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Difference Between Cellular Respiration and Fermentation

Cellular Respiration vs Fermentation

Respiration is a vital way for the cells of plants and animals to obtain and utilize energy. Without this energy, cells in the bodies of plants and animals would fail to function and will eventually break down and die. The breaking down of sugar into energy and storing it in ATP is the key to the survival of living organisms.

The formation of ATP involves two different processes, cellular respiration and fermentation. The reactions to these processes are controlled by enzymes and involve the loss and gain of electrons.

Cellular Respiration

Cellular respiration takes place in the cells of organisms using metabolic reactions and processes to convert biochemical energy from the nutrients they absorbed into ATP or adenosine triphosphate and to release waste products.

The energy derived from nutrients like sugar, amino and fatty acids, an electron acceptor which can be oxygen (used by aerobic organisms) or other inorganic donors like sulfur, metal ions, methane, or hydrogen (used by anaerobic organisms) are stored in ATP and used for biosynthesis, locomotion and to transport molecules in cell membranes.

Cellular respiration can be aerobic or anaerobic. Aerobic respiration requires oxygen to generate ATP and plants and animals use this in utilizing the energy they received.

Anaerobic respiration does not require oxygen and uses glycolysis to convert a molecule of glucose into two molecules of pyruvate. Pyruvate is then oxidized to allow it to enter the citric acid cycle creating two waste products, water and carbon dioxide.


When the pyruvate is not oxidized, it undergoes the process of fermentation. It is then converted into the waste products lactate or lactic acid (lactic acid fermentation) and ethanol (ethanol or alcoholic fermentation).

During strenuous exercise, fermentation occurs in the muscles because of limited oxygen supply, creating lactic acid which also causes muscle cramps. Sugars are very important in fermentation and so is yeast. It helps in the production of ethanol in alcoholic drinks and carbon dioxide.

Fermentation has many uses in the food and fuel industry. Ethanol is an energy source that can be used for petrol gasoline. Pickled foods have gone through the process of fermentation. It is also used in the creation and preservation of cheeses, sausages, yogurt and vinegar.


1. Cellular respiration uses oxygen as the electron acceptor in the formation of ATP, while fermentation uses inorganic donors, such as sulfur and methane in the formation of ATP.
2. Both cellular respiration and fermentation convert nutrients from sugar, amino acids and fatty acids to form ATP, but they differ in their processes and levels of energy that they release.
3. Cellular respiration produces 38 ATP, while fermentation produces only 2 ATP.
4. Cellular respiration is more efficient than fermentation in the generation of ATP.
5. ATP production in cellular respiration is slower than in fermentation.
6. The energy produced in fermentation can be used when energy production in cellular respiration slows down due to insufficient oxygen supply.
7. Fermentation is used to supplement the slower ATP production in cellular respiration.

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