Enzymes act as catalysts in the body, enabling the release of energy and the operation of metabolic processes to occur at lightning speed. Unlike simple chemical catalysts, enzymes are consumed in the metabolic processes and must constantly be replaced; for this purpose the body requires an adequate supply of minerals, vitamins and amino acids with which to make them.
Powered by carbon and hydrogen (from food), combining with the oxygen from the atmosphere, are the microscopic cells of the body, each one a thousand times more complex than any jumbo-jet. Imagine, as you read these words, the chemical and electrical processes going on inside your brain. Imagine the same processes, stepped up, in the minds and bodies of two tennis players contesting a hard match, or say a jazz saxophone player improvising a hot solo – senses racing, fingers moving in a blur. Thoughts, actions and reactions – how can they occur so fast, billions of body cells so perfectly co-ordinated. Every one of the countless processes within the body requires energy, released without the severe heat of fire, with exact precision, at a speed too fast to comprehend. Enzymes make this possible.
Enzymes perform two separate but overlapping functions in the body:
- The constant metabolism to do with tissue maintenance and general body functions.
- The digestion of food.
Enzymes, which are protein-like substances, are produced in about 1300 or more forms by the body, and over eighty thousand combinations or systems. Each enzyme exists for a specific purpose and there is not one body process – thought, digestion, movement or growth – that can occur without enzyme activity. Life, animal or vegetable, cannot exist without enzymes. For all intents and purposes, life and enzyme activity are one and the same. Enzyme levels in the body can be measured, and it is a fact that even though vitamins and mineral levels remain fairly constant throughout life, enzyme levels do not; they are highest in young adulthood and decline with age. Enzyme levels rise in acute illness, if the body has the resources, but are always low in chronic disease.
Dr. Edward Howell, in his book Food Enzymes for Health and Longevity (and also Enzyme Nutrition) says: “The fact that the enzyme content of organisms is depleted with increasing old age is forcibly present when fluids or tissues are examined at different ages. After full mature growth has been attained there is a slow and gradual decrease in the enzyme content of organisms. When the enzyme content becomes so low that metabolism cannot proceed at a proper level, death overtakes the organism”. This decline in enzyme production is explainable by the silting up and degeneration of the body cells which, it appears is the cause of the problem and not a result of it.
Enzyme activity requires the presence of moisture, and varies with temperature and the degree of acidity present. Some enzymes function in an acid environment, others prefer neutral conditions, and some alkaline. Maximum activity occurs at different temperatures depending on the acid/alkaline balance, and at different degrees of acidity depending on the temperature. In the body, enzymes function more rapidly and more effort can be produced at temperatures above normal. Enzyme activity reaches a maximum at fever temperatures which accompany acute infection, thus accomplishing maximum action by the body’s defensive mechanisms.
In 1921, Professor Eugene Du Bois described in the Journal of the American Medical Association that a rise in temperature from the normal 37C (98.6F) to 41C (105F) produced a 50% increase in metabolism of the human body. In 1926, Dr. S. Wright in his Applied Physiology stated that for every rise of one degree Fahrenheit, the basal metabolism increases by seven per cent.
Above 42C (107F) enzymes eventually become impaired and if enzymes in raw food are heated to 48C (118F) for more than half an hour they are destroyed. It should be noted that the destructive effects of heat are most pronounced when moisture is present. Dry heat is not destructive to enzymes until temperatures above 150C (320F), and at lower temperatures than this extracted enzymes in powder form suffer no damage.
Seeds contain enzymes which are inhibited until exposed to conditions of moisture and temperature favourable to germination. Thus, in temperate climates new growth commences in the spring, and maximum growth occurs in the summer. In damp tropical climates lush growth occurs all year round.
The enzyme potential of seeds is inhibited by specific inhibiting agents in the seed which ensure the seed remains inert and apparently lifeless, perhaps for years, until conditions favourable to germination are encountered. Cooked food keeps well because enzymes which would otherwise decompose it, have been destroyed, and it will only decompose when live enzymes are introduced by various microbes in the air. Because enzymes are inhibited by cold, refrigerated food keeps well and frozen food will keep indefinitely. Similarly, dehydrated food will keep indefinitely because enzymes cannot function without moisture. Canned food also keeps indefinitely because its enzymes have been destroyed by heat and the food sealed in the can from further enzyme contact. Preservatives work by inhibiting enzymes and this is why preserved foods are difficult to digest.
All living organic matter, animal or vegetable, lives only because of enzyme activity, and upon death it is decomposed and returned to the earth by enzyme activity.
The digestion and assimilation of food requires that the food be broken down into constituents which can be absorbed and utilized by the body. Protein must be broken down into usable amino-acids, starch into sugar, and fats split into simple components. Minerals and vitamins must be extracted and either put to immediate use or stored away. All of these actions are accomplished by about a dozen different digestive enzymes acting separately and together. Some of these enzymes exist already in the food if it is uncooked, but the majority are provided in the digestive juices made in the body and secreted into the stomach and intestines. The pancreas provides some of these but most are provided by the cells of the intestinal villi.
The enzyme content of natural food is proportional to the amount of energy (calories) contained. Raw vegetables do not contain a great quantity of enzymes and so salads do little to compensate for the destruction of enzymes in cooked food. Fruit is high in enzyme content. Fruit will ripen rapidly then decompose rapidly in hot weather, while vegetables may only wilt and shrivel. Animal protein foods, meat, fat and dairy products when raw contain valuable enzymes.
Dr. Howell describes experiments which show that it is possible for unsplit, complex substances such as bacteria, yeast cells, proteins and fats to be absorbed into the bloodstream and lymph. Such substances in the body fluids are foreign and therefore antigenic, provoking allergic responses and leucocytosis, the increase in the blood’s white cells. The experiments showed that enzymes in the blood serum, if adequate, complete the digestion of these substances. It was shown too, that when enzyme levels were low the symptoms of allergy subsided and enzymes levels returned to normal when large doses of pancreatic enzymes were administered orally to the patient.
The regular consumption of cooked foods results in the enlargement of the pancreas, and hypertrophy of this organ is the most pronounced in people who consume large amounts of cooked grains (including rice). By comparison, as a percentage of total body weight the human pancreas is over twice the size of the pancreas of herbivorous animals, the only explanation being that humans consume cooked food.
Thus, notwithstanding the fact that cereals of one kind or another constitute the basis of the diets of most humans, this form of food cannot contribute to optimal nutrition.
Accompanying the hypertrophy of the pancreas brought about in the digestion of cooked food are changes in the gonads, adrenals, pituitary and other ductless glands. A study of people killed accidentally showed that all of those over fifty had a defective pituitary gland, which is the master gland of the body.
To conclude with some further remarks from Dr. Howell: “At first thought it might be presumed that hypertrophy of the pancreas is a desirable accommodation. But there is always the tendency for the hypertrophy of excessive function to proceed to the atrophy of exhaustion. An atrophy of the pancreas occurs in many terminal wasting diseases”.
Dr. Howell’s whole argument is that if throughout life the enzyme production within the body is overstrained, in the later years it is inevitable that enzyme levels will diminish sooner than they should, thus accelerating degeneration and old age. Referring to an experiment at CornellUniversityin which it was shown that the lifespan of rats could be almost doubled by dietary manipulation, Dr. Howell said. “After reviewing this work, I cannot see how it is possible to escape the conclusion that when the enzyme reserve (I use this phrase interchangeably with the term vitality) is drawn at a more rapid rate it will be exhausted sooner and consequently life will end earlier”.
From: The New Health Revolution by Ross Horne 1983