Enzymes are specialized proteins that function as catalysts in almost all cellular functions and chemical reactions throughout the body. Enzymes play a critical role in growth, healing, and reproduction. They are also necessary for breathing, thinking, immune function, hormone regulation, detoxification, and thousands of other biochemical functions. Enzymes are also necessary for digesting food nutrients and converting nutrients to energy in cells.*
Enzymes can originate inside and outside the body. Endogenous enzymes are produced in the body and can be classified as metabolic enzymes and digestive enzymes. Metabolic enzymes are active in blood, tissues, and organs. Digestive enzymes are excreted by the liver and pancreas and help the body convert food to usable nutrients. Exogenous enzymes are enzymes originating outside the body and are classified as food enzymes. Food enzymes are found in raw, unprocessed foods and help break down nutrients during digestion.*
The body’s ability to constantly produce metabolic and digestive enzymes is limited by raw material availability and production capacity. If our diets do not include sufficient food enzymes to break down the food we eat, our body’s endogenous enzyme resources must be directed toward the production of digestive enzymes to speed conversion of food to bioavailable nutrients. Production capacity directed toward the production of digestive enzymes is capacity not available for the production of important metabolic enzymes.
The body’s constant need to produce digestive enzymes can result in decreased levels of metabolic enzymes that are critical for optimal health and cell function. One example of an important metabolic enzyme is superoxide dismutase (SOD), which protects cells from free-radical molecules. Metabolic enzymes are also necessary for energy production, tissue growth and repair, and managing toxic waste products. When we eat foods that are rich in food enzymes, our bodies can use fewer resources to produce digestive enzymes and have more capacity to create optimal levels of metabolic enzymes.*