Lipases are one of three categories of enzymes manufactured by the pancreas.
The pancreas also secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon, which are needed
to metabolize sugar, into the bloodstream. The other two enzymes include
amylases, which break starch molecules into more simple sugars, and proteases,
which break protein molecules into single amino acids. The most common dietary
fats, triglycerides, comprise 95% of all ingested fats and are made up of a
glycerol molecule combined with three fatty acid molecules. The lipases aid the
digestion of fats by hydrolyzing the glycerol linkage within the chain to create
more assimilable free fatty acids and monoglycerides. These components are then
transported in the body by lipoproteins. Pancreatic lipase and bile salts are
required for intestinal digestion and absorption.
This enzyme is manufactured by the pancreas. It does not come from diet, but
may be supplemented by animal enzymes.
Gastric and pharyngeal (salivary) lipases are different from pancreatic
lipase. They have lower molecular weights, a lower optimum pH (4 to 6 vs. 6 to
8), and a greater stability at pH 3. Gastric lipase is produced in the stomach
and cleaves triglycerides at Sn-3 position within the stomach and duodenum.
Pharyngeal lipase is produced in the oral cavity, also cleaving triglycerides at
Sn-3 position within the mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Pancreatic lipase is
produced in the pancreas, splitting Sn-1 and Sn-3 positions within the
These lipases are important in the hydrolysis of triglycerides in milk during
infancy, when the secretion of pancreatic lipase is not fully developed. In
adults, as much as 10% to 15% of ingested fat may be partially hydrolyzed in the
Hepatic lipase has also been shown to impact aspects of blood lipid
metabolism. It facilitates the clearance of potentially atherogenic lipoproteins
by the liver and impacts the levels of the protective high-density
Lipase tablets are available in units of 6,000 LU, and 1 to 2 capsules are
recommended daily, to be taken before meals.
Tablets or capsules of pancreatic enzyme extracts with meals can be used to
treat impaired digestion, malabsorption, and subsequent nutrient deficiencies.
Some consider pancreatic enzymes of value in treating autoimmune disorders,
inflammatory diseases, and food allergies. They have been most studied in
treating early diagnosed celiac disease by enhancing the benefit of a
A reduction in lipase activity is unlikely to induce malabsorption in an
adult, because pancreatic lipase is usually secreted in abundant amounts.
Deficiency of pancreatic lipase is of clinical significance only when its
secretion is below 10% to 15% of normal levels.
|Dosage Ranges and Duration of
Recommended treatment with lipase to aid fat digestion is 1 to 2 capsules of
6,000 LU tid before meals. Lipase can also be found combined with protease and
Lipase and other pancreatic enzyme supplements are not associated with side
Orlistat inhibits pancreatic and gastric lipases, preventing fats from being
hydrolyzed into absorbable fatty acids (Heck et al. 2000).
Berkow R, ed. The Merck Manual of Medical Information. Home
Edition. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck & Co; 1997.
Heck AM, Yanovski JA, Calis KA. Orlistat, A new lipase inhibitor for the
management of obesity. Pharmacother. 2000;20(3):270-279.
Mahan KL, Marian A. Krause's Food Nutrition and Diet Therapy. 8th ed.
Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co; 1993.
Murray MT. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, Calif:
Prima Publishing; 1986.
Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and
Disease. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Lea & Febiger;
Copyright © 2000 Integrative Medicine
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