By - Julio Medina

Metabolic enzymes: How do enzymes work

Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions occurring in the human body. These biological “catalysts” can make a chemical reaction take place a million times faster than it would’ve under normal circumstances. They are essential to human life because of their pivotal role in critical bodily functions, such as metabolism and digestion.

Role of enzymes in the human body

Life, itself, depends on the presence of enzymes in the body. Let’s take a look at some of their primary functions:

  • Digestion: Digestive enzymes help regulate the process of digestion by breaking down complex molecules into smaller ones. In other words, they turn the food we eat into energy so that the body can use it.
  • DNA replication: DNA is present in every cell and needs to be replicated when each cell divides into two. Enzymes help regulate this process by unwinding DNA coils and copying all the information contained in them.
  • Toxin breakdown: The liver uses various enzymes to get rid of the toxins present in the human body.

How do enzymes work?

The region where the chemical reaction components are attached and acted upon is the most active site in an enzyme. In some cases, one substrate is broken down to form smaller products, and in others, two or more substrates are combined to form a larger product. The shape of the active site is such that it is complimentary only to the shape of specific substrate molecules.

Enzymes function according to the lock and key theory, with the enzyme being the lock and the substrate being the key. Only one key fits into a particular lock, much like how only the correctly shaped substrates will bind to the active site of an enzyme. For this reason, all enzymes are specific to their chemical reaction and will not speed up any other reactions taking place in the body.

What conditions affect enzymes?

Enzymes can only function properly under certain conditions. They work best at the average body temperature, which is around 37°C. At lower temperatures, they operate at a much slower rate.

The pH level can also drastically affect the working of an enzyme. Their preference, however, depends on their location in the body. Enzymes found in the acidic environment of the stomach prefer a pH of 2, whereas those in the intestine function best at a pH of 7.5.

At very high temperatures or in excessively acidic/alkaline environments, enzymes tend to get denatured, meaning the shape of their active site is permanently altered.

When should you take metabolic enzymes supplements?

Maintaining healthy enzyme levels in the body is paramount and doing so may require you to regularly take metabolic enzymes supplements. Here are a few things that may lower your body’s enzyme-count:

  • Exposure to pesticides.
  • Excessive intake of heated foods.
  • Pancreas-related conditions, such as pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, and cystic fibrosis.

There are over 30 trillion cells in the body, and metabolic enzymes control the chemical reactions in each one of them. It goes to show how vital they are to the human body; its survival and nourishment.