What are enzymes?

Enzymes drive many important biochemical reactions in the body. They convert substances into other substances and break down large molecules. Therefore, enzymes are also called biocatalysts. They develop basic building blocks, which are necessary for our body, from the food and are involved in the metabolism. In addition to digestion, growth and respiration, they are needed for the transmission of stimuli and many other processes in our body. Enzymes, as regulators and control points, facilitate the smooth flow of chemical reactions in the body.

Enzymes as biocatalysts

Almost all enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts in our body's biochemical reactions. Enzymes have many different functions. From digestion and metabolic processes to the translation of genetic material into proteins, enzymes are involved as biocatalysts.

Enzymes consist of protein chains. A distinction is made between simple enzymes with only one protein chain and enzymes that consist of several contiguous protein chains. These protein chains are characteristically folded for each enzyme class. Enzymes are often multifunctional. Thus, simple enzymes often take over several tasks in the body. Often, however, some enzymes join together to form a large complex. Within this complex, the individual enzymes interact and regulate each other.

The most important enzymes in the human body

There are countless enzymes in our body. Probably the most basic task is taken over by the digestive enzymes. They are responsible for decomposing the food into small building blocks such as amino acids, fatty acids and sugar molecules. These building blocks are taken up into the blood via mucous membranes and utilized or stored in the metabolism.

There are five major groups of digestive enzymes:

  • Peptidases break down proteins and peptides into amino acids.
  • Glycosidases degrade long sugar chains such as starch or glycogen to simple sugar molecules.
  • Lipases are produced in the pancreas and split fats into fatty acids and glycerol.
  • Nucleases decompose nucleic acids.
  • Lactase splits lactose into galactose and glucose.

Other important enzymes

The enzyme lactate dehydrogenase also plays an important role in the body. It occurs mainly in the liver, in the red blood cells and in the muscles. Increases the concentration of lactate dehydrogenase in the blood, it indicates an anemia.

The enzyme troponin T is well suited to detect damage to the heart. It is released by the heart muscle in an infarction in the blood. Doctors can draw conclusions about the severity of the damage by the amount of troponin T in the blood.

Alkaline phosphatase is found in the bones, liver and bile ducts. The enzyme gamma-GT occurs in the brain, kidney and liver. Increased levels of both enzymes in the blood indicate the diseases of the organs in which they do their work.

Enzymes in the diet

Enzymes are not only found in the body, but are also in many foods. Important enzymes that the body itself can not produce must be supplied with food. To ingest enzymes through food, care should be taken that the foods are fresh and raw. This ensures that enzymes do not decompose.

Enzymes that are contained in fresh fruits or vegetables help us to digest many different foods. Often, enough enzymes are not absorbed through food so that the food is not completely digested because of the lack of digestive enzymes. Undigested food residues can accumulate in the body in the form of fat or slag.

Enzyme-rich fruits and vegetables

Vitamins, trace elements and micronutrients are beneficial to health and often components of enzymes. Therefore, a lack of vitamins is often associated with a lack of enzymes that are not provided by our body.

Natural enzymes can be added via fruits, raw vegetables, lettuce and nuts. Bananas, kiwis, pineapples, papaya, figs and pears in particular stand out for their high content of enzymes. Enzyme-rich vegetables include broccoli, cucumbers, tomatoes and zucchini.

Bromelain: enzyme in the pineapple

Bromelain is known as the pineapple enzyme. The name stands for two enzymes found in the fruit. Bromelain has anticoagulant and anti-inflammatory properties, which is particularly beneficial for many inflammatory conditions. These include diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, high blood pressure, as well as acne and Alzheimer's.

In addition, the enzymes of the pineapple help in the breakdown of proteins from the diet. The proteins are broken down into their components - the amino acids - which in turn are needed to build up the body's own cells.

Enzymes in food production

Biocatalysts such as enzymes also play an important role in the production of beverages and food. In innumerable fermentation processes, enzymes in bacteria convert sugar into acid. This makes the consumption of alcohol, cheese, yoghurt and baked goods possible. In cheese production proteases are used for milk clotting. Enzymes of lactic acid bacteria benefit the production of yoghurt. Used in distilleries, breweries and in the production of baked goods, the enzymes amylase and protease are used.

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