Do Enzymes Function?
Enzymes are "biological catalysts." "Biological"
means the substance in question is produced or is derived from some
living organism. "Catalyst" denotes a substance that
has the ability to increase the rate of a chemical reaction, and is
not changed or destroyed by the chemical reaction that it accelerates.
Generally speaking, catalysts are specific in nature as to the type
of reaction they can catalyze. Enzymes, as a subclass of catalysts,
are very specific in nature. Each enzyme can act to catalyze
only very select chemical reactions and only with very
select substances. An enzyme has been described as a "key"
which can "unlock" complex compounds. An enzyme, as the
key, must have a certain structure or multi-dimensional shape that
matches a specific section of the "substrate" (a substrate
is the compound or substance which undergoes the change). Once these
two components come together, certain chemical bonds within the substrate molecule
change much as a lock is released, and just like the key
in this illustration, the enzyme is free to
execute its duty once again.
Many chemical reactions do proceed but at such a slow rate that
their progress would seem to be imperceptible at normally encountered
environmental temperature. Consider for example, the oxidation of
glucose or other sugars to useable energy by animals and plants.
For a living organism to derive heat and other energy from sugar,
the sugar must be oxidized (combined with oxygen) or metabolically
in a living system, the oxidation of sugar must meet an additional
condition; that oxidation of sugar must proceed
essentially at normal body temperature. Obviously,
sugar surrounded by sufficient oxygen would not oxidize very rapidly
at this temperature. In conjunction with a series of enzymes created
by the living organism, however, this reaction does proceed quite rapidly
at temperatures up to 100°F (38°C). Therefore, enzymes allow
the living organism to make use of the potential energy contained
in sugar and other food substances.
Enzymes or biological catalysts allow reactions that are necessary
to sustain life proceed relatively quickly at the normal environmental
temperatures. Enzymes often
increase the rate of a chemical reaction between
10 and 20 million times what the speed of reaction would be
when left uncatalyzed (at a given temperature).
Nutrients locked in certain organics are complex macromolecules,
or in hard-to-digest matrices may be released or predigested
by a high degree of heat or concentrated acid treatment. In
an alternative manner, specific enzymes can promote the
pre-digestion of certain complex nutrients and facilitate
the release of highly digestible nutrients in organics
during processing without the need of excessive heat or rigorous