Glossary of Terms


The activity of an enzyme is a measure of the quantity of active enzyme present and is thus dependent on conditions, which should be specified. Enzyme activity = moles of substrate converted per unit time = rate × reaction volume.


An enzyme that helps digest gas promoting carbohydrates, such as raffinose, and stachyose.  Especially helpful with cruciferous vegetables and legumes.

Amino Acid

Any of a class of organic compounds that contains at least one amino group and one carboxyl group; they are the building blocks from which proteins are constructed


An enzyme that catalyses the hydrolysis of starch into sugars


A molecule that inhibits the oxidation of other molecules, therefore preventing or slowing cell damage. The most common dietary antioxidants are vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, and lycopene.

Aspergillus niger

A fungus that is cultured for the extraction of enzymes, specifically alpha-galactosidase


Enzyme assays are laboratory methods for measuring enzymatic activity. They are vital for the study of enzyme kinetics and enzyme inhibition.


Adenosine Triphosphate, a relatively stable, high energy molecule used to fuel chemical reactions within cells.

Bacillus subtilis

A gram-positive, catalase-positive bacterium, found in soil and the gastrointestinal tract of ruminants and humans. A member of the genus Bacillus, B. subtilis is rod-shaped, and can form a tough, protective endospore, allowing it to tolerate extreme environmental conditions.


Single-celled microorganisms (microbes) that exist in virtually all environments in the world. They exist in dirt, water, caves and hot springs, organic materials like fallen trees and dead animals, and inside the bodies of virtually every living animal on earth. The human body has millions more bacteria in it than it has total cells comprising the entire body. Some bacteria are pathogenic (harmful), and some are beneficial to their host.


An enzyme that breaks down polysaccharides known as beta D-glucans which are associated with grains, such as barley, oats, and wheat


A mixture of enzymes found in pineapples (Ananas comosus) that digest protein, especially associated with maintaining normal inflammatory response


An classification of enzymes that catalyze the breakdown of carbohydrates into simple sugars. Carbohydrases are produced in the pancreas but act in the stomach breaking down carbohydrates.


A class of biochemical compounds which includes sugars, starch, chitin, and steroids.


An enzyme that breaks down hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen; one of the most potent enzyme antioxidants


A compound that lowers the activation energy of a reaction without itself being consumed. With a catalyst, reactions occur faster and with less energy. Because catalysts are not consumed, they are recycled. Often only tiny amounts are required. Enzymes are catalysts.


A group of enzymes that break down the cellulose cell walls of plant fiber, producing smaller polysaccharides and glucose; Helps free nutrients in both fruits and vegetables


A carbohydrate polymer of the simple sugar glucose. It is found in the cell walls of plants and green algae, as well as dinoflagellates. Cellulose is the most abundant compound on earth that is manufactured by living things.


CFU stands for “colony forming units”, and is a way to measure the number of active, live organisms in a probiotic


One of three principal protein-degrading, or proteolytic, enzymes in the digestive system; secreted by the pancreas; breaks down dietary proteins into peptides and amino acids to be readily absorbed by the intestinal lining


Small organic molecules that can be loosely or tightly bound to an enzyme. Coenzymes transport chemical groups from one enzyme to another. Examples include NADH, NADPH and adenosine triphosphate (ATP).


The disruption of the native folded structure of a nucleic acid or protein molecule (such as an enzyme); may be due to heat, chemical treatment, or change in pH.


An enzyme that breaks down the carbohydrate maltose into glucose.


Digestion is the breakdown of large insoluble food molecules into small water-soluble food molecules so that they can be absorbed into the watery blood plasma. The term mechanical digestion refers to the physical breakdown of large pieces of food into smaller pieces which can subsequently be accessed by digestive enzymes. In chemical digestion, enzymes break down food into the small molecules the body can use.


One of the four chemical groupings of carbohydrates. Formed by two monosaccharides (simple sugars). Examples are sucrose, lactose and maltose.


A protease enzyme that attacks the internal peptide bonds of a chain of amino acids


Proteins that speeds up the rate of a chemical reaction in a living organism. An enzyme acts as catalyst for specific chemical reactions, converting a specific set of reactants (called substrates) into specific products. Without enzymes, life as we know it would not exist.

Escherichia coli (E. coli)

A Gram negative bacterium commonly found in the vertebrate intestine. It is the bacterium most frequently used in the study of biochemistry and genetics.


A protease enzyme that detaches the terminal amino acids from the protein chain (the ends of the chain)

Fatty Acid

Acids produced when fats are broken down; may be monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, or saturated. They are important sources of fuel because, when metabolized, they yield large quantities of ATP.


The bulk growth of microorganisms on a growth medium; commercial enzymes are produced as part of a fermentation process

Food & Drug Administration (FDA)

A federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments. The FDA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs (medications), vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices (ERED), cosmetics, animal foods & feed and veterinary products

Food Chemical Codex

A compendium of internationally recognized standards for the purity and identity of food ingredients. The FCC plays a key role in safeguarding commerce and public health by providing essential criteria and analytical methods to authenticate and determine the quality of food ingredients.


Of or caused by a fungus or fungi; many enzymes are derived from fungal sources


Having to do with the stomach
Gastro-intestinal tract The stomach and intestines as a functional unit

Gel Electrophoresis

The movement of particles in an electrical field. A commonly-used method for separation and analysis of macromolecules such as proteins, based on their size and charge.


A class of proteins present in wheat and several other cereals within the grass genus Triticum. Gliadins, which are a component of gluten, are essential for giving bread the ability to rise properly during baking. Gliadins and glutenins are the two main components of the gluten fraction of the wheat seed.


An enzyme that converts starch completely into glucose which is the carbohydrate most usable for energy


A simple sugar, and the primary product of photosynthesis. It is polymerized to make cellulose and chitin.


A protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten is used in cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations. Gluten is the composite of the storage proteins gliadin and a glutenin.


Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) is an American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designation that a chemical or substance added to food is considered safe by experts, and so is exempted from the usual Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) food additive tolerance requirements.


Refers to the digestive tract or a portion of the digestive tract, especially the intestines or stomach


An enzyme that breaks down hemicellulose, which is a type of cellulose and a key component of the cell wall in all plants; crucial for the breaking down of fruits, vegetables and many grains


The cleavage of the chemical bonds of a molecule by the addition of water. Most supplemental enzymes work by hydrolysis.

In vitro

Latin for “in glass”; describes whatever happens in a test tube or other receptacle, as opposed to what happens in whole cells of the whole organism (in vivo).

In vivo

Latin for “within the living”; Studies that are in vivo are those in which the effects of various biological entities are tested on whole, living organisms (animals, humans, and plants) as opposed to a partial or dead organism, or those done in vitro


An enzyme inhibitor is a molecule that binds to an enzyme and decreases its activity.


An enzyme that breaks down lactose, a simple sugar found in dairy products. Lacking lactase, a person consuming dairy products may experience the symptoms of lactose intolerance.


A disaccharide sugar derived from galactose and glucose that is found in milk.


A category of enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of fats (lipids)


A class of biochemical compounds which includes fats, oils, and waxes


An enzyme that attacks the protective cell walls of bacteria


An enzyme located in on the brush border of the small intestine that breaks down the disaccharide maltose. Maltase catalyzes the hydrolysis of maltose to the simple sugar glucose. This enzyme is found in plants, bacteria, and yeast.


Maltose is a disaccharide formed from two units of glucose, produced when amylase breaks down starch. It is found in germinating seeds such as barley as they break down their starch stores to use for food.


The human microbiome is the population of more than 100 trillion microorganisms that live in the gut, mouth, skin and elsewhere in the body. These microbial communities have numerous beneficial functions relevant to supporting life. They are needed to digest food, to prevent disease-causing bacteria from invading the body, and to synthesize essential nutrients and vitamins.


The ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria) that literally share the human body’s space. May also be referred to as microbiome or microflora


The ecological community of commensal, symbiotic and pathogenic microorganisms (bacteria) that literally share the human body’s space. May also be referred to as microbiome or microbiota


A microscopic living organism, which may be single celled or multicellular. Microorganisms are very diverse and include all bacteria.


One of the four chemical groupings of carbohydrates. The most basic units of carbohydrates. They are the simplest form of sugar and are usually colorless, water-soluble, crystalline solids.


An enzyme extracted and purified from a Japanese food called nattō. Nattō is made from fermented soybeans and has been eaten in Japan for about a thousand years. Nattō is produced by fermentation by adding the bacterium Bacillus natto to boiled soybeans. Nattokinase is produced by the bacterium acting on the soybeans. Nattokinase is a protease enzyme that breaks down fibrin, a protein associated with inflammation.

Non-Starch Polysaccharides (NSP)

A form of carbohydrate, in foods such as whole grain cereals, fruits and vegetables, which is not digested in the small intestine and so provides no source of calories; also known as dietary fiber


One of the four chemical groupings of carbohydrates. Contains a small number of simple sugars (monosaccharides)


The loss of electrons from a compound due to its interaction with oxygen. The process of oxidation in the human body damages cell membranes and other structures including cellular proteins, lipids and DNA.


A mixture of several digestive enzymes produced by the exocrine cells of the pancreas. It is composed of amylase, lipase and protease.


A protease enzyme present in in the latex of the leaves and of the green fruit of the papaya tree


An enzyme that breaks down pectin, a polysaccharide found in plant cell walls


One of three principal protein-degrading, or proteolytic, enzymes in the digestive system; breaks down dietary proteins into peptides and amino acids to be readily absorbed by the intestinal lining


An enzyme (also referred to as a protease or proteinase) that breaks the peptide bonds that link amino acids (proteins) together in a polypeptide chain

Peptide bond

A covalent chemical bond formed between two amino acid molecules


An enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of phytic acid – an indigestible, organic form of phosphorus that is found in grains and oil seeds – and releases a usable form of inorganic phosphorus. While phytases have been found to occur in animals, plants, fungi and bacteria, phytases have been most commonly detected and characterized from fungi.


Certain organic compounds found in plants which promote human health (also referred to as phytochemicals)


A circular DNA duplex that replicates autonomously in bacteria. Plasmids that integrate into the host genome are called episomes. Plasmids differ from viruses in that they never form infectious nucleoprotein particles.


One of the four chemical groupings of carbohydrates. Contains many sugar molecules linked by glycosidic bonds. They range in structure from linear to highly branched.


A non-digestible food ingredient that beneficially affects the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, and thus improves host health


A living microorganism which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer health benefits to the host. These microorganisms are usually bacteria and are sometimes referred to as “healthy”, “friendly”, “good” or “beneficial” bacteria.


An enzyme (also referred to as a peptidase or proteinase) that breaks the peptide bonds that link amino acids (proteins) together in a polypeptide chain


Large biological molecules, or macromolecules, consisting of one or more long chains of amino acids. Proteins differ from one another primarily in their sequence of amino acids, which is dictated by the nucleotide sequence of their genes, and which usually results in folding of the protein into a specific three-dimensional structure that determines its activity. Many proteins are enzymes that catalyze biochemical reactions and are vital to metabolism.


Fungal microorganisms used to produce enzymes through fermentation


A yeast used to produce enzymes through fermentation


A protease enzyme that is present in the silkworm intestine; degrades certain proteins often associated with inflammation; also known as serratiopeptidase


A complex polymer of glucose, used by plants and green algae to store surplus sugar for later use. It is the most common carbohydrate in human diets and is contained in large amounts in such staple foods as potatoes, wheat, maize (corn), rice, and cassava.


The molecule on which an enzyme acts.

Super Oxide Dismutase (SOD)

Superoxide dismutases are enzymes that alternately catalyze the dismutation (or partitioning) of the superoxide (O2−) radical into either ordinary molecular oxygen (O2) or hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). SOD is an important antioxidant defense in nearly all living cells exposed to oxygen.


Referring to the entire system, such as the entire system of the body. Systemic enzymes are those that operate beyond digestion, throughout systems of the body such as cardiovascular and inflammatory response


One of three principal protein-degrading, or proteolytic, enzymes in the digestive system; breaks down dietary proteins into peptides and amino acids to be readily absorbed by the intestinal lining

United States Pharmacopeia (USP)

A scientific nonprofit organization that sets standards for the identity, strength, quality, and purity of medicines, food ingredients, and dietary supplements manufactured, distributed and consumed worldwide. USP’s drug standards are enforceable in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration, and these standards are used in more than 140 countries.


A type of hemicellulase enzyme which specifically degrades the xylose-containing polymers found in wheat, oats and barley