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Metabolism: How Does is Work and What Does It Tell Us About Aging

Metabolism is defined as the chemical processes that occur within a living organism necessary to sustain life. Metabolic process is defined as how the endocrine system operates to sustain life. In this article, we’ll answer the question “how does metabolism work?” and detail what you need to do to maintain a healthy metabolism through all stages of life.


In order to understand metabolism and metabolic function, we first need to understand what controls metabolism in our bodies. All living organisms need energy to live. This energy comes from the food we eat. The basic unit of energy that we use is called a calorie. Calories are not nutrients and nutrients contain calories. Calories are simply energy – and metabolism is the process that our bodies use to turn the energy we take from food and convert it into the fuel our bodies need to function properly.

The metabolic process is controlled by the endocrine system. Every cell in our body needs energy to function. That energy comes from the calories we consume in the food we eat. However, every cell in our body needs instructions on how to properly utilize that energy. Basically, they need to be told how, when, and why to use the energy they are given. This is where hormones come into play.

Hormones are chemical messengers that are produced and released into our bloodstreams by various glands and organs that comprise the endocrine system. Some of these hormones control digestion. Others control sexual reproduction. And others influence mood. However, all hormones do the same thing – they direct all of the cells in our bodies on how to utilize the energy they are given so as to function properly in their specific roles.

The metabolism works for and exists within all living things, from plants, fungi, and bacteria to animals and humans. All living matter is made up of large molecules called proteins, which provide support and coordinated movement – a process defined as metabolism. Ancient Greeks called metabolism “metaballein,” meaning to change. The Greeks understood how metabolism works and taught the world.

The Metabolic Process And When Things Don’t Go As Planned

When we are young, our metabolic rate is fast. Our bodies are growing and require a lot of energy to function, grow, and develop. We generally require a higher daily caloric intake in our teens and 20s than we do in our 30s, 40s, and beyond. If all goes well, our bodies develop properly and we generally obtain peak metabolic performance in our 20s. We recover from injury faster. We are in our prime child bearing years. And our muscle and bone density is at their fullest. In other words, we generally feel, look, and perform at our best during this time. And we require a lot of energy to do so.

As we age, our metabolic rate begins to decrease. This begins in our 30s and continues to decline as we age. As our metabolism begins to decrease, the chances of developing certain diseases begins to increase. Our cells aren’t as efficient as they used to be. We begin to lose muscle mass and bone density. It takes longer for us to recover from injury and we begin to move less and less.

As time goes on, our energy requirements diminish. However, our appetite for high calorie foods is just as strong as it always has been. After all, we are feeling the effects of aging and nothing gives us the relief from weakness as a good cheeseburger does. The problems begin when our calorie intake exceeds the ability of our body to burn these extra calories. These excess calories begin getting stored as fat throughout our body. If this continues, we run the risk of developing obesity, a metabolic disease that can develop into diabetes if left untreated. Diabetes is another metabolic disease that disrupts the hormones that control our blood sugar levels.

If we develop diabetes late on in life, then our outlook for a long life is significantly diminished. Further complications can lead to stroke, heart disease, and even premature death. This is why it is essential that we control our diet and bring it in line with our metabolic processes that happen to change as we age. An endocrinologist is a medical specialist who studies metabolism and the diseases of aging. These are the professionals that can help us navigate aging in a healthy and positive way.


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