Howell was not a qualified physician or nutritionist. It is alleged he obtained a "limited medical license from the state of Illinois", although no details about this license exist. He worked for six years at the Lindlahr Sanitarium, a naturopathic hospital. In 1932, he established the National Enzyme Company. He is alleged to have treated many patients with his "enzyme therapy". He was a Research Director for the Food Enzyme Research Foundation in Florida.
Howell invented the "Food Enzyme Concept":
The Food Enzyme Concept introduces a new way of looking at disease. It heralds a revolution in our understanding of disease processes. According to the Food Enzyme Concept, enzymes possess biological, as well as chemical, properties. When ingested, the enzymes in raw food, or supplementary enzymes, result in a significant degree of digestion, lowering the drain on the organism's own enzyme potential. The heat used in cooking destroys all food enzymes and forces the organism to produce more enzymes, thus enlarging digestive organs, especially the pancreas. When an excessive amount of digestive enzymes is made, the enzyme potential may be unable to produce an adequate quantity of metabolic enzymes to repair body organs and fight disease.
Just about every single person eats a diet of mainly cooked foods. Keep in mind that whenever a food is boiled at 212 degrees, the enzymes in it are 100% destroyed. If enzymes were in the food we eat, they would do some or even a considerable part of the work of digestion by themselves. However, when you eat cooked, enzyme-free food, this forces the body itself to make the enzymes needed for digestion. This depletes the body’s limited enzyme capacity.
Howell promoted four false claims about enzymes:
- Enzymes in raw foods help in digesting the foods themselves once they are put into the human digestive system.
- Cooking destroys these food enzymes forcing the body to produce more of its own digestive enzymes.
- The human body has a finite lifetime of "enzyme potential" for manufacturing digestive enzymes.
- Enzymes in raw food carry a mysterious "life force".
According to nutritionist Andrea Giancoli a Los Angeles-based spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, whilst it is true that enzymes are broken down by heat, "those enzymes are denatured—and thus inactivated—when they reach our stomachs. Our stomach acids are designed to break down proteins very efficiently." Even if plant enzymes might reach the small intestine intact their "overall contribution to human digestion appears minimal."
The idea that there is a finite number of enzymes in a lifetime is false. The human body is efficient at producing them as long as one lives. Howell promoted the myth that
midichlorians enzymes carry a mystical "life force". This idea is mystical, not scientific. His claims have been described as crackpot, unsupported by evidence and pseudoscientific.
- The Status of Food Enzymes in Digestion and Metabolism (1946)
- Enzyme Nutrition: Unlocking the Secrets of Eating Right for Health, Vitality and Longevity: The Food Enzyme Concept ISBN 978-1-101-66252-6 (1987)
- Food Enzymes for Health & Longevity: Revised and Enlarged ISBN 0940676273 (2014)
- Food Enzymes for Health & Longevity
- Introduction to Enzymes. Example of an alternative medicine crackpot website that promotes Howell's research.
- Enzyme Nutrition: The Food Enzyme Concept
- Interview with Dr. Edward Howell on Enzymes
- Do "food enzymes" significantly enhance digestive efficiency and longevity?
- Reality Check: 5 Risks of a Raw Vegan Diet
- How Anecdotal Evidence Can Undermine Scientific Results.
- The 13 Biggest Nutrition and Food Myths Busted
- The "living enzyme" myth