What Does It Mean When Something Is Hydrolyzed?

Hydrolyzed is the past tense of the word hydrolysis, therefore a hydrolyzed object is one that has undergone hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is a chemical reaction in which bonds are broken in a molecule due to a reaction with water.

In hydrolysis, an ionic molecule is cleaved in two by reacting with water. One half of the broken molecule receives a positive proton from the water (H+), and the other half receives the remaining hydroxyl group (OH-). In chemistry, hydrolysis can refer to three different types: salt, acid, or basic hydrolysis. The most common is salt hydrolysis, in which the salt of a weak acid or base is either completely or partially dissociated in water to form ions. Water is naturally polar, negative near the oxygen and positive near the two hydrogens. When a salt dissociates, the positively charged ion attracts the negative oxygen in water, and the negatively charged ion attracts the hydrogens, or protons.

In acid hydrolysis, water acts as a base for Bronsted-Lowry acids. The water accepts a proton from the acid after breaking the bond between the proton and acid. The exact opposite happens in basic hydrolysis. In this case, water acts as an acid and donates a proton to the base.

Hydrolysis is important for all life. Inside the human body, food that is converted into energy is stored as Adenosine Triphosphate molecules. To release the energy stored in its bonds, ATP must be hydrolyzed to break off a phosphate group. This provides the necessary energy for all functions in the body, such as cellular respiration, muscle movement and neuro-transmission in the brain.