Why chemistry is important to the study of anatomy and physiology may not be obvious if you're just looking at your body as a collection of organs. But all the cells in your organs are composed of chemicals, and chemical reactions are involved in all of your body's movements and cycles. Chemistry explains how your cells produce energy and proteins, why you breathe and have blood and what sorts of foods and vitamins are important for nutrition. With a basic understanding of chemistry, you can understand why your organs function the way they do and how the systems of your body work together.
The Chemistry of Cells
Chemistry explains how your cells function. Perhaps the most important chemical reactions in the body involve adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. ATP is used to temporarily store energy from food, which cells can later convert to the energy they need to function.
Chemistry also explains how cells are built. A cell is enclosed by a cell membrane of chemicals called lipids, whose chemical structure allows them to keep other chemicals out of the cell. In addition, cells produce all of the body's proteins -- complex chemicals containing hundreds of atoms -- through chemical reactions among DNA, RNA and amino acids. Proteins perform many important functions in our bodies; they are used in the construction of cells, to carry oxygen through the blood and as antibodies to identify harmful bacteria and viruses.
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Breathing and Blood
Oxygen is an important ingredient in the body chemistry that converts food to energy. Without oxygen, your cells cannot produce the chemicals they need to function. Chemistry makes sense of how oxygen is transported through your bloodstream. A chemical called hemoglobin travels back and forth between your lungs and your cells, carrying oxygen. A chemical reaction that occurs when hemoglobin returns to the lungs produces carbon dioxide, or CO2, which is why you breathe out carbon dioxide.
Osmosis and pH
Chemistry helps you understand the purpose of your body's organs. For instance, one of the functions of your kidneys is to maintain the pH level -- the proper level of acidity and alkalinity -- of your blood at around 7.4. The proper pH level is important for oxygen and other chemicals to move back and forth between your bloodstream and your cells during osmosis, and it affects how muscles function, as exercise makes the blood more acidic. By understanding how these different systems work together chemically, you can figure out how a problem in one organ can cause problems in other parts of your body.
Nutrition and Chemistry
Understanding body chemistry helps you determine which chemicals are needed for the body to function properly. That's how nutritionists determine what sorts of foods are best for maintaining health. For example, vitamins are an important class of chemical that support reactions in your body, such as the formation of strong bones, the creation of blood cells and the proper functioning of your metabolism. By understanding what vitamins are needed for each of these reactions, you can figure out what foods you should be eating to get these vitamins.