Metabolism is a process using several chemical reactions. These reactions take place in the body’s cells. Metabolism is all about change. Metabolism changes the food we eat into the energy that is needed by the body to move, think, grow, to heal and repair cells. All living beings need metabolism to live.
The reactions that make up metabolism are constantly happening and started when we were conceived and are needed for life. If metabolism ceases, so does the life of the organism. Metabolism is vital for turning food into the energy needed by the body to perform many essential functions.
The process of metabolism begins with plants. You have probably heard of photosynthesis? It all starts with the plant taking in energy from the sun’s rays. The plant uses the energy it absorbs from the sun and chlorophyll in order to build sugars from water and carbon dioxide. The process of doing this is called photosynthesis.
As humans and animals eat the plants and other cell-building chemicals the body breaks the sugar down so that the energy is released and carried to the body’s cells through the bloodstream. Sugar is not the only source of energy, amino acids and fatty acids can also be used as energy sources by the body.
After these sources of energy enter the cells, other enzymes then act to speed up or regulate the chemical reactions that are involved in the metabolizing process. The process allows the body to either use the energy, or store it. Energy can be stored in body tissues, like the liver, muscles and also stored as body fat.
The whole process of metabolism is a balancing act between two different types of activities that happen at the same time which are:
* The building up of body tissues and the energy store.
* The breaking down of body tissues and energy stores in order to generate more energy for bodily functions.
The two kinds of activities are called anabolism and catabolism. Anabolism is the activity that builds up and stores energy. Catabolism is the destructive metabolism that is the process that produces the energy that is required by the cells by breaking down large molecules such as carbohydrates and fats in order to release energy.
The energy that is released is what is used as fuel for anabolism so that the body can be heated and muscles can contract so that the body parts can move. There are also waste products released during the catabolism process that are then removed from the body through the skin, by the kidneys, the lungs, and also the intestines.
Several hormones of the endocrine system that help to control the rate and also the direction of the process of metabolism help the process of metabolism. One of the hormones is called thyroxine. It is produced by the thyroid gland. It helps to determine how fast or how slow the chemical reactions that make up metabolism occur.
Hormones are given off by the pancreas that helps to determine which metabolic activity is used at a particular time (anabolic or catabolic). An example would be when we eat our food anabolic activity happens because the process of eating increases the level of glucose in the body (an important fuel) this glucose release triggers insulin to be produced in the pancreas, which then in turn signals the body’s cells to increase their anabolic activities.
The whole process of metabolism is a chemical one and complicated for most individuals to understand. Most people merely relate metabolism with losing or gaining weight. When our metabolism slows down, we gain weight and when it is fast or a healthy rate of metabolism we lose weight or maintain it.
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