Enzymes are catalysts. Most are proteins. (A few ribonucleoprotein enzymes have been discovered and, for some of these, the catalytic activity is in the RNA part rather than the protein part. Link to discussion of these ribozymes.)
Enzymes bind temporarily to one or more of the reactants of the reaction they catalyze. In doing so, they lower the amount of activation energy needed and thus speed up the reaction. Enzymes are found in all tissues and fluids of the body. Intracellular enzymes catalyze the reactions of metabolic pathways. Plasma membrane enzymes regulate catalysis within cells in response to extracellular signals, and enzymes of the circulatory system are responsible for regulating the clotting of blood. Almost every significant life process is dependent on enzyme activity.
Enzymes are also classified on the basis of their composition. Enzymes composed wholly of protein are known as simple enzymes in contrast to complex enzymes, which are composed of protein plus a relatively small organic molecule.
Complex enzymes are also known as holoenzymes. In this terminology the protein component is known as the apoenzyme, while the non-protein component is known as the coenzyme or prosthetic group where prosthetic group describes a complex in which the small organic molecule is bound to the apoenzyme by covalent bonds; when the binding between the apoenzyme and non-protein components is non-covalent, the small organic molecule is called a coenzyme. Many prosthetic groups and coenzymes are water-soluble derivatives of vitamins. It should be noted that the main clinical symptoms of dietary vitamin insufficiency generally arise from the malfunction of enzymes, which lack sufficient cofactors derived from vitamins to maintain homeostasis.
Each type of enzyme has a special function and works in a particular way. Enzymes are essential to every aspect of life and carry out all the daily biochemical functions. They are the basic elements that activate all functions in the body, facilitate reactions that build compounds from the body’s raw materials, transport elements throughout the body, break down substances, and eliminate many unwanted chemicals in the body.
Enzymes run every function in our entire body. Digestive enzymes breakdown the food we eat so it can be used as a source of nutrients and a source of energy. Every cell relies on the raw materials provided to the body by digestive enzymes. If you do not have enough enzymes you can develop a vast myriad of illnesses. All the food and nutritional supplements you consume will not do any good if they are not sufficiently broken down and absorbed by the body.
Generally, the use of enzymes is beneficial. In some cases, they can replace harmful chemicals and reduce water and energy consumption in food production. However, enzymes produced by genetically engineered organisms are cause for concern. Not enough is known about the long-term effects of these enzymes on humans and the ecosystem for them to be used across the board.
Digestive enzymes have only three main jobs: digesting protein, carbohydrate, and fat. Proteases are enzymes that digest protein; amylases digest carbohydrate, and lipases digest fat. Enzymes convert the food we eat into chemical structures that can pass through the cell membranes of the cells lining the digestive tract into the bloodstream.
Most enzymes denature above their optimum temperature. For many enzymes this is around 40°C although some bacteria living in hot springs have a much higher optimum temperature for their enzymes. There are two basic groups of enzymes. Food (plant) enzymes play the role of enhancing the body’s vitality and also enhance the efficiency of digestion. Pancreatic (animal) enzymes serve the digestive system as well as to promote a healthy and robust immune system.
They assist in fighting aging, weight loss, lowering cholesterol, cleaning the colon, breaking down fats, strengthening the immune system, improve mental capacity, detoxifying the body, building muscles from protein, eliminating carbon dioxide from the lungs etc.
Enzymes are vital to our health and change the rate at which chemical reactions happen, but without any external energy source added or by being changed themselves. These very important ingredients to our health, is reaction specific, and will only act on certain substances – referred to as substrates.
Human saliva contains an enzyme called amylase. This enzyme helps to turn starch into a sugar called maltose. When you swallow a mouthful of food, the amylase stops working because it is much too acid in the stomach pH 2. Amylase works best in neutral or slightly alkaline conditions, i.e. at about pH 7. When your food gets into the small intestine, more amylase is made by the pancreas and this turns the remaining starch into maltose. Another enzyme (maltase) turns all this maltose into glucose. Glucose is then absorbed into the blood.
Enzymes allow certain industrial processes to be carried out at normal temperatures and pressures, thus reducing the amount of energy and expensive equipment needed. Enzymes are used in the home, for example in ‘biological’ detergents.
Two physicians at the Sports Medicine Investigation Center in Grunwald, Germany conducted a study of the effect of an anti inflammatory enzyme mixture on the treatment of a hematoma which is the medical term for a bruise. The treatment was evaluated as good for 76% of the enzyme treated subjects and by only 14% of the placebo treated subjects.
Deficiency of Enzymes
A lack of enzymes can easily lead to certain foods and proteins remaining undigested, and to remain in the bowels in the form of undigested foodstuff. As the undigested food remains in the intestines, it often stays there for lengthy periods of time, all the while decomposing into toxic materials. These toxic substances are absorbed by the blood and sent along to the liver to be detoxified. Often the liver becomes overworked and unable to properly detoxify the entire blood system, which results in toxins roaming freely throughout the body.
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