Pineapples can “eat” you too

The secret of pineapples

It is com­mon knowl­edge that peo­ple di­gest food to get en­er­gy. At first glance, this seems to be a one-way process. Cu­ri­ous­ly enough, there are also some fruits which can have a de­struc­tive ef­fect on the tis­sues of our body. Of course, they can­not di­gest us the way that we can di­gest them. But to a cer­tain ex­tent, they can break down the cells of our mu­cosa.

The se­cret of pineap­ples

We all know the burn­ing sen­sa­tion in the mouth af­ter we eat pineap­ples. It is hard to get rid of it, even by drink­ing wa­ter or rins­ing our mouths. Some­times, the slight pain can last all day, and our taste per­cep­tions be­come no­tice­ably worse. Why does this hap­pen?

[Deposit Photos]

Pineap­ples con­tain the en­zyme brome­lain, which breaks down pro­tein. Brome­lain is ac­tu­al­ly a mix­ture of two en­zymes and sev­er­al oth­er sub­stances in small­er quan­ti­ties. Its abil­i­ty to break down pro­tein is used in cook­ing, to make meat more ten­der. (How­ev­er, only fresh pineap­ples can be used for this pur­pose, as the en­zymes are de­stroyed in the cook­ing process).

What are en­zymes?

Let’s take a brief look on en­zymes. We hear this word in many com­mer­cials and see it on some prod­uct pack­ag­ing. So what are en­zymes, then?

To ac­cel­er­ate many im­por­tant chem­i­cal pro­cess­es, peo­ple use cat­a­lysts – sub­stances that can sig­nif­i­cant­ly speed up chem­i­cal re­ac­tions used in in­dus­try. Bi­o­log­i­cal sys­tems are also un­think­able with­out catal­y­sis, as many re­ac­tions can­not take place with­out it. En­zymes are bio­cat­a­lysts of a pro­tein na­ture.

Enzyme pepsin 3D model [Deposit Photos]

Some prop­er­ties of en­zymes

  1. En­zymes can speed up re­ac­tions by mil­lions or bil­lions of times.
  2. Bio­cat­a­lysts are very spe­cif­ic and are suit­able only for spe­cial pro­cess­es (which is why it is not easy to use en­zymes in in­dus­try).
  3. Bio­cat­alyt­ic pro­cess­es can be con­duct­ed only un­der cer­tain con­di­tions (e.g. tem­per­a­ture, acid­i­ty).
  4. Some sub­stances can en­hance en­zyme ac­tiv­i­ty, oth­ers can make it com­plete­ly in­ac­tive.
  5. Bio­catal­y­sis is present in ev­ery cell of our body, and its role is com­plete­ly in­dis­pens­able. We also need en­zymes to di­gest food. The con­cen­tra­tion of HCl in our stom­ach is not high enough to break down food, but the en­zyme pepsin makes it pos­si­ble.
[Wikimedia]

A brome­lain hoax

In the be­gin­ning of the 20th cen­tu­ry, brome­lain was suc­cess­ful­ly pro­mot­ed as a re­mark­able rem­e­dy for over­weight peo­ple. It was be­lieved that it broke down fat in large quan­ti­ties. Man­u­fac­tur­ers also claimed that eat­ing one gram of brome­lain could burn 900 grams of fat. Sub­se­quent re­search showed the in­ef­fec­tive­ness of brome­lain against fat. How­ev­er, it is still found in some coun­tries as a di­etary sup­ple­ment.

Cu­ri­ous­ly enough, some stud­ies found brome­lain to be po­ten­tial­ly ef­fec­tive against arthri­tis, as it may have anti-in­flam­ma­to­ry prop­er­ties. How­ev­er, it has not been sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly proven to be ef­fec­tive against any dis­eases, and has not been li­censed by the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion (FDA) for the treat­ment of any oth­er dis­or­der.

Are pineap­ples unique?

Pineap­ples are not the only fruit con­tain­ing en­zymes. Kiwi fruit, pa­paya and some oth­er trop­i­cal fruits can also be ac­tive to pro­tein.

P.S. If you put a slice of pa­paya on a piece of raw meat, a trail of “cooked” meat will ap­pear un­der the pa­paya af­ter sev­er­al hours. Quite im­pres­sive for a fruit, isn’t it?

Source: "Brome­lain". Med­line­Plus, US Na­tion­al In­sti­tutes of Health. 2014. Re­trieved 14 No­vem­ber 2014.