What Does Research Say About Metabolism?

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Metabolism changes tend to change as we move through life.

What do you think of when you hear the word “metabolism”?

Perhaps you think of either having a “high” or a “low” metabolism based on how your body burns calories.

Maybe you think about how quickly drugs are absorbed by your body.

According to a recent The New York Times article titled “What We Think We Know About Metabolism May Be Wrong,” a paper published in Science provides new insight into metabolic processes.

Understanding metabolism can help physicians better care for their patients.
Metabolism tracks predictably given our stage of life.

The paper published results of research on data pulled from about 6,500 individuals from 8 days old to 95 years old.

What did the research find?

Contrary to popular beliefs, men and women demonstrate little difference in metabolic rates when controlled for factors beyond gender.

These control factors included adjusting for muscle mass and body size.

Another finding demonstrated there are important life stages relating to metabolism.

These stages encompass infancy to age one, age one to about age 20, age 20 to age 60, and age 60 and older.

During the first year of life, humans have peak calorie burning capacity.

In fact, infants can burn up to 50 percent more than the adult rate.

However, within the first month, infants tended to have a similar metabolic rate to their mothers.

Between age one and age 20, metabolisms slow by about 3 percent each year.

For those ages 20 to 60, metabolism remains fairly constant.

This finding contradicts the assumption of metabolism declining after age 40 or with the onset of menopause for women.

After age 60, the metabolism of people slows again by about 0.7 percent every year.

Although there were some individuals in the study with metabolic rates 25 percent above or below the average for their ages, the general pattern remained consistent.

What does this mean?

Physicians can use this improved understanding of human physiology to support the health of their patients and adjust medication doses appropriately.

Age rather than weight is a better predictor of metabolic functioning.

By compiling research resources and date for more than 40 years, the more than 80 co-authors were able to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the human metabolism.

Reference: New York Times (Aug. 12, 2021) “What We Think We Know About Metabolism May Be Wrong”

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