There’s a lot of confusion about enzymes in the raw food world. Some people talk about enzymes being essential in order to prevent aging and disease, but then go on to say that we need the enzymes from raw food in order to do so.
Enzymes certainly help with digestion of food and the breakdown of nutrients in the metabolism, but it’s so important that we distinguish between the different types of enzymes in order to understand how they play a role in the aging process.
Three Types of Enzymes
There are three types of enzymes that affect our bodies – food enzymes, digestive enzymes and metabolic enzymes. Food enzymes are the enzymes that come in raw food, which are often touted as the key to health when it comes to eating a raw diet. We can discuss this further later, but it’s important to know that food enzymes do help a lot in the digestion of food, since the body doesn’t have to utilize as many digestive enzymes that are made internally (endogenous). And as we age, it is hypothesized that the production of endogenous enzymes decreases.
This is where the distinction between enzymes is very important. But first, let’s look at what causes hair to go grey in the first place…
Aging is quite probably associated with reactive oxygen species (ROS), and grey hair is quite probably also a reaction to heightened ROS in the body. The loss of pigment-forming melanocyte cells from the hair follicle occurs from ROS stress, leading to the loss of colour.
ROS stress is caused within the body in various parts of the cell, but a major contributor is the mitochondria as well as the endoplasmic reticulum, lysosomes and peroxisomes. Mitochondiral dysfunction is the primary source of ROS, and endogenous metabolic enzymes play a key role in the formation of ROS.
We are unable to make metabolic enzymes from our food enzymes. The food enzymes would have to be deconstructed and then reconstructed again in order to form the new enzyme. Since enzymes are proteins, we are better off taking the amino acids from the body in order to construct the enzymes. So this is where the raw food logic becomes a bit less valid.
Recent research has shown that enzymes that are oxygen-dependent are possibly implicated in the production of ROS if the enzyme is rendered inefficient due to a gene mutation. This is turn can increase the aging process.
But what else can affect the metabolic process of an enzyme? Enzyme activity is affected by various factors such as pH, temperature and amount of substrate or enzymes to do the work.
However, it is also speculated that the heightened production of ROS by the mitochondria also contributes to damage to the mitochondria and its DNA. So this appears to be a cyclical phenomena. ROS can be caused by a variety of things such as nutrient overload (overeating), excessive exercise, UV damage from the sun, consuming too much fat, and also a reduction of available enzymes.
It becomes clear that protecting the enzymes within the mitochondria from becoming overwhelmed is an important part of preventing damage and halting the aging process.
Antioxidants to the Rescue!
Eating more food enzymes will not alleviate this stress, but there is something else in raw food that can help, and that’s antioxidants.
[**Just to add to the confusion, some enzymes can also be antioxidants, however, these are usually endogenous enzymes produced by the body and not food enzymes.**]
Antioxidants are able to scavenge the excess ROS molecules and attenuate the damage it causes. Combined with a good diet full of the right amount of nutrition, these factors could slow down the process of aging and spare you from any further greying.
So what’s the take home message? Enzymes are an important factor in the aging process, but it’s important to take care of your enzymes by not overwhelming the body with too much to deal with, while also providing it with the antioxidants necessary to clean up the little damage that is inevitable. This just goes to show the importance of not overeating, and especially on the fat, and also of eating foods in their raw state where the antioxidants will be in full bounty. Providing your body with food enzymes is an important part of proper digestion, but to slow aging, it is perhaps other factors within the raw food that are protective.