What Is Chemical Digestion?

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Digestion is the process by which nutrients are extracted from food and absorbed by the body. The first stage of this process is called mechanical digestion and involves food being chewed and swallowed. Chemical digestion is the second digestion process the body uses to break down ingested food into a form that can be easily assimilated.

Significance

  • Chemical digestion is required to process and extract nutrients from food that the body needs to survive. Without chemical digestion, the body would be unable to properly eliminate excess food waste.

Process

  • The first step of chemical digestion happens in the mouth when saliva combines with food to begin the breakdown of large food molecules. The majority of chemical digestion occurs in the stomach after food has been chewed and makes its journey through the esophagus.

Function

  • Chemical digestion occurs when digestive enzymes combine with water to break down fat, carbohydrates and protein into smaller molecules which can be easily absorbed by cells.

Enzymes

  • Chemical digestion is made possible by digestive enzymes, including amylase, chymotrypsin, collagenase, elastase, lipase, nuclease, protease and trypsin.

Time Frame

  • Chemical digestion can take anywhere from a few hours up to 3 days depending on the amount of food consumed and the level of digestive enzymes present in the stomach.

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