Metabolism is a series of enzyme-catalyzed reactions through which living organisms obtain free energy to sustain life. Without metabolism, living beings would not be able to carry out their functions, meaning that we would not even be alive. Although metabolism is something you cannot really observe, it never stops. Whether you’re moving or resting, metabolism constantly provides your body with the energy you need to perform essential functions. Here are ten reasons why metabolism is so important:
#1. Metabolism provides your body with energy
The primary purpose of metabolism is to provide your body with free energy that you use for carrying out different functions. In any degradative pathway (catabolism), the nutrients you take are broken down into simpler compounds. The free energy released during the degradative process is conserved in ATP and NADPH molecules. These molecules are the primary free energy sources that play an essential role in a wide range of reactions occurring in your body.
#2. Metabolism is responsible for food digestion
Catabolism is a breakdown of complex compounds into simpler molecules and this is exactly what happens after you eat. Your body breaks down the food you ingest mechanically and chemically. Mechanical breakdown occurs when you grind the food into smaller pieces with your teeth. The next step is to metabolize the food by breaking down the components through enzyme-catalyzed reactions. Without metabolism, your body would not be able to digest and excrete the food you intake.
#3. Metabolism ensures that your body absorbs vitamins and minerals
Food supplements dissolve and are directly absorbed into the bloodstream after entering your system. In the case of vitamins and minerals that you get from the food, the food has to be broken down first during digestion. As a result, water-soluble vitamins are absorbed into the bloodstream. Contrarily, lipid-soluble vitamins are stored in the liver and adipose tissues and then are transported through the lymphatic system to be released into the bloodstream. While there are differences in how your body absorbs water-soluble and fat-soluble vitamins, metabolism is key to getting the nutrients you need.
#4. Drugs are metabolized to produce active metabolites or be excreted from your body
The goal of drug metabolism is to make it easier for your body to excrete the medicine. However, metabolism is also capable of significantly altering a drug’s pharmacologic action. While rapid drug metabolism can inactivate drugs and make it impossible to reach the therapeutically effective blood and tissue concentrations, a slow metabolism can lead to the formation of metabolite doses that are toxic to your body. This review article highlights the importance of medicine metabolism in drug discovery and development.
#5. Metabolism enables your body to dispose of alcohol
Metabolism is key to eliminating alcohol from your body. Without metabolism, your body would not be able to break down alcohol efficiently. If you have ever experienced immediate uncomfortable symptoms after drinking alcohol, you are most likely intolerant to it. In a nutshell, your body is not capable of metabolizing alcohol. Normally, around 90% of alcohol that enters your body is eliminated by the liver through metabolism and 2-5% is excreted unaltered in breath, sweat, and urine. To dispose of alcohol, the first step is to break down alcohol molecules into less biologically active metabolites. The next step is to produce polar, water-soluble metabolites that can be excreted in the urine.
#6. Metabolism is key to growing and repairing cells
As you may already know, metabolism involves two pathways: catabolism (degradation) and anabolism (biosynthesis). While catabolism is responsible for the breakdown of ingested food, anabolism promotes the formation of complex metabolites. Anabolic processes are just as important as catabolic ones. Anabolic metabolism is key to growing and differentiating cells, building organs, repairing tissues, growing and mineralizing bones, and increasing muscle mass.
#7. Metabolism is essential for blood circulation
Blood circulation and metabolic processes are linked with each other. According to the metabolic theory of blood flow regulation, increases or decreases in the metabolism rate change the amount of vasoactive substances released in your body. As a result, vasodilation is either increased or decreased, leading to enhanced or poor blood circulation.
#8. You would not be able to breathe or be physically active without metabolism
You may have heard that food is the main source of energy. While this claim is true, it is not completely accurate. In reality, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are the major sources of energy only after they are metabolized. This is because metabolic reactions release energy in the forms of ATP and NADPH molecules, allowing us to stay physically active. Without this energy, you would not be able to move or even breathe.
#9. Metabolism allows your body to regulate hormone levels
Metabolism is essential for your body to adjust hormone levels. Clearly, your body needs energy for physical activities, but energy is also required for some hidden functions, such as the regulation of hormone levels. Since hormone levels control and balance lots of what your body does, obtaining energy through metabolism is of vital importance.
#10. Metabolism produces heat that regulates body temperature in endotherms
As we mentioned earlier, the breakdown of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins releases energy that is later transformed into heat in the body. Besides, metabolic heat is produced as a by-product of muscular metabolism whenever you exercise. In endotherms, body temperature is regulated by adjusting the rate of metabolic heat production. When you are in a cold environment, your hormonal thyroid gland releases hormones that increase your metabolism rate, leading to metabolic heat production.