What is metabolic regulation?

Eating disorders can cause permanent damage to metabolism.

Metabolic regulation is the process by which all cells – from bacteria to humans – control the chemical processes necessary for life. Metabolism is organized into complex, step-dependent reactions called metabolic pathways. Ubiquitous special proteins called enzymes are the main way to regulate these pathways, although the concentration of nutrients, waste products and hormones can control metabolic rates. Metabolic disorders are inherited diseases caused by the absence of key enzymes that disrupt the normal regulation of a particular pathway.

Someone who metabolizes food slowly may have weight problems.

Metabolism describes the chemical reactions by which organisms function, from cellular respiration to the events underlying digestion, growth, and reproduction. Systems called metabolic pathways coordinate these functions and are usually started or stopped by proteins called enzymes. Metabolic regulation is the basis of biological control of metabolism, as it allows living cells to direct these pathways. In non-living systems, equilibrium with the external environment occurs at the conclusion of chemical reactions, which would kill a living cell. Thus, metabolic regulation helps keep the living system in a chemically balanced state, called homeostasis.

Each person has a unique metabolism that governs how the body processes nutrients essential for good health.

The most basic form of metabolic regulation occurs when genes instruct cells to produce enzymes and regulate their quantity. Furthermore, in a metabolic pathway, molecules undergo significant changes and are either used by the cell or processed to generate another step in the pathway. Some of these molecules, called substrates, are effective means of metabolic regulation through their concentration. The rate of a metabolic pathway will change, depending on the availability and concentration of a substrate, which must bind an enzyme to function. In addition to substrates, enzymes often depend on other enzymes and vitamins.

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Thyroid diseases can significantly alter the metabolic rate.

In addition to the more passive feedback type of metabolic regulation by substrate concentration, there are direct controls in most multicellular organisms. Even plants use hormones to control their metabolism. In higher animals, external regulation of metabolism may come from chemical signals that control enzyme activity, either by direct action on enzymes or by affecting genes that regulate their production. Some forms of metabolic regulation only change the time rate at which a biochemical process occurs; others activate a process or prevent it from starting. In animals, the metabolic rate controls functions from respiration to body fat.

Practicing yoga regularly can help improve an individual’s metabolism.

There are many disorders of metabolism, including thousands of congenital deficiencies of genes that code for essential enzymes. Thyroid disease can radically alter the metabolic rate, causing obesity or near starvation. Sometimes human metabolism is excessively slow or fast due to disease states and can be treated with medication. It can be said that some drugs or nutritional substances increase metabolic rates by altering the rate of pathways involved in the digestion of carbohydrates or fats. In patients with diabetes mellitus, for example, the effects of the hormone insulin on sugar metabolism are compromised and synthetic insulin must be administered to restore normal metabolic regulation.

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