What is metabolism?

Patrika Tsai Health Guide
  • 1) What is metabolism?

    Metabolism is how your body biochemically processes and uses energy and nutrients for daily functioning. We acquire energy and nutrients from the food that we eat. The food is digested and broken down into proteins, carbohydrates, and fats which are absorbed by the body. These components are then used to let the body function, grow, or repair itself. The body stores any extra energy as fat.

    Many people blame weight gain on a slow metabolism. Yet studies show that most people who are overweight have similar metabolism rates to people who are not overweight.

    Hormones can affect a person’s metabolism. A person who has low levels of thyroid hormone, for example, may have a slower metabolism and experience modest weight gain along with other symptoms such as coarse hair, constipation, fatigue, and cold intolerance. However, while estimates vary depending on age and gender, low levels of thyroid hormone affect less than 5% of Americans.
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    Some people feel that their metabolism declined as they got older since they did not have weight problems when they were younger. Metabolism does slow down somewhat with age, but people also often become more sedentary as they get older. This change in physical activity may begin as early as high school. Studies show that adolescent girls become less active compared to boys who are more likely to continue to participate in sports. When individuals enter the workforce, people are more likely to have a sedentary job with limited time for exercise. People then gain weight more easily because they are not burning as many calories only partially because their metabolism is slower but mainly because they have less physical activity.

    Your metabolism is an important part of how your body functions. Metabolism can be affected by other things like hormones, age, or underlying medical conditions. No matter what the rate of metabolism your body has, proper nutrition and exercise are essential to keep your body in balance.

    2) Low carb, low fat, how do I know what is right for me?

    The debate has raged about whether low carbohydrate or low fat diets are better. The popular Atkins diet is a low carbohydrate diet while the Ornish diet is a low fat diet. A study published by a group at Tufts University last year showed that you can lose weight on any of the popular diets like the Atkins, Ornish, Weight Watchers, and Zone diets. The weight loss in each diet was also accompanied by a reduction in cardiac risk factors.

    However, a person may have difficulty maintaining the diet long-term. Once a person stops following the diet, then he often regains the weight. Ultimately, the best diet for you is the one that you can stick with. That is why it is important to incorporate healthy eating habits into your lifestyle permanently.
Published On: July 17, 2006