strange, genetically distinct little beasts that heat our bodies and consume all the food we eat and oxygen we breathe. Brown has completed breakthough work on mitochondria and explains how they invaded our cells hundreds of millions of years ago. In the last few years, he and his colleagues have shown how these invaders wield the power of life or death over our every cell, over our very lives.

The carbohydrates, fats, and proteins we eat constitute mitochondria's main fuels, but our brains run only on glucose -- a peculiar and even toxic chemical when there is too much of it in our blood, as any diabetic knows well. This energy source of the mind is in very limited supply in our bodies because we can store so little of it. Brown suggests that we tend to eat too much fat because we are designed to stop being hungry when we've eaten enough of the carbohydrates from which we make glucose. Eating fat doesn't make us feel "full" as quickly or in the same way. For this reason, in the macro world of affluent societies, we must remind ourselves of the importance of a relatively high-carbohydrate, relatively low-fat diet.

Brown explores the energy dynamics of our athletic limits and our excited minds. He shows the strengths of mitochondria-rich brown muscle and the high-speed power of mitochondria-poor white muscle. Sex, which surprisingly begins as electrical energy in the brain's hypothalamus cell nuclei, increases heart rate, blood pressure, respiration rate, and muscle tension, quickly drenching the body in a shower of energy, culminating in orgasm. Ultimately, Brown reveals all the processes of mind and body to be flows either of short-term or long-term energy that are most efficient when we follow the simple plan of a balanced diet and regular exercise.

Built on a foundation of original research, a study of what energy has meant historically, and the up-to-the-minute perspective of the Brown Laboratory in the celebrated halls of biochemistry at Cambridge, this book is a treasure chest of human science for those interested in how our vital force works. Intriguingly, Brown concludes that it is more important to base our lives on the science of long-term and short-term energy levels than on monitoring our calorie intake or even our bank balance. Whether or not we follow this advice, here is an entertaining and scientific owners' manual for the human body that celebrates "the creator and destroyer of all things," The Energy of Life.