This article criticizes the “enzyme theory” behind many raw foodists claims that eating raw food is superior for human health. What is interesting about it is that it is written by a raw foodist.
“Enzymes: Are they the key to raw foods?” by Frederic Patenaude
I’ve received the following question from a reader:“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
My Answer: 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 digestion.
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 enzymes!
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 soaked.
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 aide like a crutch you’ll end up with a weaker digestion.
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