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Metabolism is the process your body uses to get or make energy from the food you eat. Food is made up of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Chemicals in your digestive system break the food parts down into sugars and acids, your body’s fuel. Your body can use this fuel right away, or it can store the energy in your body tissues, such as your liver, muscles, and body fat.
A metabolic disorder occurs when abnormal chemical reactions in your body disrupt this process. When this happens, you might have too much of some substances or too little of other ones that you need to stay healthy. There are different groups of disorders. Some affect the breakdown of amino acids, carbohydrates, or lipids. Another group, mitochondrial diseases, affects the parts of the cells that produce the energy.
You can develop a metabolic disorder when some organs, such as your liver or pancreas, become diseased or do not function normally. Diabetes is an example.
Isovaleric acidemia is a rare disorder in which the body is unable to process certain proteins properly. It is classified as an organic acid disorder, which is a condition that leads to an abnormal buildup of particular acids known as organic acids. Abnormal levels of organic acids in the blood (organic acidemia), urine (organic aciduria), and tissues can be toxic and can cause serious health problems.Normally, the body breaks down proteins from food into smaller parts called amino acids. Amino acids can be further processed to provide energy for growth and development. People with isovaleric acidemia have inadequate levels of an enzyme that helps break down a particular amino acid called leucine.Health problems related to isovaleric acidemia range from very mild to life-threatening. In severe cases, the features of isovaleric acidemia become apparent within a few days after birth. The initial symptoms include poor feeding, vomiting, seizures, and lack of energy (lethargy). These symptoms sometimes progress to more serious medical problems, including seizures, coma, and possibly death. A characteristic sign of isovaleric acidemia is a distinctive odor of sweaty feet during acute illness. This odor is caused by the buildup of a compound called isovaleric acid in affected individuals.In other cases, the signs and symptoms of isovaleric acidemia appear during childhood and may come and go over time. Children with this condition may fail to gain weight and grow at the expected rate (failure to thrive) and often have delayed development. In these children, episodes of more serious health problems can be triggered by prolonged periods without food (fasting), infections, or eating an increased amount of protein-rich foods.Some people with gene mutations that cause isovaleric acidemia are asymptomatic, which means they never experience any signs or symptoms of the condition.