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How Do Enzymes Aid In Digestion?

Digestive Enzymes

No matter what specific foods we eat, our diets are composed of protein, fat and carbohydrates. Digestive enzymes break down protein, carbohydrates and fats into progressively smaller components. Enzyme supplements normally contain amylase, protease and lipase. Cellulase, lactase, malt diastase, invertase (sucrase), glucoamylase, bromelain and papain may also be included in digestive products.

These enzymes increase the level of digestion in the stomach, increasing the amount of food broken down. Therefore, less undigested food is passed into the colon, and food nutrients are more available for absorption.

Digestive Enzyme Aids

  • Lipases

    Break down fats such as those found in olive oil, fish oil, cooking oils, butter, cheese and meat.
  • Proteases

    Break down protein found in meats, nuts, cheese and grains such as whole wheat.
  • Carbohydrases

    Break down starches, polysaccharides, sugars and fiber as are found in fruits, vegetables and grains.

Do Enzymes Survive in the Stomach?

The belief that stomach pH destroys all supplemental enzymes is erroneous. Food often remains in the upper region of the stomach for as long as an hour. Much of the digestive activity of supplemental enzymes occurs during this time before food becomes mixed with the digestive secretions. While the pH of these digestive secretions is quite low (pH 1.0-1.5), when mixed with food, the pH of the mixture can typically range from pH 2.5-5.0. In this environment, microbial enzymes are not harmed; in fact, many function optimally under these conditions.

Enzyme Measurements Explained

Enzymes are best measured not by their weight but by the work they are capable of doing. This is usually expressed in some form of activity unit as a measure of potency. Many enzymes can be assayed using methods that are internationally recognized.

Use of these recognized assay procedures ensures that the methodology utilized can be reproduced to verify accuracy and legitimacy of the assay. Most microbial and plant enzymes used in dietary supplements are measured according to Food Chemicals Codex (FCC) assays.