The "living enzyme" myth

     Among raw-food enthusiasts, there is a very popular myth that enzymes are "alive" and these so-called "living enzymes" somehow (never supported with biochemistry) assist the body in digesting food.
     There is also a myth that foods are "alive" and therefore contain "living enzymes".  Well, foods are rendered quite dead upon chewing, and certainly the food's being digested would also certainly kill any living cell that was not killed by chewing.  If you think that foods are alive, then chew some seeds and plant the mush thus prepared, and wait for it to sprout and grow - does anyone really believe chewed foods can be "alive".
    Enzymes are proteins, so are not alive just like any other chemical is not "alive"; perhaps they are a very special class of chemicals, but there is no credible scientist that will claim they are "alive".  Thus, "living enzymes" exist only in the domain of contemporary nutribabble.
     Enzymes mediate "Life" and make it possible because they catalyze chemical reactions that otherwise can not take place at relatively low body temperatures.  But, chemicals are not alive.  
     How do we know if something is "alive"?  The best test I can come up with is that the test subject must display the following characteristics:
eat, excrete, and reproduce.  Thus, bacteria are alive, while viruses are not.  Enzymes do not eat, excrete, or reproduce.
     Apparently, the "living enzyme" myth was started by Howell in an ancient, crackpot book called: Enzyme Nutrition.  Howell was born in 1898, so one can assess must how out-of-date his unsupported, pseudoscientific claims are.  Assuming he wrote this book at age 30, and that information doubles every 10 years, we now have ~256 times as much information available then when this book was written, and guess what, no contemporary scientist claims enzymes are "alive".
     Unfortunately, the original Hippocrates Heath Institute (and its current incarnation) heavily promoted this false concept in the '70's, and beyond, so is mostly responsible for the propagation of this myth.
     But, unrestrained by intellectual inconveniences, like scientific facts and biochemistry, large numbers of today's nutribabblers hold fast to this silly myth because of the "feel good" fantasy that accompanies the self-delusional claim that one is eating "living foods" with magic "living enzymes".  Surely, one is smugly superior, but only in one's internal fantasy world, if claims to eat nonexistent "living foods".
     The claim that plant enzymes "help digest" our foods is readily seen as false with a little knowledge of how enzymes work.  
     Enzymes need very specific conditions, such as temperature, pH, and co-enzymes to properly function.  Plant enzymes exist to support the anabolic mechanisms of the specific plant species, certainly not the catabolic process of human digestion.  Since these sets of chemistries are totally different, the proponents of the "food enzymes" myth have the responsibility to explain how one specific enzyme can do both in different species with different fundamental chemistries (plants run on carbohydrate chemistry, while animals run on protein chemistry); they can not!  Since plants have pre-existed the human species for unknown million of years, the "food enzyme" proponents need to explain just HOW plants anticipated the evolution of the human species by millions of years, and then changed their own biochemistry accordingly; they can not!
     Surely, raw foods are superior, nutritionally, simply because cooking denatures proteins and radically changes the inherent chemistry of cooked foods by other mechanisms, such as hydrolysis (splitting by water)  
     Our species evolved on raw food (until a few thousands of years ago), and there are no evolutionary mechanisms to allow our species to "adapt" to the large variety of very different and unknown chemicals created by the high temperatures of cooking.  Nitrosamines, the most potent carcinogens known, are created by cooking "meat". Cooking either animal products or starches creates carcinogens.
     So, a raw diet of fruits and "vegetables" is the closest possible to the diet of the chimps whose genetic code is 98.4% identical to that of humans.  Clearly, that miniscule difference is due to the major differences in physiology, not those of digestive biochemistry.
    There is no doubt that a raw diet supports superior health, in both humans and other animal species, but that is not due to mythical, nonexistent "living enzymes".



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