Function of Enzymes. Why are enzymes important?

What are Enzymes?

Enzymes are proteins that catalyze biochemical reactions in our body. The function in the cell to carry out essential functions such as destroying damaged proteins, transferring chemical groups to another molecule, and creating the energy molecule ATP which is essential for all metabolic functions. Digestive enzymes are produced by our pancreas and released into the gut to facilitate the digestion and absorption of food. Proteases break down protein into amino acids, lipase break down fats into fatty acids and amylase break down carbohydrate into simple sugars glucose, galactose and fructose. Digestive enzymes carry out essential functions whenever we consume food/drinks and is critical for the proper digestion. In fact, inability to break down certain nutrients can lead to significant digestive disturbances. For example, lactose intolerance results from a deficiency in the enzyme lactase, which breaks down lactose commonly found in milk and some dairy products. Consequently, lactose-intolerant individuals who consume regular milk often experience bloating, gas, cramps and possibly diarrhea. 

Supplementation of Digestive Enzymes

Supplementing digestive enzymes can help alleviate symptoms of certain conditions. For example, those with lactose intolerance may consume milk-containing lactase, or lactase supplements to support digestion. Furthermore, individuals with conditions such as cystic fibrosis, pancreatic cancer and pancreatitis can experience inadequate digestive enzyme production and may benefit from digestive enzyme supplementation. Moreover, individuals who experience indigestion from fibre-rich foods may benefit from consuming digestive enzymes with high levels of fibre-digestion enzymes, known as alpha-galactosidase. 

How are Enzymes used in Food Processing? 

Enzymes play an important role in food processing and production. For example, lipase is used in cheddar cheese production, glucose oxidase helps extend the shelf life of foods and peroxidase helps maintain food quality and color by protecting the food against oxidation. In baking, asparaginase reduces the formation of acrylamide, a molecule that is considered a carcinogen. In chocolates, the enzyme invertase helps create semi-liquid chocolate centres in candy bars. These functional enzymes used to enhance consumer experience of food consumption, often by transforming the appearance, texture, taste and mouthfeel. Enzymes also play a role in the microbial fermentation of foods. Usually, these enzymes can be identified in the ingredient list with the ending of “ase” such as invertase, xylanase, pectinase and so forth. 

What is the Role of Enzymes in Fermented Foods?

Enzyme food and Enzyme Drink.

Whole-foods products that undergo microbial fermentation will naturally contain enzymes produced by the probiotic culture (yeast, fungi, bacteria) to facilitate the breakdown of foods and thereby increases the bioavailability of nutrients and improve the digestibility of the food. Moreover, bacteria in the large intestine use a variety of carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes to produce beneficial nutrients such as short fatty chain acids (butyrate, acetate, propionate). Some bacteria produce energy using byproducts of this fermentation. Consumption of probiotics and prebiotics with the help of enzymes they use, the amount of bacteria increases.That is, helps bowel movement as it adds a volume to a stoll. In estimate, about 30 g of bacteria are produced for every 100 g of carbohydrate that is fermented. Although there is no scientific evidence which shows that consumption of the enzymes benefits our health, they are important in improving the bioavailability and digestibility of the fermented food. However, as most fermented whole foods are heated during processing, the enzymes are destroyed and therefore do not end up in the final food product. This is in part why enzymes are not listed as a component or ingredient in fermented foods. Foods which have been fermented for a longer period of time may be considered more therapeutic and digestible.  However, keep in mind that this would depend on the type of food being fermented and the type and nature for microorganisms which are fermenting the food. KOSO’s nutritional drink is fermented from over 100 different fruits and vegetables in a hinoki barrel or stainless-steel tank for 10-14 days. The rich diversity of fruits and vegetables provide a nourishing and high-quality base for fermentation. From there, it is moved to a low temperature tank to ferment for another 2 to 12 months. The low temperature is key to enhancing the fermentation process, as heat can denature (destroy) both the enzymes and kill the microorganisms. This is therefore an important step to ensure that the microorganisms and the enzymes have time to continue the process of fermentation, nutrient release and synthesis. 

Conclusion

Enzymes are essential for our body. Digestive enzymes, in particular, facilitate the digestion and absorption of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Indigestion, cramping, bloating and other forms of digestive upset can result from problems associated with inadequate endogenous enzyme production. It has therefore been beneficial to supplement digestive enzymes to address these issues. Although there is limited evidence that microbial enzymes found in fermented foods help to breakdown food in our body. However, these microbial enzymes are important in enhancing digestibility and bioavailability of nutrients, which can significantly reduce the gastrointestinal issues associated with foods such as beans, legumes and other vegetables. Enzymes are undoubtedly important in the process of fermentation. 

 

Resources 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5956270/
https://www.britannica.com/science/enzyme
https://www.enzymetechnicalassociation.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/benefits_paper.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3962110/
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