Lipase is an enzyme necessary for the absorption and digestion of nutrients in the intestines. This digestive enzyme is responsible for breaking down lipids (fats), in particular triglycerides, which are fatty substances in the body that come from fat in the diet. Once broken down into smaller components, triglycerides are more easily absorbed in the intestines. Lipase is primarily produced in the pancreas but is also produced in the mouth and stomach. Most people produce sufficient amounts of pancreatic lipase.
Along with lipase, the pancreas secretes insulin and glucagon, hormones that the body needs to break down sugar in the bloodstream. Other pancreatic enzymes include amylase, which breaks down amylose (a form of starch) into its sugar building blocks, and protease, which breaks down protein into single amino acids.
In general, lipase supplements are thought to help the body absorb food more easily, keeping nutrients at appropriate, healthy levels throughout the body. Clinical studies suggest that they may also be helpful for the following conditions:
Pancreatic enzymes have been studied as part of the treatment for celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition in which dietary gluten causes damage to the intestinal tract. Symptoms include abdominal pain, bloating, weight loss, and fatigue. People with celiac disease must follow a strict diet that includes no gluten. Lipase, along with other pancreatic enzymes, may help in the treatment of this condition by enhancing the benefit of a gluten-free diet. In a clinical study of 40 children with celiac disease, for example, those who received pancreatic enzyme therapy (including lipase) demonstrated a modest increase in weight compared to those who received placebo. The improvement in weight occurred within the first month of use. Taking the pancreatic enzyme supplements for an additional month did not lead to more weight gain.
In a small clinical study including 18 subjects, supplements containing lipase and other pancreatic enzymes were found to reduce bloating, gas, and fullness following a high-fat meal. Given that these symptoms are commonly associated with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), some individuals with this condition may experience improvement with use of pancreatic enzymes.
Although scientific evidence is lacking, lipase has been used by health care professionals to treat food allergies, cystic fibrosis, and autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus).
Lipase is produced primarily in the pancreas and is not found in food.
Lipase supplements are usually derived from animal enzymes, although plant sources of lipase and other digestive enzymes have become increasingly popular. Lipase may be taken in combination with protease and amylase enzymes. These pancreatic enzymes are available in tablet and capsule form.
How to Take It:
Do not administer lipase to children under the age of 12 years unless under the supervision of a health care professional.
For support of digestion: Take lipase, 1 - 2 capsules (or tablets) of 6,000 LU (Lipase Activity Units), three times per day, 30 minutes before meals on an empty stomach.
Side effects may include nausea and stomach upset.
If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use lipase without first talking to your health care provider.
Orlistat -- Orlistat (Xenical, also available as alli in non-prescription form) interferes with the activity of lipase supplements. Orlistat is a medication used to treat obesity that blocks the ability of lipase to break down fats.
Digestive enzymes -- Digestive enzymes, including papain, pepsin, betaine HCL, and hydrochloric acid, can destroy the lipase enzymes. However, enteric-coated lipase enzyme products are protected against destruction by stomach acid.
* Reviewed last on: 5/1/2007
* Ernest B. Hawkins, MS, BSPharm, RPh, Health Education Resources; and Steven D. Ehrlich, N.M.D., private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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