How Do Enzymes Work in Your Body?

Enzyme Molecule

Within all living things, biochemical reactions need enzymes, but how do enzymes work?

What is an Enzyme

All living things have some sort of process that can be considered "metabolism", or a chemical reaction that acts to change one substance into another substance. This can also be categorized as a transportation of these substances to all the parts of the organism. The processes that make life possible aren't always linear. Many require a chemical reaction or series of reactions. In order to create these reactions, enzymes are needed.

An enzyme is basically a protein molecule that aids in speeding up chemical reactions. Each enzyme in the body has a unique shape depending on its job. Asking the question "how do enzymes work" is very broad, as each chemical reaction requires its own specific enzyme. Enzymes only work on one substrate. Amylase, for instance, is an enzyme that is able to wrap itself around a starch, which is a substrate, and break it down into smaller glucose units.

How do Enzymes Work

The simple definition for life would be the transfer of energy through the breaking down of base nutrients. All living things actually live due to their ability to break down chemicals that create energy. This cannot occur without a catalyst, which is where enzymes come in.

Tools of the Trade

"Catalyst" is used as a very general term for any substance that helps to facilitate one or more chemical reactions. Enzymes are very powerful catalysts that reside in all living things. These substances consist mainly of proteins and these enzymes are not only very potent but also are quite specific with which reaction they catalyze.

What's in an Enzyme

An enzyme is a fairly simple protein molecule that does a lot of work that is very important to every living thing on our planet. Each enzyme will have one or more "active" parts where the actual catalysis happens. When a substance molecule enters an active site, the enzyme will either see it and do its job, or see it as a substance that could not be altered by the enzyme and let it go.

If the enzyme can do something to the substance, it will hold it in the active site just long enough for a reaction to occur. In some instances, a temporary reaction may occur to create an intermediate state as a way to make the final product. In the end, the enzyme is returned back to its original condition.

Some enzymes can contain an active site known as a "regulatory" site. Think of these sites as a knob on a radio. They work with other substances like a hand turning the dial on the radio to find the right station to turn from a higher station to a lower one. The rest of the molecule is used to "hold" the other parts together to allow the regulatory site (if present) to manipulate the other active sites.

Why are Enzymes Needed

Without enzymes our bodies would die. They keep all of our organs functioning normally as they direct, speed up, retard or modify every single body function. Enzymes distribute this energy in a very economical and unique way. Enzymes work in a step-by-step manner which ensures efficiency and safety as far as how our bodies makes use of the energy.

If we have a poorly functioning enzyme system, our immune system would suffer and the protective functions of it that fend of disease would be weakened. With this in mind it is important to keep a healthy diet in order to maintain a healthy enzyme system. Taking a good multivitamin will help your body maintain proper energy distribution because a vitamin deficiency can lead to serious problems. The lack of Vitamin B12, for example, could cause permanent neurological degradation.

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How Do Enzymes Work in Your Body?