Aerobic Respiration vs Fermentation: Difference and Comparison

An important biochemistry topic is ‘respiration,’ through which your body converts nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules to obtain energy.


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The two different types of respiration are aerobic respiration and fermentation. Another type of respiration is anaerobic respiration, which is similar to fermentation but still quite different.

Key Takeaways

  1. Aerobic respiration requires oxygen and generates a large amount of ATP, while fermentation occurs without oxygen and produces a limited amount of ATP.
  2. The end products of aerobic respiration are carbon dioxide and water, whereas fermentation produces various end products, such as ethanol and lactic acid, depending on the organism.
  3. Aerobic respiration occurs in eukaryotic cells’ mitochondria, while fermentation occurs in the cytoplasm.

Aerobic Respiration vs Fermentation

Aerobic respiration produces ATP and releases carbon dioxide and water as waste products. Fermentation is an anaerobic process that involves the breakdown of glucose to release energy in the form of ATP. Unlike aerobic respiration, fermentation does not require oxygen and occurs in the cytoplasm of the cell.

Aerobic Respiration vs Fermentation

Aerobic respiration takes place in the presence of oxygen and generates adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules which are used as energy for various bodily functions.

It goes through 3 stages in total. These are the glycolysis, Krebs cycle, and further going through oxidative phosphorylation. It is a form of cellular respiration.

On the other hand, during the process of fermentation, sugar molecules are broken down into simpler compounds to produce ATP molecules to carry out biological processes.

It happens in the absence of oxygen. It has 2 steps, namely glycolysis and NADH regeneration, which break down pyruvic acid.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonAerobic RespirationFermentation
OrganismsAnimals and plantsYeast and bacteria mainly
OxygenOxygen is used to break down respiratory material.Oxygen is not used.
End ProductsCarbon dioxide and water.Ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide
Respiratory Material.Completely oxidizedNot completely broken.
Formation of WaterIt is formed.It is not formed.
ContinuationIt occurs indefinitely.It can’t occur indefinitely.
Energy Formed686 Kcal39-59 Kcal
ATP molecules36 ATP molecules are produced.2 ATP molecules are produced.
StepsIt has 3 steps.It has 2 steps.

What is Aerobic Respiration?

Aerobic respiration uses oxygen to produce energy in the form of ATP molecules by breaking down respiratory material.

It is most common in complex organisms like animals, humans, plants, mammals, etc. It is a type of cellular respiration.

The main end-products formed are carbon dioxide and water. It takes place in the cell’s mitochondrial matrix.

It is very important as it provides enough energy to organisms to perform essential functions and processes.

There are different stages of aerobic respiration. The first stage is glycolysis occurring in the cell’s cytosol.

During glycolysis, glucose is divided into 2 ATP and 2 NADH molecules. Then acetyl coenzyme A is formed.

The Krebs cycle (also known as the citric acid cycle) occurs in the next step.

During the last stage of aerobic respiration, large quantities of ATP molecules are formed through the transfer of electrons from FADH and NADH. In the end, around 36 ATP molecules are formed through it.

The ATP molecules are produced from ADP and inorganic phosphate with the usage of ATP synthase.

What is Fermentation?

Fermentation is an anaerobic process of breaking down glucose to obtain ATP molecules, which means it can occur in the absence of oxygen.

It occurs in different types of microorganisms most of the time, like eukaryotes and prokaryotes. It most commonly occurs in yeast and bacteria.

It can also occur in humans, but only if the oxygen supply is very limited and there is high demand for energy, for example, during intense workouts.

In humans, fermentation takes place in muscle cells when there is a lack of oxygen. These cells can use up their oxygen if they contract very frequently.

In the absence of oxygen, they go through glycolysis to produce ATP molecules. These muscle cells make pyruvic acid through glucose, after which an enzyme present in muscle cells converts it into pyruvic acid.

In fermentation, glucose is metabolized (i.e., broken down into) pyruvic acid through the process of glycolysis. This pyruvic acid is converted into acetaldehyde.

Then it is further converted into ethyl alcohol. 2 ATP molecules are produced on average through the process of fermentation.

Main Differences Between Aerobic Respiration and Fermentation

  1. Aerobic respiration tends to occur in animals and plants, which means in multicellular and complex organisms. On the other hand, fermentation occurs in micro-organisms like yeast and bacteria mainly.
  2. Aerobic respiration happens with the help of oxygen, which is then used to break the respiratory material down into simpler substances. Fermentation does not use oxygen in the breakdown of its respiratory material.
  3. The process of aerobic respiration produces carbon dioxide and water as a final product, whereas the end products of fermentation consist of at least one organic substance, and inorganic substances may or may not be produced. Ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide are the most common end products here.
  4. The respiratory material is completely oxidized in aerobic respiration, where it is incompletely broken during the fermentation process.
  5. Water is formed during aerobic respiration, whereas water isn’t formed during fermentation.
  6. Aerobic respiration can continue indefinitely, whereas fermentation can’t continue indefinitely since it can lead to less availability of energy and an accumulation of poisonous compounds.
  7. Through aerobic respiration, 686 Kcal of energy per gram mole of glucose is produced, wherein by fermentation, the energy produced is around 39 to 59 Kcal.
  8. Around 36 ATP molecules are produced during aerobic respiration. On the other hand, only 2 ATP molecules are produced during fermentation.
  9. Aerobic respiration has 3 steps: Krebs’ cycle, glycolysis, and oxidative phosphorylation. Fermentation has only 2 steps: glycolysis and an incomplete breakdown of pyruvic acid.
Difference Between Aerobic Respiration and Fermentation
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