Metabolism

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Metabolism is a complex system of physical and chemical reactions, produced by hormones and enzymes, occurring in all living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to mature and reproduce, preserve and keep their structures and react aptly to their surroundings. It is an assortment of chemical reactions that take place in the cells of all living organisms. Metabolism transforms the energy in the food organisms take in into the energy required to control the functions of all living organisms.  In humans, for example, metabolism provides the energy to allow us to function. Metabolism pertains to all the chemical processes in the body that transform or expend energy such as respiration, blood circulation, regulation of body temperature, muscle contraction, digestion of food and all other nutrients, elimination of waste and brain and nerve functions.

Metabolism is a continuous process that starts from the time an organism is conceived or germinated. It is a critical process for organism to maintain life. It is these chemical processes that provide the energy our bodies need to function and maintain life.

The metabolism of all living organisms also functions by determining which substances are nutritious and which are poisonous. Poisonous substances are then excreted from the body. The speed of metabolism or metabolic rate also influences how much food an organism will require. The process of metabolism establishes the rate at which living organisms burn calories and determines how much food an organism requires. 

Metabolic chemical reactions are numerous and structured into a network of metabolic pathways.  These are a sequence of chemical reactions where the transformation of one chemical into another occurs through enzymes. Metabolic pathways are how the body produces what it needs to maintain life.  It involves a series of breaking down and rebuilding of substances through enzymes. Enzymes are complex proteins that are crucial to metabolism because they promote the formation of large complex molecules to make cells grow, reproduce, produce energy and to produce more enzymes. Enzymes efficiently speed up the rate of these chemical reactions. An enzyme acts as a catalyst and allows a cell to carry out chemical reactions very quickly and efficiently. Enzymes trigger the creation of vital chemical reactions that are essential to life. Enzymes are essential for food digestion, brain stimulation, cell energy and for the repair of all tissues, organs and cells. Enzymes also allow the regulation of metabolic pathways in response to changes in what is going on in and around a cell and indications from other cells as well. As such, enzymes are central to life.

An example of an enzyme is amylase that breaks down starch chains into smaller sugar molecules. Maltase, lactase and sucrose then break down these simple sugar molecules into glucose which is the primary energy needed by the body.

In a nut shell, specific proteins or enzymes in our body control the chemical reactions of metabolism. In turn, each chemical reaction is coordinated with other body functions. Thus, numerous metabolic reactions take place simultaneously and are regulated by the body to keep cells healthy and working.

The metabolic process is one where the two types of metabolism occur simultaneously and complementary. These are the continuous growth of tissues and cells as well as increasing the supply of energy for future use and the destruction of tissues and stored energy to produce more energy for the body to function. Metabolism is usually divided into two types, anabolism and catabolism.

Anabolism or constructive metabolism is responsible for building tissues and storing energy. It promotes and maintains the growth of new cells. It is also responsible for the upkeep of tissues and the storage of energy derived from food to be used in the future. During anabolism, small molecules are transformed into larger molecules of carbohydrate, protein and fat. Anabolism is that metabolic process wherein a cell expends energy to build molecules such as enzymes and nucleic acids and performs other essential life functions.

Catabolism is also called destructive metabolism.  This type of metabolism is responsible for the production of energy required for the growth and maintenance of cells. While anabolism builds and stores, in catabolism the cells tear down large molecules to provide and discharge energy. This release of energy is used to provide the energy needed for anabolic processes. It also provides heat for the body and enables the muscles to contract to allow for movement of the body. In this process, complex chemical units are converted into more simple matters and waste products yielded from this are expelled from the body through some of its organs such as the skin, kidneys, lungs and intestines.

Aside from enzymes, there are hormones that influence the metabolic rate of a person. There are hormones that are major factors in determining a person’s metabolic rate.  There are also hormones, such as insulin, that work to pinpoint whether our body’s main metabolic activity will be constructive or destructive. Insulin alerts cells to increase their anabolic activities after one eats.  This is because eating increases the glucose level in the body which is the body’s most important source of energy.  Thus it signals the cells to store this fuel for future use.

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