What’s metabolism? A biochemist explains how different people convert energy in another way – and why that's vital to your health

If you've ever scrolled through the health and wellness corners of social media, you've probably come across many products that claim to enhance your metabolism. But what exactly is your metabolism?

Everything you expose your body to – from lifestyle to an airborne virus – affects your physical characteristics like your blood pressure and energy levels. Together, these biological properties are known as Your phenotype. And the biological system, essentially the most direct Influences Your phenotype is your metabolism.

So while you eat something, take medication, smoke, or exercise, your metabolism is chargeable for transmitting that biological information throughout your body so it may well adapt.

Metabolism is energy conversion

Your metabolism consists of a Network of tens of hundreds of molecules and proteins that convert the food you eat into the energy and constructing blocks your body needs to maneuver, grow, and repair itself. At the chemical level, energy metabolism begins when the three macronutrients – carbohydrates, fats and proteins – are broken down atom by atom to release electrons from chemical bonds. These electrons charge components in cells so-called mitochondria.

Similar to batteries, mitochondria use this electrical potential to generate one other type of chemical energy that the remaining of the cell can use.

Simply put, a significant role of metabolism is to convert chemical energy into electricity and back into chemical energy. The way wherein this energy is transmitted within the body could play a central role whether you might be sick or healthy.

Diagram consisting of dense, interconnected multicolored lines and dots
As this simplified diagram of the human metabolome shows (where lines indicate chemical reactions and dots indicate reactants or products), your metabolic network is incredibly complex.
J3D3/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

I’m a biochemist which studies the various metabolic networks which are used when your body changes. My team and I were capable of define specific features of metabolism, similar to the presence and amount of certain metabolites – products resulting from the breakdown of macronutrients – in quite a lot of diseases.

These diseases include diseases similar to: COVID-19, diabetes, multiple sclerosis And Sickle cell anemiato experience unique environments similar to: Radiation exposure, High altitude, aging And athletic performance. Each of those settings influences which parts of your metabolic network are used and the way they impart with one another.

Top athletes set the upper limits

In view of the worrying Increase in obesity and every part connected with it Metabolic syndrome – In 2022, about one in eight people around the globe lived with obesity – defining healthy or disordered metabolism may help work out what went unsuitable and how one can address it.

Elite athletes provide a major audience to optimally study metabolic functions, as their network of molecular and chemical reactions have to be fine-tuned to compete on the world stage.

Traditional, Lactate threshold is a vital measure of athletic performance since it determines exercise intensity when lactate begins to rise in muscles and blood.

Contrary to popular belief, lactate isn’t only a waste product; Energy source It also accumulates when it’s produced faster than the mitochondria can use it. While a moderately energetic person might reach their exercise threshold at a training intensity of about 2 watts per kilogram, elite cyclists can maintain an intensity of near two to thrice higher.

When we compared the lactate thresholds of a bunch of elite cyclists, we found that the cyclists with higher thresholds had markers of higher mitochondrial function. One of those markers was higher production of coenzyme Aa molecule that transports carbon through cells and is very important for breaking down carbohydrates, amino acids and fat into chemical energy.

More powerful cyclists also appeared to do that Burn more fat and burn fat longer during a multi-stage world tour in comparison with less capable cyclists.

Impaired metabolism in diseases similar to COVID-19

Your metabolism also changes while you change into sick with an acute illness like COVID-19.

Unlike elite cyclists, COVID-19 patients have one impaired ability to burn fat that appears to be here to remain long COVID. The blood of those patients at rest is analogous to that of an exhausted elite cyclist. This suggests that exercise intolerance is common in long COVID mitochondrial dysfunction could play a job in COVID-related fatigue.

Person curled up on a couch, half covered with a blanket
Long COVID patients have metabolic profiles just like those of an exhausted elite cyclist.
Maria Korneeva/Moment via Getty Images

to burn fat uses numerous oxygen. COVID-19 damages red blood cells supply the organs with oxygen. Because red blood cells have one limited ability to repair yourself, they could not function as well later of their roughly 120-day lifespan. This may partly explain why COVID symptoms last so long in some people.

Blood donors define the center

Blood transfusions are one of the crucial common clinical procedures. Over 118 million liters of blood are donated by thousands and thousands of individuals worldwide yearly. Because blood donors are screened to make sure they’re healthy enough to donate, they’re typically moderately healthy, somewhere between acute illness and peak athletic performance. Blood donor, coming from every area of ​​lifeAs a study population, additionally they have diverse biological characteristics.

My team and I checked out the blood of over 13,000 blood donors to learn more about their situation Metabolic diversity. We have found specific characteristics that may predict how well a donor's blood works on patients, which also impacts how well the blood works on the donors themselves.

We found that certainly one of these features is a metabolite called Kynurenine, which is formed when the amino acid tryptophan is broken down. We found that blood from donors with higher kynurenine levels was less more likely to restore hemoglobin levels in transfusion recipients than donors with lower kynurenine levels.

Kynurenine levels are higher in older donors and donors with a better BMI and will be potentially related to higher levels of inflammation. Our group also found Kynurenine to support us increases dramatically for runners participating within the 171 kilometer (106 mile) Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc. In addition, we found that kynurenine is a robust marker for Severity of COVID-19.

The connection between metabolites and health outcomes highlights the vital role metabolism plays within the body. A greater understanding of what a healthy metabolism looks like can provide unique insights into variations in disease and latest approaches to medical treatments.

image credit : theconversation.com