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Can Digestive Enzymes Help With Weight Loss?

Natan Rosenfeld Natan Rosenfeld April 23, 2021
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Digestive enzymes are enzymes (proteins that produce chemical reactions inside the body) that play a role in breaking down food. These particular enzymes can be found in the saliva and digestive tract of humans and animals as well as in cells throughout the body. There are four different types of digestive enzymes: Lipases, which break down fatty acids, creating glycerol; proteases and peptidases, which divide proteins into peptides and amino acids; amylases, which break down carbohydrates into simple sugars; and nucleases, which break down nucleic acids into nucleotides.

 

When you eat food, the body must prepare it for absorption. The body does this by breaking down the food into a number of simple compounds so it can be easily absorbed. The process begins in the mouth, where the enzymes in your saliva react with what you’ve just eaten and facilitate absorption. Once the food makes its way to your stomach, the process continues and digestion begins; the stomach releases more enzymes, which aid in the final stages of breaking down your meal. 

If these digestive enzymes can break down food so well, wouldn’t it be safe to assume that they also play a role in weight loss? Should you run to the store and pick up a bottle of enzyme supplements? 

 

While digestive enzyme supplements can modify your gut microbiome, they are not the magic pill that will help you shed that extra weight. Some studies have even found that taking digestive enzyme supplements actually causes weight gain. But the bottom line is that most research on the topic suggests that there are no real weight-loss benefits to taking enzyme supplements.

 

However, that doesn’t mean they’re entirely useless. Various research has shown that taking enzyme supplements can increase the health of your gut microbiome, which has been linked to weight regulation. Furthermore, studies have been done on enzyme inhibitors, compounds that decrease the activity of certain enzymes in the body. Scientists found that enzyme inhibitors may assist in weight loss. One study showed that digestive enzyme inhibitors may inhibit the body’s ability to absorb certain macronutrients, leading to weight loss. Additional studies found similar results: In one study, for example, scientists gave trypsin inhibitors to rats and found that they ate less food overall and gained less weight from what they did eat. Finally, researchers also discovered that blocking lipase enzymes in the body led to lower fat absorption and subsequent weight loss.

So it seems that while digestive enzymes may not be very effective for weight loss, they have their own unique benefits in promoting a healthy gut microbiome and perhaps even regulating weight gain. Enzyme inhibitors could help you drop a few pounds, though. Some foods that contain natural enzyme inhibitors include legumes, and in smaller amounts, potatoes, broccoli, and even oranges. Including moderate amounts of these foods in your diet could contribute to weight loss. The best way to lose weight, though, according to science, is by eating a healthful diet and getting regular exercise.

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