The metabolic pathways involved in cellular respiration are complex and highly coordinated. Substances introduced into the body may affect these pathways, having either therapeutic or negative, possibly even lethal, consequences.
The compound 2, 4-dinitrophenol (DNP) interferes with cellular respiration and has been utilized as an effective weight loss treatment. Unfortunately, doctors found that the treatment not only eliminated fat, but also the patients! Chemicals like cyanide, malonate, and rotenone also interfere with cellular respiration and can be deadly poisons. Other chemicals like erythropoietin (EPO), which stimulates red blood cell production, can serve to maximize the cell’s ability to extract energy from organic materials during cellular respiration. Pharmaceutical and healthcare companies are very interested in substances that affect the mitochondria and associated energy releasing metabolic pathways. Depending on their effect, such substances may potentially be developed into ‘weight-loss’ drugs or ‘weight-gain’ drugs (yes, some people, especially those undergoing some types of medical treatment, need help maintaining/gaining weight). Some substances are marketed as nutritional supplements that increase energy levels and enhance athletic performance.
A substance that decreases the efficiency of the metabolic pathways that convert organic molecules (food) into ATP could be useful as a weight-loss drug. Individuals taking such a drug (and eating the same amount as before) would need to convert more of the food consumed into ATP than before, having less to store in the body—and potentially burning fuel that was previously stored, both resulting in weight loss.
Alternatively, substances that increase the efficiency of the pathways that convert food into ATP are potentially useful as a weight-gain drugs, as an individual (eating the same amount as before taking the drug) would need to burn less of the food consumed to get needed ATP levels, allowing more to be stored in the body—potentially resulting in weight gain, or more energy available to the cell for…