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LAB:ChemicalDigestion

ModifiedfromEnzymesandtheProcessofChemicalDigestionbytheAldonCorporation(2010)

Introduction
Humans (and all animals) are heterotrophic organisms meaning, we must
consumenutrientsfromothersourcesaswecannotsynthesizethemourselves.Nutrientsare
generallyclassifiedintosixbasicgroups:carbohydrates(saccharides), proteins, lipids(fats),
vitamins, minerals, andwater. Note the inclusion of water in the listarguably the most
essential!
Nutrients serve no purpose if a living organism is not able to use them.Digestion, from a
biological
sense,canbedefinedastheprocessinwhichfoodisbrokendownandconvertedintosubstances
thatcanbeabsorbedandassimilatedbythebody.Thedigestivesystemisacomplexcollection
oforgansandglands,eachcontributingtotheoverallendresult.Whenfoodpassesthroughthe
digestive system, it undergoes two forms of digestion:mechanical digestionandchemical
digestion.
Mechanicaldigestionisaphysicalprocess.Itisthephysicalbreakingdownoffoodintosmaller
pieces.Asthetonguemovesaroundinthemouth,theteethtear,crush,andgrindthefood.
Mechanicaldigestionnotonlymakesfoodeasiertoswallow,butitalsoincreasesthesurface
areaofthefood,whichinturnhelpsmakeotherpartsofthedigestionprocessmoreefficient.
Chemical digestionis, as the name implies, a chemical process. Various chemicals, such
asacidsand salts, and enzymes are the drivers of chemical digestion. The digestive system
containsnumeroustypesofenzymes,eachspecificallysuitedtothebreakdownofaparticular
fooditemintosmallermoleculesthatareabletobeabsorbedandusedbythebody.Asfood
continues to move along the digestive tract, it is exposed to various
conditions/enzymes/chemicalsthataresuitedtodigestionofparticularnutrient(s).Anyfoodthat
remainsundigestedwillpassthroughaswaste(calledfeces).Ofthenutrients,carbohydrates,
proteins, and lipids are known asbiomolecules that is, organic (carbon
based)polymersnecessary for life. Each biomolecule is made of many building block
molecules,calledmonomers.Variousenzymesandchemicalsspecializeinthebreakdownof
these biomolecules under certain conditions. In this lab, we will investigate a few specific
enzymesthatareutilizedbythehumanbodytodigestfoodintousableforms.
TheBiomolecules
Proteins
Proteinsarepolymersmadeofaminoacids.Abondbetweentheaminegroupofoneaminoacid
andthecarboxylicacidgroupofanotheriscalledapeptidebond.Hence,achainofmanyamino
acidsbondedtogetheriscalledapolypeptidechain.Thischainthenfoldsintoaspecific3D
shape

thatdetermineshowtheproteinwillfunction.Proteinsarethestructuralandfunctionalunitsof
alllivingorganisms;especiallyproteinrichsourcesincludemeats,seafood,tofu,andlegumes.
Chemical digestion of proteins begins in the stomach, whenhydrochloric acidtriggers the
releaseoftheenzymepepsin.Pepsinthenbreaksdownthe3Dshapeoftheproteins,producing
large polypeptide chains. In the small intestine, the enzymestrypsin,chymotrypsin,
andcarboxypeptidase, produced by the pancreas, are released to further break down large
polypeptides into smaller polypetides. Also in the small intestine, enzymes such
asaminopeptidase,carboxypeptidase, anddipeptidasebreak these small polypeptides into
aminoacids.Onceinaminoacidform,theyareabsorbedbythebloodvesselsinthevilliofthe
smallintestineandtransportedtotheliver.
Lipids
Lipids,alsocalledtriglycerides,arepolymersmadeofaglycerolbackboneandthreefattyacid
chains.Thefattyacidchainsarecomposedofcarbonandhydrogenatomsand,dependingonthe
arrangementofcarbontocarbonbonds,maybesaturatedorunsaturated.Saturatedfatsare
composedofallcarbontocarbonsinglebonds,makingthemsaturatedwithhydrogenbonds.
Theyaremoredifficulttodigestandarefoundinfoodsthataresolidsatroomtemperature(lard,
butter,milkfat).Unsaturatedfatscontainatleastonecarbontocarbondoublebond,resultingina
bent structure. These are often considered the healthier fats as they are easier to digest.
Unsaturatedfatsarefoundinfoodsthatareliquidsatroomtemperature(vegetableoils,fish
oils).
Chemicaldigestionoflipidsbeginsinthesmallintestinewhenbilesaltsproducedbytheliver
(storedinthegallbladder)arereleased.Thesebilesaltsemulsifythefats,meaningitbreaksthem
downintosmallerdropletsthusincreasingsurfacearea.Withthisincreaseinsurfacearea,the
enzymelipase, produced by the pancreas, can more easily act to breakdown the
lipids/triglycericdesintosmallerfats,calledmonoglycerides,andglycerolandfattyacidchains.
Monoglyceridesenterthesystemiccirculation,whileglycerolandfattyacidsareabsorbedbythe
bloodvesselsofthevilliinthesmallintestineandtransportedtotheliver.
Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates, also called polysaccharides, are polymers made ofmonosaccharides(such
asglucose, fructose,and galactose). Two monosaccharides bonded together are called
disaccharidesand include sugars such aslactose,maltose, andsucrose. Animals produced a
complexcarbohydrateknownasglycogen.Glycogenstoresexcesscarbohydratesintheliver,
andisreleasedwhentriggeredbythehormoneinsulinifbloodsugarlevelsdroptoolow.Plants
havetwoformsofcomplexcarbohydrates:starch,whichistheirstorageform,andcellulose,or
fiber,anindigestiblemoleculetohumans.Glycogenisfoundinliversofanimals,whilestarchis
foundinfoodslikepasta,potatoes,cereal,bread,andrice.Celluloseispresentinvegetablesand
fruits.

Chemicaldigestionofcarbohydratesstartsinthemouthwhentheenzymeamylaseisreleasedin
saliva.Amylaseisalsoproducedbythepancreasandreleasedintothesmallintestine.Amylase
beginsbreakingdownstarchintosmallerpolymers,calledoligosaccharides,anddisaccharides
such as lactose, maltoseand sucrose. Other enzymes, such asdextrinase, glucoamylase,
lactase,maltase, andsucrase, break these disaccharides down into the monosaccharides
galactose,glucose,andfructose.Monosaccharidesareabsorbedbythebloodvesselsofthevilli
inthesmallintestineandtransportedtotheliver.

The Digestive System's Biological Function


The digestive system is of vital biological importance to the body. Without the ability to process foods,
extract nutrients, and eliminate waste, every part of our body would cease to function. Even very small
problems with our digestive system can result in nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, and significant discomfort.
Every part must work together.
Food must be processed in three ways: digestion, absorption, and elimination, and the digestive system is
responsible for the accomplishment of all three of these biological functions. All food ingested must be
digested, nutrients absorbed, and unnecessary or harmful agents eliminated from the body.

Digestive System: The Food Journey


The journey of the food we eat through the digestive system is more complicated than one might expect.
Our Mouth: Believe it or not, the mouth will prepare for digestion before food even enters. Just the smell,
sight, or sound of food is enough to trigger saliva glands into action. This is important because
the chemicals in saliva work with the mechanism of the tongue and teeth to break down food in a way
that both prepares it for the next steps and ensure optimal absorption of nutrients.
The Pharynx: Once food has been put through the chemical and mechanical digestion occurring in the
mouth, it's time to make its way down to the stomach. To get there, the tongue and soft palate work
together to push food back, closing off our trachea and passing it through our throat (otherwise known at
the pharynx) - another good reason to make sure food is broken down!
The Esophagus: After passing through the pharynx, food enters the esophagus and is pushed through a
series of involuntary contractions (called "peristalsis") toward the lower esophageal sphincter otherwise
known as LES. It is this sphincter that malfunctions in conditions like GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux
Disease) or heartburn.
The Stomach: Finally, the food has reached the stomach. With strong muscular walls the stomach acts
as mixer and grinder, mechanically digesting our food while its acids and enzymes work tochemically
digest it. In the end, our food is reduced to nothing more than nutritious liquid and small solid remnants.
The Small Intestine: After passing through the stomach, it's on to the small intestine where the nutritious
liquid and small solid remnant are exposed to even more chemical digestion via enzymes from the
pancreas and bile from the liver as peristalsis (the same involuntary contractions which occur in the
esophagus) forces the food along its way. It is at this point that our body finally receives the nutrients from
our food via the bloodstream, while the remainder makes it way to the colon.
The Colon: The final stop in our foods journey through our digestive system, the colons job is to remove
liquid from the non-nutritive food waste until it becomes solid and ready for excretion. By the time our food
is ready for the toilet, its been approximately 36 hours since it originally entered our mouth.

What is Mechanical Digestion?

Mechanical digestion is simply the aspects of digestion achieved through a mechanism or movement.
There are two basic types of mechanical digestion.

Mastication: The first step when it comes to digestion actually begins as soon as food enters the

mouth. Mastication (chewing) begins the process of breaking down food into nutrients. As a type
mechanical digestion, chewing our food is an important part of the digestive process because
smaller pieces are more readily digested through chemical digestion.
Peristalsis: Mechanical digestion also involves the process known as peristalsis. Peristalsis is
simply the involuntary contractions responsible for the movement of food through the esophagus and
intestinal tracts.

What is Chemical Digestion?


Chemical digestion is much like it sounds those aspects of digestion achieved with the application of
chemicals to our food.
Digestive enzymes and water are responsible for the breakdown of complex molecules such as fats,
proteins, and carbohydrates into smaller molecules. These smaller molecules can then be absorbed for
use by cells.
The presence of these digestive enzymes accelerates the digestion process, where absence of these
enzymes slows overall reaction speed. Currently, there exist eight digestive enzymes mainly responsible
for chemical digestion. (The following are direct quotes from the online medical dictionary.)

Nuclease: Any of a group of enzymes that split nucleic acids into nucleotides and other products.

Protease: Any of various enzymes, including the proteinases and peptidases, that catalyze the

hydrolytic breakdown of proteins.


Collagenase: Any of various enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of collagen and gelatin.
Lipase: Any of a group of lipolytic enzymes that cleave a fatty acid residue from the glycerol

residue in a neutral fat or a phospholipid.


Amylase: Any of a group of enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of starch to sugar to produce

carbohydrate derivatives.
Elastase: An enzyme capable of catalyzing the digestion of elastic tissue.
Trypsin: A proteolytic digestive enzyme produced by the exocrine pancreas that catalyzes in the

small intestine the breakdown of dietary proteins to peptones, peptides, and amino acids.
Chymotrypsin: A proteolytic enzyme produced by the pancreas that catalyzes the hydrolysis of

casein and gelatin.


The digestive system is also associated with many accessory organs responsible for producing an array
of chemical enzymes: salivary glands, pancreas, liver, gallbladder.

How Long Does it Take to Digest Food?


The amount of time necessary to process food through mechanical and chemical digestion varies by
individual circumstances. In healthy adults, this process can range from 24-72 hours but the average is
about 36. Typically, after ingestion, food remains in the stomach and small intestine from 6-8 hours. The
large intestine is capable of holding undigested food waste for days.

A Necessary Equilibrium: Mechanical and Chemical Digestion


There exists a natural equilibrium in your body for mechanical and chemical digestion. Mechanical
digestion preps food for chemical digestion as smaller pieces are more readily broken down and
absorbed. The enzymes necessary for proper chemical digestion are also in equilibrium. The accessory

organs of the digestive system necessary for the production of these enzymes must all work in a
harmonious fashion to accomplish proper digestion.

Digestion is the process of breaking food into its various nutrients and then the nutrients
are used by the body for growth, energy and repair of cellular structures. Everything we
eat and drink needs to be digested into much smaller forms before they can be absorbed
by the bloodstream and before they can go to the various cells in our bodies. The
process of digestion involves the breaking down of food and beverages into fat, protein,
carbohydrates, and vitamins. But do you know there are two types of digestion? These
are mechanical and chemical digestion.

What Are Mechanical and Chemical Digestion?


Both mechanical digestion and chemical digestion are necessary for the digestion of
foods and beverages into pieces and molecules that are small enough to be absorbed in
the small intestine. Both types of digestion are important and complement each other in
the digestive process. There are, however, significant differences in the two types of
digestion.
Mechanical digestion involves the process of physically breaking down the food into ever

smaller parts. The major player in mechanical digestion is mastication, which is the act of
chewing and using the teeth to break the food into pieces small enough to be swallowed
into the esophagus.

This type of digestion generally starts and occurs in the mouth. There are also muscles
in the stomach wall that contribute to mechanical digestion.

It can actually be seen in that you can actually see the larger food pieces turning into
ever smaller pieces by the action of the teeth.

However, chemical digestion means food is broken down into small molecules by

chemical energy. One big part of chemical digestion involves the enzymes located in
stomach. They begin to break down food as soon as it enters the stomach.

Chemical digestion actually starts in the mouth when our saliva mixes in with the food.
Saliva has an enzyme known as amylase that is important in breaking down
carbohydrates. As an enzyme, amylase is a type of protein that undergoes a biochemical
reaction to change one molecule into another molecule. Most chemical digestion,
however, occurs within the stomach, with some happening in the intestines. The
hydrochloric acid, located in the stomach, works for the purposes of chemical digestion.

Chemical digestion is completely invisible. In the process of chemical digestion, starches


we eat are turned into simple sugars. Pepsin turns large proteins into peptides, which are
turned into amino acids for absorption.

Specific Process of Digestion Step by Step


Mechanical and chemical digestion follows a simple pattern from the mouth through the
intestinal tract. The following demonstrates the whole way that digestion actually works:

1. Mouth
In the mouth, larger pieces of food are chewed into pieces by the teeth and by
mastication. There are 32 adult teeth, each of which has a special purpose. Some grind
the food; others chew the food, while still others tear apart the food we eat. The tongue is
a small skeletal muscle under voluntary control. Its role is to transfer the food to the back
of the mouth and to move it around, so it can be broken down. There are also the salivary
glands in and around the mouth that secrete the enzymes in saliva that begin the
digestive process. In the mouth, both mechanical and chemical digestion takes place.

2. Pharynx
The pharynx is the place where food is swallowed. The pharynx is the part of the
digestive tract that leads to the esophagus. The epiglottis is located within the pharynx.
Its job is to close so that food doesn't enter the trachea during the act of swallowing.

3. Esophagus
The esophagus is just the connection between the pharynx and the stomach. It has
smooth muscle that contracts in order to allow the food to pass through the esophageal
sphincter, which is the part of the esophagus that separates it from the environment of
the stomach.

4. Stomach
The stomach holds the food after it has passed down the esophagus. The three main
roles of the stomach are to store the food prior to being digested, to secrete enzymes and
hydrochloric acid so the food is more digestible, and to keep the food from dumping into
the small intestines all at once.
The stomach is where chemical digestion mainly happens, especially that of protein. It
does that by secreting almost two liters of hydrochloric acid daily, which contains pepsin

and other liquids that are a part of the gastric fluids. The gastric fluid is highly acidic; it
kills the bacteria if there are some bad ones from foods.
The stomach lining is coated with a thick type of mucus that prevents erosion of the
stomach lining by the hydrochloric acid. If there is too much acid or not enough mucus,
people can get gastric ulcers. Things like smoking, stress, alcohol, and heredity can
contribute to getting gastric ulcers. The food remains in the stomach for at least 3-4 hours
before the pyloric sphincter opens up to allow the partially digested food to enter the
small intestines.

5. Small Intestines
The small intestines are about 7 meters long and are coiled up inside the abdomen.
Inside the lining of the small intestines are villi, which are small projections that increase
the surface area so absorption can take place quickly. By this time, the food is broken
down into its smallest form so it can be easily absorbed by the microvilli.
The small intestines are made from three parts. These include the duodenum, the
jejunum, and the ileum. The duodenum takes on about 9 liters of fluid per day. The liver
and pancreas play big roles in secreting substances that aid in duodenal digestion. The
jejunum and ileum don't do much digestion; they are, instead, involved in absorption of
the smallest food molecules.

6. Large Intestines
The large intestine or colon takes whatever material isn't absorbed in the small intestines.
There are very little nutrients in the colon; there is only undigested food material,
cellulose and water left over. The colon is responsible for absorbing water from the
lumen, so the stool can form.

7. Rectum
The rectum is the last portion of the digestive system. It acts as a place to hold stool
before it is finally defecated.

Digestion is the process of breaking down food into simpler parts. Most of the food we eat must
be digested into more basic parts so that it can be absorbed into the body and used within the
body.
Fats are broken down and digested into fatty acids and glycerol
Proteins are digested into amino acids
Carbohydrates are digested into simple sugars

Digestion involves mechanical and chemical processes. An enzyme is a protein that speeds up a
chemical reaction; digestive enzymes speed up the breakdown of a food.
To understand digestion, it is important to know the organs of the digestive system and what
each organ does as food passes through.
Food is chewed in the mouth, which breaks the food into smaller pieces for swallowing and
helps speed chemical digestion. To understand the idea of smaller pieces of food being more
easily chemically digested, think of what happens when you chew a piece of hard candy rather
than sucking on it- it dissolves in your mouth faster because your saliva can work on more
surface area at the same time. Chemical digestion also starts in your mouth saliva contains an
enzyme called amylase that starts breaking down carbohydrates. This is why you might notice
that a baked potato tastes a bit sweet after chewing it for a little while (remember: potatoes are
rich in starch, but simple sugars taste sweet; breaking down starch from a potato makes simple
sugars).
When you swallow, the food goes down into the muscular tube connecting your mouth to
your stomach called the esophagus. The ball of food, called a bolus, is pushed down to the
stomach with sequential squeezing of the esophagus called peristaltic waves. (Note: the action
in the opposite direction, when food is brought up from the stomach, is technically called
reverse peristaltic waves and is part of the vomiting mechanism.)
The stomach is a muscular sac that performs both mechanical and chemical digestion. The
stomach squeezes and churns its contents, helping to make smaller particles and mix in the
digestive enzymes. The stomach also makes a strong acid and a digestive enzyme called pepsin
that starts breaking down protein. Once food has been digested 136672D in the stomach, it
passes on to the small intestine as a thick liquid called chyme.
o Gelatin is made from a protein called collagen which comes from the joints of animals. Gelatin
may be dissolved in hot water. As the dissolved gelatin mixture cools, the collagen forms into a
matrix that traps the water; as a result, the mixture turns into the jiggling semi-solid mass that is
so recognizable as Jell-O.
o Pineapple belongs to a group of plants called Bromeliads. Kiwi, papaya, and figs are other
types of Bromeliads. The enzyme in pineapple juice that is responsible for the breakdown of
collagen is bromelin. The process of canning pineapple denatures the bromelin, rendering it
incapable of catalyzing the break down of gelatin.
Several kinds of chemical digestion occur in the small intestine, beginning with other organs
that empty digestive enzymes into the small intestine.
The pancreas is an organ connecting to the small intestine with several functions, one of
which is to make digestive enzymes including lipase, which helps digest fat by breaking the
bonds between glycerol and the fatty acids, another amylase to break down starches into sugar,
and two protein digesting enzymes called trypsin and chymotripsin.
The liver makes bile which helps with the digestion and absorption of fats; while the liver
connects to the small intestine, the liver also has a little sac that stores and concentrates bile so
that it can be rapidly released into the intestine when it is needed.
The small intestine itself has digestive enzymes on its surface that help break down proteins
and carbohydrates.
The small intestine does most of the absorbing of adequately digested food. Because
absorption requires particles to come in contact with the surface of the intestine, the small
intestine has fingerlike projections called villi that increase its surface area, and on the
individual cells are even tinier projections called microvilli.

What is not absorbed in the small intestine passes onto the large intestine, where water is
reabsorbed. The remainder is stored in the rectum until a bowel movement. Simple sugars need
little chemical digestion and are very rapidly absorbed into the blood stream. More complex
carbohydrates require more digestion, so they are absorbed more steadily. Fats and proteins also
generally require more time to digest than simple sugars.