Lipase is an essential enzyme for the digestion of fatty (lipid) substances either in the diet or as a part of normal human metabolism. It’s responsible for breaking down (hydrolyzing) fats into smaller components that can readily be absorbed through the intestines.
This process occurs as lipase acts as catalyst during hydrolysis in which solid fats and oils are disassembled into their components, yielding monoglycerides, diglycerides, glycerol, and free fatty acids. Basically this means that it can take a triglyceride molecule, the basic fatty unit found in food, and strip off the fatty acids, leaving either none, one, or two fatty acids attached to the glycerol backbone.
This enzyme is produced mainly in the pancreas except in the case of disease and digestive imbalance as discussed below. While excess amounts of poor quality fat in the diet can be a precursor to health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer, we do need some good forms of fat for the functioning of every cell and organ system in the body.
In fact, all of our cells are actually using lipids (fats) to create their structure and protection. And so, just as we must concern ourselves with getting proper amounts of healthy fats, we must also make sure that we have the good pancreatic enzymes that can absorb this fat along with many fat-soluble nutrients including vitamins A, D, E, and K.
This is the role of lipase. And, without this enzyme, we are left with some of the typical types of digestive upset such as indigestion and heartburn.
Lipase not only helps us break down fat, preventing excess weight gain and possibly even obesity, but it also has the ability to streamline the entire digestion process and increase the nutritional value of the natural fats we’re getting from good, healthy foods. This is particularly important in light of the fact that many people consume less-than-optimal amounts of essential fatty acids and fat-soluble nutrients, meaning that it is more important than ever to digest and absorb these as efficiently as possible.
In addition, the common effects of indigestion, bloating, abdominal discomfort and gas resulting from eating high-fat foods can be greatly alleviated.
The health benefits of lipase
Here are some of the great health benefits and studies that support the benefits of the lipase enzyme:
Helps keep pancreatic enzymes at optimal levels as we age:
Research from France shows that concentrations of digestive enzymes like lipase are lowered as we age. These studies found that the enzymes lipase, phospholipase and chymotrypsin decreased with age in concentration as well as in output. This is a confirmation that ageing alters pancreatic secretions and supports evidence for lipase supplementation.
May improve symptoms of Celiac disease:
Celiac disease is a fairly common digestive condition in which we cannot digest the proteins found in gluten Pancreatic enzymes such as lipase have been studied as a potential aid for this disease. One study done on children with celiac disease found that supplemental lipase helped them better gain weight and keep nutrients in the body.
May improve common symptoms of indigestion:
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, one clinical study found that supplementing with lipase and other enzymes reduced the overall symptoms of indigestion including the sensation of being overly full, flatulence and bloating following a meal of high-fat food. As these are the symptoms typically connected to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), scientists believe that the lipase enzyme may also help this condition.
May improve overall nutritional status for those with cystic fibrosis:
This condition causes the digestive system to produce excess mucus, and creates nutritional lack due to mucus stopping the pancreatic enzymes from reaching the intestines. Many doctors report that supplementing with enzymes such as lipase can help reduce symptoms, and most importantly, help people get the nutritional components from the food they are eating.
Helps boost immune function:
By increasing enzyme secretions, we may experience an overall boost to our immune function. One double-blind, placebo-controlled human trial found that lipase enzyme supplements, when taken with meals, could help reduce symptoms of digestive upset in hospital patients. After eight weeks of use, gastrointestinal symptoms were significantly improved in the patients taking lipase. This study confirmed a clear reduction in abdominal pain, bloating, vomiting, nausea, heartburn, gas, and loss of appetite.
Boosts absorption of vitamins and minerals from the food we eat:
Research shows that the lipase enzyme can help us avoid something known as excessive fecal fat loss (steatorrhea). This occurs when we are not breaking down fats and extracting the vital nutrients we are taking in. Absorption is impaired, leading us to crave more and more fats, and could eventually actually promote weight gain. With good lipase levels in the body, fat-soluble nutrients like essential fatty acids can be digested and used in the body. Similarly, lipase helps us better biosynthesize the vitamins A, D, E and K.
Aids in fat digestion and weight control:
Studies confirm that the lipase enzyme can drastically increase our ability to digest fat. A study on pancreatic enzyme supplementation found that large doses of lipase helped stabilize fat digestion in up to 63% of people suffering from pancreatic diseases. Another animal study found that lipase also helped reverse some forms of pancreatic disease in dogs. Another human trial using fungal-derived lipase also showed how the use of lipase helped reduce fecal fat and bettered fat absorption in people with cystic fibrosis. A recent review of lipase therapy showed that lipase supplementation could help reduce lipid malabsorption and restore fat digestion to optimal levels.
Dr. Edward F. Group III has his Naturopathic Doctorate, Clinical Herbalist, Holistic Health Practitioner, Clinical Nutritionist certifications, and is a Diplomate of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition and the American Board of Functional Medicine. He founded Global Healing Center Inc. in 1998 which has earned recognition as one of the largest alternative, natural and organic health resources on the Internet.
A dynamic author and speaker, Dr. Group focuses solely on spreading the message of health and wellness to the global community with the philosophy of full body cleansing, most importantly colon cleansing, consuming pure clean organic food, water, air, exercise and nutritional supplementation. Visit GlobalHealingCenter.com to learn more about living green and healthy!
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