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Enzymes are Catalysts for Biochemical Reactions in the Body


Enzymes are protein substances that behave as catalysts in biochemical reactions taking place within the human body. Chemical reactions taking place within cells of organs are termed metabolism. This can be either constructive or destructive. Constructive metabolism or anabolism is the process of building energy while destructive metabolism or catabolism is a process of energy release. This building up or breaking down takes place through bio-chemical reactions involving enzymes as catalysts.


Enzymes through their presence hasten all biochemical reactions taking place within an organism. Without proper enzyme activity these biochemical reactions slow down, drastically affecting normal functions. Typical enzyme activities include conversion of maltose to glucose, oxidation of fatty acids to water and carbon dioxide, or hydrolysis of protein molecules.


Enzymes basically have three characteristics:

1. Hasten the process of biochemical reaction in cells of human organs.

2. A particular enzyme acts on a particular substance.

3. The state of activity of enzymes get regulated from a lower level to a higher one and vice versa. Human body is genetically programmed to produce around three thousand enzymes.


Parts of an Enzyme

An enzyme is made up of protein molecules and cofactors. This protein or polypeptide part is called apoenzyme and stays inactive in its synthesized form. The co-factor is non-protein in nature and is either organic or metallic. Metallic cofactors also termed metal ion activator bonds with the polypeptide through covalent bonding. Sodium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, manganese, iron, and copper are metals that form these metallic cofactors.   

Enzymes in Digestion

Breaking down of food substances through chemical reactions is a vital enzyme activity. Digestive enzymes occurring within the body include proteases, amylases, and cellulose. Amylase is a digestive enzyme that helps in breaking down of starch while protease enzyme assists in the breakage of protein substances. Cellulase is used in breaking down the cellulose wall of plant fiber.


Enzyme function in the digestive tract is varied with each part specified for the breaking down of a particular substance. Some examples of these digestive enzymes are trypsin, chymotrypsin, and pepsin. All these enzymes are used in breaking down protein substrates. Digestive enzymes with suffix ase such as lipase and sucrase are used for breaking down starch and carbohydrates substrates. Sucrase is used for the catalysis of sucrose forming fructose and glucose. Similarly, lipase is use for the catalysis of triglycerides.


Factors affecting Enzyme Activity 


Digestive enzymes function favorably under definite environmental conditions. Concentrations of enzymes and substrate, surrounding temperature, and pH are what primarily determine enzyme activity. Activators and inhibitors also play a significant role in regulating activities of enzymes indigestion. During digestive upset or weakness, enzyme function is affected. In such situations it becomes advisable to take enzyme supplements.

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