Benford MS. Radiogenic Metabolism: An Alternative Cellular Energy Source.
Medical Hypotheses
. January 2001, Vol. 56, No. 1, 33-39.
          Recent experiments and theories have suggested a new mechanism for, at least, part of the beneficial effects induced by the complementary and alternative medicine practices known as "bioenergy therapies."(1,2)  These modalities operate on the premise that unseen energy is being manipulated and balanced in and around a subject's body such that positive physiological benefits are derived. 
          In preliminary studies, Benford et al. identified statistically significant decreases in extremely high-frequency electromagnetic fields, known as gamma rays, during bioenergy therapy sessions with a therapist and subject.  During the initial preliminary tests involving Polarity therapists and volunteer subjects, total counts were recorded in 100-second trials separately over the subject's crown, heart, abdomen and pelvic regions using a NaI(TI) crystal scintillator which detected gamma radiation from approximately 100 KeV to 3 MeV.  Later tests involved 300-second counts over the heart and pelvic regions only.
      The results demonstrated that gamma radiation levels markedly decreased during therapy sessions of 100% of subjects and at every body site tested regardless of which therapist performed the treatment.  In many instances, the gamma counts fluctuated by thousands within the short time periods analyzed.  T-tests were used to determine statistical significance with p-values ranging from p = .035 to p <.0001, in the 100-second trials, and p < .0000001 in the 300-second trials. (1, unpublished data). 
          One hypothesis suggests that the fluctuations may occur because of increased external gamma ray (ionizing radiation) absorption and/or delayed emission of ionizing radiation from within the subject's body during bioenergetic treatments (2).  It has been posited that this "net positive" effect of increased energy results in the activation of specific cellular and molecular processes beneficial to healing.
      The author proposed that this effect is similar to the therapeutic health effects seen in low-dose radiation experiments where it is thought that just enough radiation is absorbed to induce the expression of repair genes without actually causing serious biological damage (2).  A plethora of research documents the positive health effects of low-dose radiation which is often referred to as hormesis (3,4,5).  The idea of hormesis goes back to ancient Greece, where it was thought that frequent small doses of a poison would fine-tune the body and cause positive health effects. The same idea has been thought to apply to radiation, such that small amounts of ionizing radiation, e.g., gamma rays, are actually beneficial, and that without it, our health actually suffers. 
Energy Resources
          The standard and accepted source of energy known to support physiological processes comes from foodstuffs and is measured in the caloric unit.  The laws of thermodynamics dictate that in the steady state, the total caloric expenditure of the body equals total body caloric-fuel input (6).  The caloric-balance equation, subsequently, can be thought of as:
          Food energy intake = internal heat produced + external work                     (observed bodily functions) + internal work (unobserved                     intracellular functions) + energy storage 
As predicted by this caloric-balance equation, three states are possible:
1) Food intake = internal heat production + external work + internal work  (body weight constant)
2) Food intake > internal heat production + external work + internal work (body weight increase)
3) Food intake < internal heat production + external work + internal work (body weight decrease)
          Using this model, an individual's degree of energy usage, i.e., heat production plus external and internal work, is one of the essential determinants of total body-energy balance.  When exposure to cold or physical exercise (external work) causes increased energy usage, the individual, to maintain equilibrium, increases his food intake by an amount sufficient to match the additional energy required. 
          Similarly, individuals battling a disease or illness experience an elevated energy requirement (internal work) such that enhanced energy intake is required to maintain balance and restore health. The question then becomes, what happens if the individual does not take in the added energy required via foodstuffs?  Is disequilibrium always the answer or is there an alternative fuel source capable of meeting the intracellular energy needs?

      According to bioenergy healing theories, when the body's energy field is "blocked," energy treatments serve to release the blockages and encourage the flow of energy into the body.  Also observed by trained healers is the "pulling effect of universal energy" by subjects in a disease or disequilibrium state.  This pulling subsides as the subject's condition improves.  Thus, for subjects needing additional energy beyond what their body can capture and utilize via foodstuffs, theoretically, gamma radiation counts surrounding the subject's body during a healing energy session should decrease representing utilization of this energy source.  In the reverse scenario, whereby a person is absorbing too much/not emitting enough ionizing radiation, the healing therapy session should result in increased external gamma counts during healing energy sessions. Thus, according to this new paradigm, the energy-balance equation can be expanded to include radiogenic energy sources:
          Food energy + ionizing radiation intake  = internal heat produced + external work           (observed bodily functions) + internal work (unobserved intracellular functions) + energy                     storage
          If this revised energy-balance equation is an appropriate model, then it stands to reason that when food energy (calories) decreases, ionizing radiation energy intake may increase to maintain the energy-balance.  The reverse phenomenon may also occur such that, in radiation-rich environments, food energy intake automatically decreases due to energetic satiation. 
Radiogenic Metabolism
          Renowned cell biologist and radiation hormesis expert Dr. T.D. Luckey coined the term for this ionizing radiation usage within living cells as "radiogenic metabolism." (7)  By Luckey's description, radiogenic metabolism is concerned with "the promotion of metabolic reactions by ionizing radiation and its products.  It is hypothesized that radiogenic metabolism was involved in prephotosynthetic transformation of radiant energy into chemical energy.  Metabolic adaptation to the utilization of free radicals from the radiolysis of water could be the evolutionary precursor to the use of active oxygen radicals in photosynthesis and respiration."(7).  Evidence that radiation is essential for life was obtained by shielding microbes, plants and invertebrates from natural sources of radiation (4).  The results indicated that radiogenic metabolism is important for the growth and survival of a variety of living organisms.
          Other studies using a pure culture of a protozoan, Tetrahymens pyriformis, demonstrated a significant (p<.01) decrease in  growth in specimens exposed to a medium only containing non-radioactive KCL39 (8).  Planel et al. obtained comparable results with an alga and with Paramecium aurella (9).  These replicated experiments further document that ionizing radiation is an essential agent in both plant and animal organisms.  But does the comparison extend to human cells and energy metabolism?
      In human cells, only forty percent of the total potential energy in glucose is transferred to ATP.  The remaining sixty percent of the energy is generated in the form of heat (10).  Given this inefficient energy cycle, it is not hard to imagine the cellular need for an alternative fuel supply other than foodstuffs. 
          Some physiologists speculate that up to thirty percent of the energy fueling daily metabolic processes must come from energy sources other than foodstuffs (11).  Research by the Smithsonian Institute demonstrated that sharks obtain a large degree of their energy from sources other than food.  Likewise, insects obtain ninety percent of their energy form alternative fuel sources.  Of interest is that both sharks and insects are highly resistant to viral infections and cancers (12).
          By comparison, plants are able to capture the energy in sunlight and use this energy to synthesize glucose by the complex, enigmatic process of photosynthesis.  It is a well-known fact that all life is ultimately dependent upon the energy derived from sunlight, but are human cells directly benefiting from radiant energy as proposed in Figure 1? 
      A crucial observation is that bacteria are considered a part of the plant kingdom.  It is believed that mitochondria, the power-producers within the human cell, were once free-dwelling prokaryotes identical to bacteria. Subsequently, mitochondria are more closely aligned to organisms from the plant kingdom capable of photosynthetic processing of radiant energy than the eukaryotic cells with which they now share a symbiotic relationship.  The theory of free-standing mitochondrial bacteria, originally championed by Dr. Lynn Margulis, suggests that today's mitochondria are the descendants of ancient prokaryotes that established a symbiotic relationship within eukaryotic cells (13).
          More recent research, by Martin and Müller, suggests that the archaebacterium host (theoretical ancestor of the mitochondria) was strictly autotropic which means it was self-feeding.  This assumption further supports the theory that the primordial mitochondrial archaebacterium may have depended on the abundant ionizing radiation as a fuel source for its nutritional energy needs (14).
      If modern-day mitochondria are known to be capable of anaerobic energy generating processes and, like other plant organisms, can theoretically utilize radiant energy as a power source for energy production, is it not possible that this ability extends to the use of high-energy gammas to supply energy within the cell?  After all, prior to an atmosphere rich in oxygen, and their symbiotic relationship with the eukaryotic cells, these strict autotrophs required some energy source powerful enough to supply all their energy needs.            
Decreased Calories and Radiation Hormesis
          The gamma ray studies of Benford et al. may indicate that the body has a "self-regulation" mechanism which works by absorbing/retaining only the amount of ionizing energy needed at that time.  At higher altitudes, where naturally occurring ambient radiation is more abundant, the need for these types of energy interventions may not be as great as in a lower elevation.            Research by Luckey concluded that "the safety of low dose of ionizing radiation is reinforced by world events.  Several populations have lived for generations with ambient levels of ionizing radiation which are 10 times higher than the average in this country (see Table 1).  Studies which support this include the decreased cancer mortality rate accompanied by:
1)  The increased average life-span of Japanese bomb survivors;
2)  No cancer deaths among heavily contaminated Japanese fisherman;
3)  Zero cancer mortality rate in plutonium-injected patients;
4)  The inverse relationship between exposure and cancer mortality rates among the Ural villagers following the 1957 explosion;
5)  The absence of increased leukemia and solid cancers in the population evacuated from Chernobyl;
6)  The low cancer mortality in the Chinese peasants living in high background radiation areas; and,
7)  The very low cancer mortality rate in Taiwanese exposed to continuous gamma radiation."(15).
     As Luckey illustrates, "Life evolved in a sea of ionizing radiation produced by a variety of external and internal radionuclides.  As an example of the latter, each day 0.12 uCi of K40 within the 'average man' emits about 41 million gamma rays, over 300 million beta rays and over 500 million delta rays (ionizing electrons).  This is 10% of the 2 mGy/y of the background radiation in the United States.  Production of free radicals is the common denominator for the biologic effects of different types of radiation. . . .  The 1994 UNSCEAR review convinced most radiobiologists that the effects of low-dose irradiation shows a threshold with doses distinctly greater than background.  The evidence included increased immune competence, several physiologic responses and 'over production' of adaptive enzymes, such as those for DNA repair." (16).
          Atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki who were exposed to <1.2 cGy had lasting benefits including a decreased leukemia mortality rate, decreased total cancer mortality rate and an increased average lifespan when compared with controls (17,18).  After 40 years the immune system of atomic bomb survivors was more active than that of controls (19).  Additionally, data from two groups each consisting of 70,000 Chinese peasants indicate those living in the "high level area" with 3.3 mGy/y have less cancer mortality (p<.05) than those receiving 1.0 mGy/y in the "low level area." (20).

       The results from human experiences support the extensive evidence from animals.  When compared with controls at ambient levels of radiation, rodents living with as much as 1 cGy/d of gamma rays had increased average lifespan with normal rates of fertility and embryonic mortality (21,22).  The average threshold dose for cancer mortality, growth, reproduction and lifespan in rats and mice was about 3 cGy/d (4).
          The survival of mice exposed to 6.3 cGy/d was significantly greater than that of sham exposed controls (23).  When 50% of the controls had died, 83% of the exposed group were alive; each of the exposed mice had received a total of 1,620 cGy. 
      By comparison, research into the physiological benefits of fasting (decrease caloric intake), in both animals and humans, proposes uncannily similar biopositive effects to those of low-dose radiation supplementation. "From the viewpoint of enhanced health there are many beneficial changes which take place in immune function during fasting.  Most of these improvements, notably affecting immune function, carry on into the period after the fast. This is perhaps the most important aspect of fasting for better health." (24)
          Animal studies have repeatedly demonstrated biopositive effects from fasting, "In all the major studies of life extension, using dietary modification which incorporates calorie restriction plus full intake of essential nutrients, increases in life span of between 40 and 85 per cent have been achieved. . . .When disease prone, normally short-lived animals were exposed to dietary restriction techniques the results were dramatic in reducing the levels of ill-health (auto-immune conditions affecting the kidneys, for example) with the dietary restriction animals showing increased activity and greatly outliving their contemporaries on a normal diet. The implications for humans  of such results is stressed by the researchers." (25)
      Further links between low-dose radiation and fasting aftereffects involves the thwarting of cancerous growths. "The most recent studies described by Weindruch and Walford involved mice with a tendency towards a variety of late-life tumors. . . They found that those on unrestricted diets lived an average of 26 months, whereas the various dietary control groups averaged a 31 to 33 months life span. The longest surviving free-fed mouse lived for 34 months, whereas the longest restricted-diet mouse lived for 41 months."(25)
          The most convincing comparative evidence can be found when evaluating the populations of fasting individuals who uniformly live in high-radiation environments either by virtue of elevation or via exposure to other sources of ionizing radiation. "Several population groups have long been reputed to be remarkably long-lived. These include the South American people of Vilcabamba, the central European Caucasian peoples and the Hunza people of the Himalayas. Apart from all being resident in inhospitable mountainous regions their diets seem similar in a number of respects, including the central issue of being lower in overall calorie content than 'normal' (usually around half that normally consumed by active adults in Europe and the US - 1,600 to 1,900 calories per day as against 3,300 for US males of all ages). . . ."  (25)
      In 1982 Dr. Z. Ho, of the United Nations University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported his research findings in the Journal of Applied Nutrition 34(1):12-23, 1982, on the diet of very old people in an isolated mountainous region of southern China. He examined the eating patterns of 50 people between the ages of 90 and 104 years (average age 94) which showed that their calorie intake was well below what is considered adequate by dietitians, the protein intake was considered reasonable at around 10 per cent of their total food intake, averaging between 0.8 and 1.1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. None of these old people displayed any signs of vitamin deficiency (25).
Testing the Theory
          In order for any theory to be credible, it must provide suitable experimental parameters for testing.  A simple descriptive statistical analysis, comparing bodyweights of practicing bioenergy healers with those of a similar control population, may assist in determining whether or not radiogenic energy serves as an adjunct fuel for humans.  Theoretically, if the suggested model is valid then, without restriction of food calories and/or substantial increases in external/internal work, the healers' bodyweights should be heavier than the comparable non-energy channeling population.  For this analysis, "bioenergy healer" is being defined as a person who has obtained professional training and/or certification from a known bioenergy modality, e.g., Polarity, Reiki, Therapeutic Touch, etc. and is currently practicing healing energy methodologies on a regular basis (two or more times per week).
          Sixteen female bioenergy healers, meeting the above criteria, who participated in healing energy detection experiments during the previous year, were included in the analysis (see Figure 2).  Of the sixteen, nine (56%) were found to be overweight, which was defined as 20% or more above desirable weight according to the 1983 Metropolitan Life Insurance Company Height/Weight Tables. (For the bioenergy therapy population, "desirable weight" was defined as the highest poundage in the Medium Frame category.) 
      Using the same criteria of 20% or more above desirable weight to determine "overweight," nationally representative samples of U.S. adults were reviewed.  The results indicated that 27% of women in the United States can be classified in the category of overweight (26). This percentage reflects that more than twice as many bioenergy healers were overweight when compared to the control population.
          Two of the bioenergy therapists (#8 and #15), who were significantly under the desirable weight limit, 18 and 27 pounds respectively, reported substantially increased external work, e.g., weight training, martial arts, body work (massage therapy), as well as closely monitoring dietary intake to reduce excess caloric intake.  Both underweight therapists also reported excellent physical health. 
          This analysis may indicate that radiogenic sources, indeed, serve as cellular energy supplementation; thus, decreasing the need for caloric energy sources to maintain energy-balance equilibrium under certain conditions and in certain environments.  This revised paradigm is also supported by data revealing that human and animal populations thrive on lower calorie diets while eliciting positive biophysical responses similar to populations exposed to higher than normal ionizing radiation.  Radiogenic metabolism may also explain why the populations previously identified as living in higher elevations, e.g., higher background radiation environments, typically restrict caloric intake as additional radiogenic energy sources are more plentiful and fully utilized.
          Accepting the possibility that radiogenic sources provide ongoing energy for human metabolism opens the door to understanding many heretofore ill-defined phenomena.  It is of interest that both high elevations, e.g., mountain tops, and diminished caloric intake, e.g. fasting, play a significant role in spiritual and religious lore.  The author has proposed that not only is there an energy potential during radiogenic metabolism but an informational potential as well that may explain many psi-phenomena including precognition (27).
          Other mysterious, yet well documented, phenomena may also be explainable as components of radiogenic metabolism including the "halo" or aura of light reported throughout history that purportedly surrounds human bodies.  As "organic scintillators" of ionizing radiation, human cells would produce not only internal heat, but also, light.  Subsequently, the output of the radiation metabolic process would also include light (2,28).
          The output of light, if it occurred in a "light shout" at the time of death as described in research by Janusz Slawinski (29), could be responsible for delayed decomposition of bodies.  This phenomenon, known as incorruption by the Catholic Church, may be explained by the disruption of the decay process which, in turn, preserves the flesh.  Similar procedures are currently employed today with the gamma irradiation of meat products, which kills bacteria thus extending shelf life of the products.
      Medically related enigmas may also be explained by understanding the role of ionizing radiation in our bodies.  Idiopathic thermogenesis, burning that occurs in the body of an unknown origin, has perplexed physicians for centuries.  These conditions include a continuum of presentations from minor cases of localized erythema multiforme to the more serious and deadly Steven-Johnson's syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) (30). 
          At the end of the idiopathic thermogenic severity continuum may be another unexplained phenomenon called Spontaneous Human Combustion or SHC.  Recent research involving a survivor of a presumed SHC event (2) and scientific analysis of an artifact from a purported SHC scene (31) provides plausible evidence of the role of gamma radiation in potentiating a biological nuclear reaction. 
          Furthering a suitable and testable theory of human involvement in radiogenic metabolism may be crucial to understanding not only basic energy-balance but, as described, clarifying and responding to unexplained conditions of the human experience.
1. Benford MS, Talnagi J, Burr-Doss, D, Arnold LE. Gamma Radiation Fluctuations During Alternative Healing Therapy. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, July 1999, Vol 5, No. 4:51-56.

2. Benford MS. Biological Nuclear Reactions:  Empirical Data Describes Unexplained SHC Phenomenon. Journal of New Energy, Vol. 3, Issue 4 1999; 19-27.
3. Sugahara T, Sagan LA, Aoyama T. Low dose irradiation and biological defense mechanisms.  Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica 1992.

4. Luckey TD. Radiation hormesis. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1991:2.
5. Cohen BL. Test of the linear-no threshold theory of radiation carcinogenesis for inhaled radon decay products.  Health Phys. 1995; 68:177-174.

6. Vander AJ. Energy and Cellular Metabolism. Human Physiology. NY: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1970: 413.
7. Luckey TD. Radiogenic Metabolism. Am J. Clin. Nutr. 1980; 33:2544.

8.  Luckey TD. Ionizing Radiation promotes protozoan reproduction. Radiation Research 1986; 108:214-221.

9 . Planel H, Soleilhavoup JP, Tixador JP, Richoilley R, Conter G, Croute A, et al. Influence on cell proliferation of background exposure to very low chronic gamma radiation. Health Physics 1987; 52:571-578.

10. Vander, 76.
11. Philphot WH, personal communication, April 15, 1999.

12. Philphot WH, Taplin S. Biomagnetics Handbook: A Guide to Medical Magnetics the Energy Medicine of Tomorrow.  Choctaw, OK: Enviro-Tech Products Publisher, 1990: 11.

13.  Margulis L. Symbiosis in Cell Evolution. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1981: 206-227.

14.  Martin and Müller. The hydrogen hypothesis for the first eukaryote. Nature 1998; 392: 37-41.

15.  Luckey TD. Low-Dose Irradiation Reduces Cancer Deaths. Radiation Protection Management
1997; Nov/Dec: 58-64.
16.  Luckey TD. Nurture with Ionizing Radiation. IN PRESS,  Nutrition and Cancer, 1999.

17.  Tobias CA. Biological effects of Radiation. Encyclopedia Britannica 1974; 15: 378.

18.  Shimizu Y, Kato H, Schull WJ, Mabuchi K. Dose-response analysis among atomic bomb survivors exposed to low level radiation. Low Dose Irradiation and Biological Defense Mechanisms. Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica, 1992: 71-74. 

19.  Bloom ET, Akiyama M, Kusunoli Y, Makinoda T. Delayed effect of low-dose radiation on cellular immunity in atomic bomb survivors residing in the United States. Health Physics 1987; 52:  585-592.

20. Wei L, Wang L. Estimate of risk for a large population continuously exposed to high background radiation in Yiangjiane, China.  Proc. Internal. Symp. on Biologic effects of Low Level Exposures to Radiation. Princeton: Princeton Publishing Company, 1995: 108-112.

21.   Searle AG. Effects of low level irradiation on fitness and skeletal variation in an inbred mouse strain. Genetic 1964 50 (Suppl.): 1159-1178.
22.   French NR. Effects of Low Level Chronic Gamma Radiation on the Population Dynamics of Desert Rodents. U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. U. California, 1970: Rep.12.

23.   Spalding JF, Brooks MR, Tietjen GL. Lifetime body weights and mortality distribution of mice with 10 to 35 generations of ancestral X-ray exposure. Genetics 1969; 63: 897-909.
24.   Chaitow L. Diet, Fasting and Reduction of Disease. Internet website:
25.   Chaitow L. Experimental Evidence of Life Extension.  Internet website:

26.   Williamson DF. Descriptive epidemiology of body weight and weight change in U.S. Adults. Ann Intern Med 1993; 119 (7 Pt 2): 646-649.

27.   Benford MS. Can a theory derived from recent experimental data explain precognition and other mysterious phenomena? Journal of Religion and Psychical Research. IN PRESS, July 2001.
28. Benford MS. In Pursuit of the Soul: Examining the Catharsis from Life to After-life. Journal of Religion and Psychical Research, Vol. 23, No. 1 January 2000; 27-38.

29  Slawinski J. Electromagnetic Radiation and the Afterlife. Journal of Near-Death Studies 1987; 6(2): 79-94.

30. Benford MS. Idiopathic Thermogenesis:  Potential Origin and Mechanism of Action. Journal of Theoretics. August/Sept. 1999, Vol. 1, No. 3; (on-line).

31.  Benford MS, Arnold LE. Scientific Analysis of an Artifact From a Presumed Episode of Spontaneous Human Combustion: A Possible Case for Biological Nuclear Reactions. Subtle
Energy and Energy Medicine. Vol. 8, No. 3, 1997; 195-212.