Thursday, January 28, 2016

Enzymes: What Is Up with That?

Enzymes, what are they?

I have already mentioned enzymes in the article about the function of proteins the the dog's body. Most people, when they think of proteins, they think structural elements. Which they are. But they also have important jobs which they perform. Many jobs.

Structural proteins can be found tissues such as bone, skin or hair ... even in cells themselves.

A great example of a structural protein is collagen.

The rest of the proteins, though, are a work force.

Many proteins are actual workers performing actual tasks. How can proteins actually DO things? They are not some kind of creatures, are they? No, they are not creatures.



They can perform tasks due to their structure. 

It all has to do with biochemistry. In lay terms, the way proteins are put together allows them to interact with things around them in particular ways. Let's say kind of like velcro. The way it's shaped allows it to do what it does. When it gets close to the right surface, it attaches. (Velcro design was actually inspired by the way burs are able to grab onto things)

Extreme close-up of velcro: Photo Playbuzz
While velcro and burs do this mechanically, proteins do this biochemically.

Enzyme illustration. Image Wikipedia
 Most enzymes are proteins.

They come in all shapes and sizes and have a huge amount of important jobs. There are as many different enzymes as there are jobs they need to perform. Each task in the body has its own specialized worker, enzyme. Like in a factory where many people perform many small tasks but at then end you have the finished product. Or like an orchestra where each musician plays their own instrument to create a piece of music.

Without enzymes, life would come to a stop. 

The official definition of the function of enzymes is that they speed up reactions. In some cases, even quadrillions of times.

If those reactions would happen anyway, just not as fast, why would they need speeding up? Mostly because by the time they would happen on their own, nobody would live that long.

For example, digesting a chunk of meat without enzymes would take about 40 years! A healthy dog can go without food for roughly 4 days. More or less. That would be a problem, wouldn't it?

Imagine you're building a house.

You get all our materials delivered and nicely laid out. They're not going to do much by themselves. You could, of course, wait until the right combination of earthquake, tornado, hurricane or who knows what else happens to happen just so that it blows the materials together to form a house. (I guess it would make for an interesting experiment the results of which nobody would get to see, however.)

If you want your house built soon enough to actually get to live in it, you better bring in some workers.

In the same way, for the body to function, it needs enzymes.

Enzymes will come in, take the bits and pieces and build the house. They will digest the chunk of meat. They will make things that need to be made, and they will take apart things that need to be taken apart. And they will do that soon enough for it to matter. In fact, enzymes can do things mindbogglingly fast.

Even the tiniest bacteria cell can have about a thousand enzyme workers inside it in order to sustain its life. Antibiotics kill bacteria because they mess with its enzymes. Poisons and drugs work by inhibiting function of enzymes. Like throwing a wrench into the works.

The function of enzymes depends on their delicate structure.


How does structure affect function? Say you smashed your bicycle into a wall. Now, that it's all bent out of shape, how is it going to ride? Or you dropped your coffee cup. It fell on the floor and broke into pieces. You still have all of it but it won't hold your coffee any more. Structure is important for about everything.

Enzymes can be either inhibited or right down broken.

An inhibited enzyme is still all fine and dandy but cannot do its job. Say like a juggler with their hands tied behind their back. An enzyme can be inhibited temporarily, such as the juggler, or for good, such as a seized car engine if you ignored your oil change warning light.

Inhibition happens within their environment, the body. You don't want all the workers constantly doing everything all the time. Things in the body are made to order.


A broken enzyme is just that - broken. Down for the count. Say like a melted plastic cup. The plastic is still all there but it's no longer a cup. Good luck trying to get it hold a drink.


How can an enzyme get broken?

The structure of enzymes, and proteins in general, is very delicate and vulnerable. It is affected by pH, temperature, and other factors. Temperatures above about 50 degrees Celsius and pH values outside the range of 3-9 can damage the structure beyond repair. Just like melting the plastic cup.

Image Weirdomatic.com
To be continued ...

Related articles:
Proteins In The Dog's Body

2 comments

  1. I never really understood the role of enzymes and I didn't realize that most are proteins. I'm looking forward to your followup article and I'm thinking the raw diet will be a major topic perhaps?

    It also makes sense why kibble is not very nutritious because it's processed at such high heat which would probably destroy those valuable enzymes.

    Thanks for clearing up some of the confusion for me.

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    Replies
    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the article! Enzymes, and the whole nano world inside the body fascinates me. I started learning all this because I believe one cannot understand nutrition without understanding how things work on the most basic level.

      Yes, processing, particularly with heat destroys enzymes. Not their actual building blocks but their function anyway. There are arguments whether or not that is significant or whether once thy hit the stomach they just get broken down to their amino acids like any other type of protein.

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