Monday, December 28, 2009

Enzymes: Are they the key to raw foods?

Enzymes: Are they the key to raw foods?
by Frederick Patenaude

Dear Frederick. I am Marios from Greece and this is my
second e mail with a question. You say that raw foods are
good for us but not because of the enzymes.. This is really
something ... then why all this raw food movement is expanding
throughout the western world? Many well known hygienists and
raw foodists claim that enzymes are the exact reason of why raw
food is superior to the cooked one.

Can you please clarify this one? Do we really have any scientific
information on whether the enzymes that the foods carry don't or
do take a part in digestion?”


That’s an interesting question. In most raw-food books you’ll
read that food enzymes are “the lifeforce” of foods and that
they’re the reason why we should eat a raw diet. That’s what
I used to think when I gullibly believed everything that the
raw-food gurus said. Now my understanding is that food enzymes
are not important at all in the digestive process, and most of them
are destroyed in the process of digestion anyway. If they are not
destroyed, it is unlikely that they have any role to play in

You ask if I’ve got any scientific research to back it up. You
should ask the question differently. Do raw-foodists have any
scientific research to back up their enzyme theories? Very
scant. Open up any physiology book and you’ll realize that
all of those theories are pure conjectures. Everything that I just
said about enzymes are recognized facts of physiology.

Here’s what one of my correspondents sent me, and this
summarizes this issue a lot:

“It was SO good to read your snippet about enzymes as you
have put out publicly exactly the conclusions I had come to!
All this hype about enzymes being good for your health flies
in the face of proven science on many counts:

1) Enzymes are biological catalysts and the definition of a
catalyst is that it is something that alters/speeds up a reaction
without being used up in the process. So, by definition, we
cannot 'run out of enzymes'. Even if we could:

2) Enzymes are proteins and are made up of the same amino
acids as other proteins needed in the body. Thus, if more are
needed, more can easily be made from the same materials as
other body parts! Our raw plant foods actually go to make up

3) Enzymes are specific - they catalyze one reaction and one
reaction only. That means that plant enzymes are there to deal
with reactions connected with the plant's life and not to help
humans digest food. Look at the speed at which fruit ripens then
decays. It takes days, if not weeks! But human digestion of fruit
takes only hours. How can the same enzyme suddenly do that?
Simply, it can't. Also, enzymes being specific, human metabolic
enzymes cannot logically be used as digestive enzymes. They
are there only to catalyze the metabolic reaction.

In my opinion, the food enzyme theory and its wide following is
one of the major things against more mainstream acceptance
of raw foodism as a whole. It's blatantly wrong and gives those
who insist on it a bad name. If the raw and natural food
movement wishes to be gain wider credibility, it has to be more
credible.” Elizabeth, UK

Let’s take the example of the banana. An unripe banana is
loaded with various enzymes that are needed BY THE
BANANA to transform its own starch into simple sugars.
As the banana ripen, it becomes sweeter as complex substances
(starch) are transformed into simpler ones (sugar). In the end,
the enzymes are themselves disintegrated in the process.
So when you eat the ripe bananas, there are few enzymes in it.
But then, it is so easy to digest that the body will use fewer
enzymes to digest it than if you ate a slice of bread, which
contains mostly complex carbs. So in the end, you indeed
“save up” your enzymes by eating the raw banana, but this
has nothing to do with the enzymes in the bananas, which
are not needed anyway.

Raw-foodists often say that avocados are easy to digest
because they contain a lot of fat-digesting enzymes (called
lipase). It this were true, the avocado would digest itself.
It would not sit on the counter and ripen, but it would quickly
digest itself down! In reality, when you eat a ripe avocado,
your body has to use its own enzymes to digest it.

Nuts and seeds are easier to digest when they are soaked not
because it supposedly “activates the enzymes” in the nuts.
In fact, they are easier to digest simply because they are
hydrated. A dried fruit is also easier to digest when it is

But enzymes supplements work, you’ll say. Sure they work.
The enzymes used are specific digestive enzymes. However,
when you use them, you cripple a natural function. If you’re
experiencing digestive problems and you find relief in using
supplemental enzymes, you’re simply not addressing the
cause of your problem. Over time, your digestion will become
less and less efficient because you are using a natural “aid”
like a crutch – you’ll end up with a weaker digestion.

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