| What You Need to Know About Enzymes
Claims, Benefits: Digestive
aids and/or substitutes for the enzymes you need but lack. Many
are advertised from a "more is better" angle.
No clinical evidence supports the idea that swallowing, injecting,
or otherwise consuming enzymes can benefit healthy people or prevent
disease, let alone keep you young.
In the health marketplace these days youll find a huge variety
of enzyme products. The ads and catalogues tell you how vital these
enzymes are and how much you need them. You do, in fact, need them
very much, but what you need doesnt come in a bottle.
Enzymes are found in all living matter, plant or animal,
and there are thousands of them, manufactured by the cells. Almost
all are proteins or contain proteins. Enzymes are chemical "enablers,"
and life could not exist without them. They regulate virtually every
chemical reaction in living things. They enable the bodys
immune, endocrine, hormonal, nervous, and other systems to do their
work. Some are secreted into the digestive tract, where they break
down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They detoxify such substances
as alcohol. Besides breaking down compounds, they synthesize others.
Some act as antioxidants, deactivating cell-damaging free radicals.
Each enzyme is specific to the action it performsenzymes dont
do general work. Not all enzymes are benevolent, though. Some produce
free radicals, and enzymes may play a role in building up plaque
in arterial walls.
Supplements containing pepsin, amylase, trypsin, lipase,
protease, superoxide dismutase (SOD), or others ("-ase"
is the common suffix for an enzyme) are marketed as digestive aids
and/or substitutes for the enzymes you need but lack. SOD, in particular,
is advertised from a "more is better" angle. The ads tell
you that fluoride in water destroys your natural enzymes. Or that
special juicing machines conserve natural enzymes. And the claims
get even more fanciful: that enzymes in a bottle prevent aging,
eliminate toxins, and enhance immunity.
But no clinical evidence supports the idea that swallowing,
injecting, or otherwise consuming enzymes can benefit healthy people
or prevent disease, let alone keep you young.
You neednt try to figure out which enzymes you
should take, since your body manufactures all of them (with a few
possible exceptions, described below). In any case, in the digestive
tract most enzyme pills are just bundles of protein, and like any
proteins, they will be efficiently digested in the acid environment
of the stomach. Even the digestive enzymes you produce are themselves
digested and reabsorbed. Some enzyme supplements come with enteric
coatings, which may help protect them from stomach acids, but theres
no evidence that those sold over the counter get through the digestive
tract and are absorbed. Enzymes are short-lived, and even if some
particles do survive the digestive tract, they probably wouldnt
last long enough in the bloodstream to travel to where they might
do some good.
Enzyme-deficiency diseases do exist. They have to
be treated with oral or injected doses of enzymes, and pills especially
designed not to be destroyed in the stomach. Researchers have also
tried injecting certain enzymes to combat genetic diseases that
result in enzyme deficiencies, but this method has had only limited
One or two enzymes you can swallow
One common enzyme deficiency that can be treated is
lactose intolerance. At some point after infancy, many people start
producing less of the enzyme lactase, which digests lactose (milk
sugar). Lactase tablets can help, but you have to swallow them at
the same time you drink milk or eat ice cream. You can also add
lactase drops to the food, preferably one or two days in advance,
or buy lactose-reduced dairy products that have already been treated
Beano and similar products, which help combat intestinal
gas caused by beans, also contain an enzyme that must be taken simultaneously
with the food.
You rarely, if ever, need to worry about enzymes. In the great majority
of cases, enzyme pills are just a costly, unnecessary, and insignificant
Reference Source 98