What is Anabolism?

Daniel Liden

Anabolism, also known as biosynthesis, is the process by which organisms make complex molecules and substances from less complex components. Anabolism leads to growth in organisms as molecules are produced from smaller components and added to bones or muscles. This process of growth requires raw components and energy which are produced through a process known as catabolism, in which large and complex molecules are broken down into simpler substances. Together, anabolic and catabolic processes make up the set of chemical processes known as metabolism, which is the set of life-sustaining reactions that occur in organisms for the maintenance of life.

Anabolic hormones are used to promote muscle growth.
Anabolic hormones are used to promote muscle growth.

Anabolic processes are responsible for producing nearly all of the chemicals that organisms are composed of. Processes of anabolism produce proteins, lipids, nucleic acids, and many other substances that are essential to the development, growth, maintenance, and repair of the body. Anabolism is a divergent process, which means that it produces a massive variety of different complex molecules from a relatively low number of simple substances.

Anabolism is a controlled substance.
Anabolism is a controlled substance.

Catabolism makes up the other half of metabolism as a whole, and is essential to the proper functioning of anabolism. Catabolic processes, such as digestion, are responsible for breaking large, complex molecules down into simpler forms so that they can be used for raw materials and energy in anabolic processes. While anabolism is responsible for building new molecules, catabolism is responsible for breaking down other molecules. If more anabolic activity than catabolic activity takes place, then net growth occurs, but net loss occurs when the rate of catabolism is higher than the rate of anabolism.

There are many hormones that are related to metabolism; these hormones are typically labeled anabolic or catabolic hormones based on whether they stimulate anabolic or catabolic pathways. Many of these hormones are natural and are completely necessary for proper functioning of the metabolic systems. Others, however, are administered artificially to stimulate growth or to increase strength and energy, legally or illegally. Anabolic steroids, for example, are used therapeutically to treat a variety of different conditions, such as delayed puberty. They increase muscle growth and are closely related to testosterone, so they stimulate many other masculine features such as voice depth and hair growth.

Anabolic steroids have had a controversial history because of their performance-enhancing use by athletes. The use of steroids in sports is generally forbidden around the world. In some nations, anabolic steroids are closely controlled substances.

Anabolic steroids help increase the synthesis of protein, producing more muscle as a result.
Anabolic steroids help increase the synthesis of protein, producing more muscle as a result.

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I have heard about several criminals who had been on anabolic steroids. One of the most recent was the killer in England, Raoul Moat, this past summer. He was a body builder and a bouncer, and I believe had used steroids for many years- at least, that is what one report I read said. He also suffered from mood swings, paranoia, and violent behavior, likely in part due to the steroids.


Anabolic steroids might enhance physical performance, but they also can have negative effects on body chemistry. People who use steroids over a long period of time can develop heart or kidney problems, as well as emotional problems. Some studies show that constant use of steroids can lead to anger issues and violence, sometimes also causing criminal action.

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