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Measuring Metabolism Through Breath

What is Metabolism?

Metabolism refers to the series of chemical reactions that take place in the body that sustain life (1). The metabolic process involves the breaking down of substances (catabolism) and the building up of substances (anabolism), all of which require energy.

When we consume macro-nutrients in the form of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, they are metabolized to create energy for the body, and this metabolism is the biochemical pathway through which the body cells obtain energy to sustain life.

A healthy metabolism means that our trillions of cells can create the energy we need to do all the things we want to do in life.

Chronic conditions like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and fatty liver disease are linked to various metabolic dysfunctions in the body (5).

Metabolism depends on nutrients

The processes of metabolism depend on nutrients that are digested from the foods we eat to produce energy, nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

This energy is then necessary to produce substances such as proteins to build body structure, like our bones, skin, and muscles (2).

So, a healthy body requires proper metabolism and proper metabolism requires nutrients.

Why measure metabolism?

Knowing how the body is metabolizing can help us understand our ability to burn nutrients for fuel and can provide information about how we can lose weight or better sustain activity.

For example, if you are trying to lose weight, you want to use fat as your primary energy source.

However, if you are a high-intensity athlete, you want carbohydrates (glucose) to be your primary source of energy.

A healthy body is metabolically flexible and can make use of whatever fuel source is available, whether it be carbohydrates or fats. (3)

Measuring metabolism

There are several ways to measure metabolism, but today the advances in technology have provided us with convenient devices that are quick and simple to use at home.

One such device is a breath analyzer that measures the amount of acetone in the breath.

Measuring breath acetone levels provides us with information about how the body is using fat for energy. Acetone is a metabolite that is produced through fat burning and ketone metabolism in the body and has been shown to correlate with fat loss in healthy individuals (4).

Breath acetone concentration is affected by changes in various factors, like dietary macronutrient (carbs, fats, proteins) intake, calorie restriction, exercise, and the health status of the lungs (4).

Measuring breath acetone provides a non-invasive tool to monitor metabolism and more specifically the rate of fat loss to determine whether your diet is working for you and your metabolism, or if it needs some adjustment (4).

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