Enzymes don't work in a vacuum. They are regulators and control points for thousands of biological pathways. But they in turn are regulated as well.
Enzyme co-factors are compounds that attach and detach from enzymes and control enzyme activity. These compounds may be metals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, or manganese. In some cases organic molecules such as vitamins (thiamine pyrophosphate), amides of lipids, or Adenosine triphosphate may be required for an enzyme to be active. Some enzymes require more than one co-factor. The addition of co-factors provides another layer of control of a particular enzyme's function. This is why it is important that the diet include adequate amounts of minerals and vitamins.
The body's own pancreatic enzymes may require co-factors. Lipase from the pancreas requires a co-factor called colipase in order to work optimally in breaking down fats. Colipase is a small protein produced by the pancreas and keeps lipase from being inhibited by bile salts.
Plant-based lipase, however, does not require colipase and is resistant to inhibition by bile. That is one reason an enzyme supplement may be superior to our own digestive enzymes.
Plant-based enzymes may require metals such as calcium and magnesium to work but they are already embedded and bound within the enzyme before you take them. The metal co-factor is very difficult to dislodge from the enzyme. This means that supplemental enzymes are always in active form and start working as soon as the enzyme powder becomes liquefied.
Some foods, such as legumes, contain phytic acid, a compound that has high affinity or strength for binding phosphate, calcium, and magnesium. In some cases, phytic acid can pull the metal ions out of the enzyme. Luckily another enzyme, phytase, breaks down phytic acid and releases the bound metals. Taking an enzyme product with phytase is a good idea if your meal contains soy, beans, or other legumes. Phytase is found in Houston enzymes in the CereCalase™ blend in Zyme Prime
So the next time you take your enzymes, remember to thank the "little helpers" that make their work possible!