The Minute But Vital Differences Between Anabolism and Catabolism

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Difference Between Anabolism and Catabolism

A cell carries out the processes of anabolism and catabolism simultaneously. ScienceStruck talks about the difference between anabolism and catabolism and also provides examples of these processes in our body for a better understanding of the concept.

Good Sleep for Better Metabolism

Circadians rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that respond to the light and darkness in the environment of the organism that cycle in every twenty-four hours. These rhythms are associated with the metabolism of glucose by altering the insulin levels in the blood.

A cell is the most basic unit in all living systems. It is perpetually undergoing transformations. These transformations are nothing but a set of chemical processes that are required for the maintenance of life and are called metabolism. Metabolism is required for the production of energy as well as for the synthesis of new cellular components.

These transformations take place through specific chemical reactions in an orderly manner and are called metabolic pathways. Every step in every pathway is catalyzed by a specific enzyme. These enzymes not only hasten the chemical process, but also regulate the pathway in response to the environment of the cell. Metabolism can be divided into two other processes; namely, anabolism and catabolism. Let us take a closer look at the differences between them.

Anabolism Vs. Catabolism

Anabolism Catabolism
The Process
Anabolism is basically the biochemical processes in which simpler smaller units come together to form a more complex larger molecule (polymer). This process involves expenditure of energy for the formation of the new biological molecule. This energy is provided by the conversion of ATP molecules to ADP molecules. Thus, it can be described as an “uphill” process. This process can be divided into three steps:

  • Production of the precursor smaller units that make the molecule (this may involve conversion of smaller units from one form to another).
  • Use the Pi from ATP to “tag” or convert the smaller units into a more reactive form.

  • Assemble these reactive forms to build the complex molecules.
Catabolism are the biochemical processes in which larger complex molecules are broken down to its constituent units. This process provides energy as well as the smaller building blocks for the formation of larger biomolecules. Sometimes, the smaller units may be broken down further to give out some more energy and waste products.

  • As the bond between the units making the larger molecule breaks, a large amount of energy is given out. This energy is entrapped in ATP molecules.

  • It can be described as a “downhill” process.
Types of Reactions Involved
  • Dehydration Synthesis Reaction: The units making the larger molecules combine with each other and release a water molecule from them.

  • Reduction Reaction: There is an addition of electron or hydrogen atoms to the smaller units, which will in turn react with each other and give rise to a larger molecule.
  • Hydrolysis: The bond between two units, making the larger molecules is broken by the addition of water.
  • Oxidation: There is removal of electron or hydrogen atoms from the subunits making the larger molecules, and thus, the bond between them is broken.
Anabolism of Carbohydrates

  • Gluconeogenesis: It is a pathway through which glucose is generated from non-carbohydrate carbon sources like pyruvate, lactate, different glucogenic amino acids, etc.
  • Glycogenesis: Glucose is stored in the liver of animals in the form of glycogen. Through this pathway, monomers glucose are converted into the polymer of glycogen.

Anabolism of Proteins
Proteins are nothing but polymers of amino acids. The biosynthesis of proteins involves the synthesis of amino acids with the help of sugar backbone provided either by the glycolytic pathway or the pentose phosphate pathway followed by the transamination (transfer of the -NH2) on them. Polypeptides are formed by processes like transcription and translation.

Catabolism of Carbohydrates

  • Glycolysis: In this pathway, glucose is converted to pyruvate and energy is given off in the form of ATP and NADH.

  • Glycogenolysis: In this pathway, glycogen is broken to give a smaller chain of glycogen and free glucose molecules.

Catabolism of Proteins
This process is also known as proteolysis. Here, certain enzymes called proteases degrade the polypeptide chain (polymer of amino acids) and give rise to monomers of amino acids.

Certain hormones can be classified as anabolic or catabolic, depending on the function they perform.

Anabolic Hormones

Chemical formula of estrogen


Growth Hormone or Somatropin is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland. It induces cell growth, reproduction, and regeneration.
Insulin is a hormone required for the uptake of blood glucose by the cell of skeletal muscles, liver, and adipose tissues. It is produced by the beta cells in the pancreas.
Estrogen is a primary female sex hormone. This hormone influences the formation of female secondary sex character, increases uterine growth, helps in coagulation, etc.

Catabolic Hormones

Chemical formula of cortisol


Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal cortex. It plays an indirect role in glycogenolysis in the liver and muscles. It also has certain anti-inflammatory properties. It is seen to be associated with decrease in bone formation.
Glucagon is a hormone that functions opposite to that of insulin. It increases the glucose level in the blood by breaking down the glycogen stored in the liver.
Epinephrine or adrenalin is produced by the adrenal glands. Its function is to increase the glucose level in the blood as well as bring about bronchodilation (dilates the bronchi).

A metabolic steady state is always maintained as the amount of anabolic energy consumed by the body is always equal to the catabolic energy released by the body.

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