Burgers, Cholesterol, and Your Metabolism: How It All Comes Together in the Lab

Ah, our metabolism… that wonderful thing that keeps our bodies going. That mysterious process by which we turn food into energy. And that dreadful thing that we struggle against when we have to lose weight and get in shape!

Do you really know how your metabolism works? Do you really understand how food becomes energy? Your metabolism is basically the total sum of all the biochemical processes that occur within your body. Foods are broken down into calories that are converted into energy for our cells. Metabolism has two basic parts–catabolism and anabolism. During catabolism, that burger you had for lunch is broken down into fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and all its other mini-bits of nutrients. These are then used by the body as it goes through its daily functions. In short, food becomes fuel during catabolism.

During anabolism, on the other hand, that fuel is stored for later use. Without this stored fuel, our cells could not function properly. They would decay and die. The problem most folks have with their metabolism is that they take in more food than the body can convert to fuel. It ends up being stored as fat during the anabolitic phase of metabolism. And that’s when we wish we’d opted for the salad instead of the burger and fries.

Researchers in the lab can study metabolism by looking at what proteins our food breaks into. Why would they want to do this? Well, how do you think we know so much about “good” and “bad” cholesterol, for example?  Through diligent research and observation of metabolism in the medical science lab. That’s how. Good old biochemistry being observed. And to our benefit, too.

For example, did you know that there are several kinds of proteins in your foods? Let’s take that burger, for instance. It most likely contains lipoproteins. Those are the proteins that carry fat through the blood stream. Every one of your body’s cells needs some fat to build and maintain its cellular membrane. Lipoproteins deliver the right kinds of fat to the right places. For example, one type of lipoprotein carries fat and cholesterol to your liver, while another carries fat and cholesterol from your liver to your body’s cells.

Without lipoproteins, cholesterol wouldn’t be a problem. Apolipoproteins are actually smaller proteins that make up the larger lipoproteins. Apolipoprotein A is what we call “good” cholesterol. Why? It’s the lipoprotein that carries cholesterol away from the cells and to the liver for processing out of the body. Apolipoprotein B is the bad guy. Yep, he’s the one that carries the fat and cholesterol away from the liver and to our cells. Too much of him, often caused by too many burgers and fries and not enough salad, and we have “high” cholesterol numbers. And we know exactly what our numbers are, and where we stand at the burger joint, by the research and tests done on our lipoprotein metabolism in the lab.

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