What Are Metabolic Pathways?

 What Are Metabolic Pathways?

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

Metabolism is a process that everyone needs to understand 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.

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. Metabolic pathways are often considered to flow in one direction. Although all chemical reactions are technically reversible, conditions in the cell are often such that it is thermodynamically more favorable for flux to proceed in one direction of a reaction. 

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. One example of an exception to this "rule" is glucose metabolism. Glycolysis results in glucose breakdown, but several glycolysis pathway reactions are reversible and participate in the re-synthesis of glucose.

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).

Furthermore, the Wikipedia article describes a catabolic pathway as 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.

Metabolic pathways can be targeted clinically and for therapeutic uses. 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 process for your personal health goals, here is a breakdown of how your body’s metabolism functions during different stages of your life. We must acknowledge these variations in energy expenditure that may affect a person’s weight trajectory or response to weight management strategies. To understand better, a new study published in Science provides a better understanding of metabolism function in aging adults.

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.

·         From 1 to 20 years old, metabolism decreased by almost 3 percent a year.

·         From 20 to 60, metabolism didn't change.

·         After age 60, metabolism decreased by 0.7 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.