Definition: Defining the Meaning of Enzymes
Enzymes are defined as molecules that accelerate, or catalyze, chemical reactions. In these reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process are called substrates and the enzyme converts these into different molecules, called products. Almost all metabolic processes in the cell need enzymes in order to occur at rates fast enough to sustain life. The set of enzymes made in a cell determines which metabolic pathways occur in that cell. Enzymes cut and paste products such as nutrients. They speed up all vital biological processes. The enzymes in the stomach, for instance, ensure that food is cut into tiny particles that can be converted into energy in the body. The study of enzymes is called enzymology.
What are Enzymes
Enzymes are biomolecules that catalyze (i.e. increase the rates of) chemical reactions. Almost all enzymes are proteins. In enzymatic reactions, the molecules at the beginning of the process are called substrates, and the enzyme converts them into different molecules, the products. Almost all processes in a biological cell need enzymes to occur at significant rates. Since enzymes are selective for their substrates and speed up only a few reactions from among many possibilities, the set of enzymes made in a cell determines which metabolic pathways occur in that cell.
Studies show that over 90% of the food we eat is cooked at temperatures of over 118 degrees F. This destroys the enzymes in the food. Since a shortage of enzymes in the system does not have any immediately noticeable effects, except for indigestion, most people ignore this fact and take enzyme filled digestive supplements to help with their digestive problems. While this is fine in the short term, understanding what enzymes do for the rest of the body will show that we need them for much more than digesting our food.
Enzymes are proteins that act catalysts for the body's metabolic system.
The body's metabolism is really just an immense series of constant chemical reactions and the catalysts increase their efficiency and effect. Enzymes carry nutrients to various parts of the body and also remove waste and toxic matter from the system. They also balance the triglyceride and cholesterol levels and strengthen the endocrine system by supplying the required hormones. At no time and in no way can natural enzymes harm the body.
Did you know that enzymes help to fight disease
Fungi, bacteria and parasites that invade our bodies and cause sickness are made up of proteins. Even a virus is protected by a protein based shell. Although enzymes are themselves proteins, there is one called protease which breaks down other proteins. High levels of protease in the blood can help to break down the disease causing vectors in our body.
Research indicates that enzymes help in brain functions.
The hypothalamus is the part of our brain that controls our endocrine system and this plays an important role in our emotional responses and balance. The hypothalamus needs glucose to function properly and this glucose, which is supplied from the liver, is protein based. Enzymes promote liver function and support its efforts to produce the glucose. The enzymes in the blood are what carry the nutrients to various parts of the body to provide the muscles the energy to function properly. With low enzyme levels, inadequate protein is carried in the blood and as a result tiredness and lassitude occurs in the muscles, including the brain.
All this is fine but there are so many things our bodies needs and which we never see producing results. Its easy to forget about the internal functioning of the body and take it for granted - easy but dangerous. The problems with deficiencies of enzymes and other essential elements needed by the body is that there are rarely any immediate signs of problems. These develop slowly and the onset is often so gradual that they are never noticed until they have reached a serious stage where medical intervention is needed.
But there is one thing that enzymes do that is visible.
They help to control weight!
They are not a weight loss chemical or anything like that, but they do help to digest food properly and efficiently and reduce the amount of it that is turned into fat. And its better to reduce the amount of fat collecting in our bodies than to have to take it off later.
Enzymes are not food in themselves.
They are just elements of the food.
While the body does produce some enzymes on its own, these are not enough for a healthy metabolism. Its important to know what kinds of foods are enzymes rich and how they should be consumed. As was said earlier, cooking destroys the enzymes in food. Processed foods also have no enzymes. Eating only raw, fresh, unprocessed foods is not a practical proposition. But a little care in controlling our diets can go a long way in ensuring that the body is supplied with the enzymes it needs to stay healthy.
Quick Facts: Interesting Enzyme
- French chemist Anselme Payen was the first to discover an enzyme, diastase, in 1833.
- Enzymes are known to catalyze more than 5,000 biochemical reaction types.
- Some enzymes are used commercially, for example, in the synthesis of antibiotics.
- An enzyme's name is often derived from its substrate or the chemical reaction it catalyzes, with the word ending in -ase.
- Most enzymes are proteins, although a few are catalytic RNA molecules.
- Enzymes must bind their substrates before they can catalyze any chemical reaction.
- Enzyme kinetics is the investigation of how enzymes bind substrates and turn them into products.
- Several enzymes can work together in a specific order, creating metabolic pathways.
- Enzymes' specificity comes from their unique three-dimensional structures.
- Coenzymes are small organic molecules that can be loosely or tightly bound to an enzyme. Coenzymes transport chemical groups from one enzyme to another.