Metabolism is the term used for the large and varying group of chemical processes that occur in living organisms to maintain life. These chemical processes either use energy to create new structures (anabolism), or they release energy to do work by breaking down complex organic molecules derived from food or stored in the body (catabolism). The vast majority of these processes are carried out by enzymes (catalytic proteins) in complex chemical pathways. These enzymes are coded for by our genes and they require specific vitamins (cofactors) to help them function. Metabolic conditions relate to malfunctions in the metabolic pathways. They can be inherited or may be acquired in previously healthy individuals. Inherited metabolic conditions most often relate to genetic abnormalities resulting in specific enzymes being absent or improperly formed, causing them to not function properly.
These disorders are collectively known as “Inborn errors of metabolism” and include: Phenylketonuria, Glycogen Storage Disease and Gaucher’s disease. Metabolic disorders that develop occur either from deficiencies of specific nutrients integral to specific pathways, damage to cells that carry out the metabolic process or which synthesize the enzymes needed, or malfunctions of the hormones or enzymes that regulate the pathways. Diet thus plays a massive role in the development of many of these acquired diseases, which include Metabolic Syndrome and Type II Diabetes Mellitus.
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