What is catalase? To fully understand what it really is and what it does in the body, let’s discuss what you need to know about this enzyme.
In this article:
- The Study on Catalase for Longevity
- How and Why Do the Mitochondria Malfunction?
- What Is Catalase?
- Recent Support for the Free Radical Theory of Aging
- Why Don’t the Cells Have More Catalase to Protect Them from the Damaging Free Radicals?
What Is Catalase? Things You Should Know
The Study on Catalase for Longevity
A group of investigators recently reported the results of a study demonstrating a 20% increase in lifespan in animals genetically engineered to produce an excess of the enzyme catalase.
Is there really one enzyme that can enable you to live longer? If so, how does it work? Can you pop it as a pill?
To answer these questions, let’s take a look at where the enzyme catalase comes from and how it operates. Our state of health – and indeed, our longevity – depends on the vitality of the cells comprising the tissues and organs of the body.
The cells, in turn, consist of numerous sub-cellular structures, organelles, which include the mitochondria. These minute cellular compartments are responsible for virtually all the energy the cell requires to keep the organs of the body healthy.
They are, in essence, the heart of the cell. If they malfunction, the cell loses vitality, and consequently, the organ it forms becomes diseased.
How and Why Do the Mitochondria Malfunction?
The mitochondria of our cells are small organelles that float throughout the cells and keep them alive and active. They can be compared to nuclear reactors in that both involve the capture of energy from atoms and its transformation to a useable form.
In the cell, energy is released and captured in a stable form (a chemical called adenosine triphosphate or ATP) that can be later used to perform work. During energy production in the mitochondria, electrons are removed from specific molecules (food metabolites).
ATP Definition: An organic chemical that supplies energy for many cell processes, such as chemical synthesis, nerve impulse propagation, and muscle contraction.
Occasionally, a single electron escapes from the confines of the energy-producing machinery during this process and reacts with molecular oxygen to produce a highly reactive free radical, the superoxide radical. This free radical, if not removed or neutralized, will damage the cell.
The cell contains a specific enzyme, superoxide dismutase (SOD), that corrals the radical and converts it to hydrogen peroxide. But, the detoxification mission is not complete, since hydrogen peroxide can also be converted to toxic free radicals by reaction with certain common metals present in the cell.
The cell has additional enzymes, including one known as catalase, capable of converting the hydrogen peroxide to harmless water and molecular oxygen.
There is evidence that although these two free radical detoxification enzymes (SOD and catalase) are present in the cell, their quantity may not be quite enough to eliminate all the free radical species before they damage cellular components. This mechanism is what inspired Denham Harman to propose one of the more popular theories of aging, the free radical theory of aging.
As these escaped radicals react with and distort our cells, the organs they comprise begin to gradually deteriorate, resulting in age-associated appearance – wrinkles, for example – as well as disease.
What Is Catalase?
So, what is catalase really? The catalase enzyme is a form of protein that catalyzes or brings about the chemical reactions in which your body decomposes hydrogen peroxide to oxygen and water.
All types of protein have various shapes because of how the amino acids in it are tied together, but their primary composition is the same.
Another enzyme activity of catalase is helping protect the cellular tissue and organelles from peroxide damage. Catalase can quickly convert millions of hydrogen peroxide molecules to oxygen and water in a second, which makes it one of the fastest enzymes with high turnover numbers.
Without the enzyme, harmful substances in the body can mutate or attack your deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which plays an important role in your cell’s long-term information storage.
Recent Support for the Free Radical Theory of Aging
Before we talk about how the study supported the free radical theory of aging, let’s first discuss what this theory is.
Based on the theory, living organisms age because their cells gather damage from free radicals over time. Most of these free radicals, which are single atoms, are highly reactive, as the unpaired electrons in these atoms seek other electrons in the body.
The free radical damage is closely linked to oxidative damage, wherein the oxidative stress occurs when there are too many free radicals in the cells. This is why you need an abundant supply of antioxidants in your body.
Antioxidants can help minimize oxidative damage by neutralizing free radicals This neutralizing effect aids in protecting the cells from oxidative stress.
As mentioned at the outset, the investigators who studied catalase worked with animals that were genetically manipulated to produce excess catalase. Otherwise, the animals were perfectly normal in all respects (relative to their non-genetically manipulated counterparts) except for two important features.
First, they lived longer. Second, perhaps more importantly, they demonstrated an attenuation of the severity of age-associated diseases, including arteriosclerosis, cardiomyopathy, and cataracts.
The scientists carried the work a step further to determine if the excess catalase produced by these animals was, in fact, acting to protect important cellular components from free radical damage. The investigators showed a key enzyme in the cell required for energy production by the mitochondria, and known to be susceptible to free radical attack by hydrogen peroxide radicals, was much more active in the animals containing the super catalase gene, as compared to controls with normal catalase production.
Furthermore, the investigators demonstrated the catalase over-producers had less age-associated damage to their DNA in skeletal muscle and heart cells. In general, the catalase appeared to be protecting the cell from free radical damage to multiple cellular components.
Why Don’t the Cells Have More Catalase to Protect Them from the Damaging Free Radicals?
One hypothesis is that free radicals may be important in early development, in that they may promote cell division and increase the rate of development. It is interesting that in biological systems, the emphasis is on propagation of the species and not so much on longevity.
What may be good for rapid growth and protection of the animal until the age of reproduction may be detrimental to the organism in later years. Not a pleasant thought as it implies once we have reproduced ourselves, we are no longer needed for the good of our species.
On a more optimistic note, this seminal work provides significant evidence that mitochondrially generated free radicals are involved in aging and disease in mammals. It also supports a role for the potential power of antioxidants in protecting our cells and improving health and longevity.
This work also implies, however, that it is unlikely that one antioxidant, in this case, catalase, is a “silver bullet” to promote longevity to a maximum. Even if it were, enzymes do not lend themselves to the formulation as a tablet or capsule.
During digestion, enzymes generally are transformed, rather than absorbed into the bloodstream in their active state; thus, they cannot be taken in pill form to increase cellular levels. To increase levels in humans, the enzyme would probably have to be inserted into our genome.
This is not a likely scenario in the near future.
The body requires numerous antioxidants, all with specific missions. Catalase fulfills one of those missions, and it turns out to be a very important one, as it does result in a 20% increase in lifespan in animals.
But, the human body is extraordinarily complex, and it is highly probable that a variety of antioxidants would have a more pronounced effect on cellular health and longevity.
How Do You Increase Antioxidant Levels in the Body Naturally?
Looking at the free radical theory of aging, you can increase your antioxidant levels by consuming foods high in it, considering that you cannot take a tablet or capsule for catalase. To help reverse aging and strengthen your overall health, taking antioxidants naturally can do some of the work.
Antioxidants are usually abundant in plant foods, mostly fruits and vegetables, and there are many types of antioxidants with various health effects in the body. To name a few, eggplant, berries, and grapes are good sources of anthocyanins.
On top helping fight free radicals in the body, anthocyanins may have positive effects on your gut health upon interacting with the gut flora or bacteria, which can help increase inflammatory markers that can aid in determining inflammation levels in the body quickly.
Beta-carotene is also another type of antioxidants, and it is rich in foods like parsley, spinach, carrots, apricots, mangoes, and pumpkin. When absorbed in the body, beta-carotene is converted into vitamin A for better eye health, immune system, and skin membranes, on top of its antioxidant abilities.
Flavonoids are antioxidants found in apples, onions, red wine, citrus fruits, green tea, and tea. They may offer mood-enhancing, memory boosting, antimicrobial, and antihistamine properties aside from their antioxidant abilities.
Answering the question “What is catalase?” helps you understand what it is and how important its role is in the body. Its potential for slowing down aging might provide a better future in medical science, but more research is still needed to completely consider it an alternative for longevity.
How knowledgeable are you with the catalase definition? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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For more than a half century, one of the enduring explanations of aging has been the Free Radical Theory of Aging. The concept is that oxidative stress in biological systems attack cellular components, damage organs, cause age-related diseases such as cancer and arteriosclerosis, and eventually lead to death. A long-standing question has been whether enhanced presence of antioxidants could increase longevity. Scientists recently tested this hypothesis in mice. Their study is the first to show in mammals the importance of antioxidants in prolonging life. For details from an article published in the peer-reviewed journal Science, click here.
“Extension of murine life span by over expression of catalase targeted to mitochondria.”
Science. 2005 Jun 24;308(5730):1875-6.
This Research Update column highlights articles related to recent scientific inquiry into the process of human aging. It is not intended to promote any specific ingredient, regimen, or use and should not be construed as evidence of the safety, effectiveness, or intended uses of the Juvenon product. The Juvenon label should be consulted for intended uses and appropriate directions for use of the product.
By Benjamin V. Treadwell, Ph.D.
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The feedback I have been receiving over several years, from people taking Juvenon™ Cellular Health Supplement, is there is a significant variation between individuals with respect to how much of the formula produces optimal effects.
It is quite possible that you may need to take an additional tablet/day. However, before you do that try taking the tablets between meals to improve absorption (food can interfere with absorption).
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on July 5, 2005, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.