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Metabolic Pathways

What Are Metabolic Pathways And How Do They Relate To Age?

What is metabolism, and what are the metabolic pathways. More importantly, what does that mean for the human body? Are you looking to boost energy or lose weight? Understanding the human metabolic process and the metabolic pathways should get you in the right direction toward reaching your overall health and wellness goals.

Metabolism is the process to achieve and maintain a healthy existence. It’s how our cells change the food we eat into the energy we need to breathe, move, think, and everything else. Metabolism combines all the chemical processes that allow an organism to sustain life. For humans, this includes converting energy from food into energy for tasks such as breathing, circulating blood, repairing cells, digesting food, and eliminating waste – basically, all life-sustaining processes.

Metabolic pathways are a bit more difficult to understand. According to a Wikipedia article defining the biochemistry of the metabolic pathway, a metabolic pathway is a linked series of chemical reactions occurring within a cell. Each metabolic pathway consists of a series of biochemical responses connected by their intermediates: the products of one reaction are the substrates for subsequent reactions, and so on. To explore further, one pathway could be responsible for synthesizing a particular amino acid, but the breakdown of that amino acid may occur via a separate and distinct pathway. Metabolic pathways can go in many directions based on several factors that fuel the process to begin with, what we use to fuel our bodies.

Further research on Wikipedia outlines two types of metabolic pathways characterized by their ability to either synthesize molecules with the utilization of energy (anabolic pathway) or break down complex molecules and release energy in the process (catabolic pathway). These are examples of the different directions a pathway can affect cell change. Catabolic pathways are a series of reactions that bring about a net release of energy in the form of a high-energy phosphate bond formed with the energy carrier’s adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and guanosine diphosphate (GDP) to produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and guanosine triphosphate (GTP), respectively. In contrast to catabolic pathways, anabolic pathways require an energy input to construct macromolecules such as polypeptides, nucleic acids, proteins, polysaccharides, and lipids. The isolated reaction of anabolism is unfavorable in a cell due to a positive Gibbs Free Energy.

What’s interesting is that metabolic pathways can be targeted clinically and for therapeutic uses. This is how endocrinologists and other healthcare professionals can begin to treat diseases such as diabetes or cancer. Within the mitochondrial metabolic network, for instance, compounds can target various pathways to prevent cancer cell proliferation.

To further understand how to use the metabolic pathway process for your personal health goals, here is a breakdown of how your body’s metabolism functions during different stages of your life. To understand better, a new study published in Science provides a better understanding of metabolism function in aging adults. Age is a leading factor in how the metabolism functions in the body and helps define the metabolic process.

Data from the Science article indicated that men and women had similar metabolic rates after accounting for body size and muscle mass. There also were differences in metabolism based on four distinct periods in participants’ lives.

From infancy to 1 year old, metabolic rate surged until it was about 50 percent higher than it will be during adulthood. After the first year of life, the metabolism decreases by almost 3 percent per year from age 1 to 20. From 20 to 60 years of age, metabolisms do not change significantly but can be affected by certain diseases, medications, or other factors. After age 60, the metabolism decreases by nearly 1 percent annually.

In all the readings and research surrounding metabolism pathways and function, one theme seems to be evident: proper diet and exercise can largely affect a person’s metabolism, its function, and how it reacts through various pathways. If you have concerns about the metabolism or the metabolic process, it is best to seek professional guidance from an endocrinologist or other qualified healthcare provider.