Lipase is one of the most important enzymes in the human digestive system. It is secreted by the pancreas and plays a key role in breaking up fats. Its name comes from the Greek word "lipos", which means fat, suggesting the biological role of this compound. The main duty of lipase is to break the structure of fats, creating smaller molecules that the human body is able to digest. This is extremely important because undigested fats cover other food particles and prevent their digestion as well, blocking the processing of proteins and carbohydrates completely. What lipase mainly does is breaking triglycerides into manageable mono-glycerides and other fatty acids.
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Lipase can't break fats on its own, the human body uses it in combination with bile to achieve the best results. The problem is that some of the fat molecules are simply too large for lipase to break. Bile can separate these large molecules into smaller ones, allowing lipase to be completely effective. The human body tries to fully digest fats at all costs, since otherwise they prevent the absorption of other nutrients. Bile is released into the body from the gallbladder, it is synthesized in the liver. Its main role is to emulsify large fat compounds and offer lipase a larger surface to work on.
Lipase itself is produced in the pancreas, without this enzyme we wouldn't be able to process the fats in our diet. Triglycerides are the main type of fat in our food and a very important nutrient. The problem is that the human intestine is unable to digest it, and a mix of lipase and bile is required. Bile separates the fat into smaller chunks of triglycerides, which are then decomposed by lipase into fatty acids, their basic components. These can be digested and make their way into the blood, where they are again assembled to create triglycerides. Blood transports them to the internal organs, especially the liver, where they serve as energy deposits.
Besides the pancreatic lipase, which is produced in the pancreas in order to digest fats, there are two other types of this enzyme. Pharyngeal lipase is produced in the mouth but descends into the stomach and continues to work there. Hepatic lipase is created by the liver, its role is to reduce the fat level in the blood stream, preventing it from becoming dangerously high.
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Since lipase is a key enzyme, not only in the digestion but also in the transport of all types of food lipids, its level is a good indicator of overall human health. The body must have a normal level of lipase, otherwise this is a sign that something is wrong and digestion doesn't work well, which can have an impact on every cell in the body. At the same time, too much lipase in the blood is also a possible sign of severe disease.
Besides the lipase produced by our body, we also get some from the food that we eat, the richest source being animal fat. Animal fat, as well as some bacteria known to have a very high content of lipase, are the main raw materials in the commercial production of this compound. It is used in the dairy industry, in particular to make fermented products like yoghurt or special varieties of cheese. It has also found a use in the green technologies, for example in the production of bio-fuels from vegetable oils.
Besides its main role in digestion, lipase has several other roles in the human metabolism. The four types with digestive roles are HPL, endothelial lipase, hepatic lipase and lipoprotein lipase, but phospholipids are also one of the main building blocks in the membranes of cells. As a result, tests that show the levels of lipase in the blood are very useful to doctors and can point to a wide range of diseases. Because of its role in breaking down fat, lipase is one of the ingredients of commercial food supplements designed to facilitate digestion.
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The main role of lipase is in digestion but it also provides several other benefits. As a consequence of proper digestion, this enzyme increases the absorption of nutrients. In addition, it supports the general metabolism and might also boost immunity.
The usage of lipase in breaking down fats has been known for a long time but modern research has validated this claim even further, proving that the enzyme greatly boosts fat digestion. In one study, people with pancreatic problems were given large doses of lipase, the results found that 63% of them significantly increased their fat digestion. Numerous other studies have reached the same conclusion that lipase supplements restore proper digestion and fix lipase absorption issues. Besides reducing the level of triglyceride and bad cholesterol, lipase supplements also reduce appetite and control weight.
People with a lipase deficit are vulnerable to several severe fat-related diseases. Since one can't properly absorb fats without this enzyme, not having enough of it leads to high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides, which in turn can cause obesity and different forms of diabetes. Lipase also plays a role in the permeability of cell walls, allowing nutrients to enter the cells and waste to exit them. Lipase deficiency can thus shut down the entire cell metabolism and clutter the blood stream with waste. An alternative solution for this problem is taking supplements with protease of other similar enzymes that feed on waste, in order to clear the blood of all the unwanted garbage.
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Lipase is found in nature and there are several rich healthy sources for it, in particular those with a high content of unrefined fats and oils. However, most of it gets lost while cooking, since the best sources, like raw egg yolk, are not typically consumed raw. As a result, it is very difficult to supplement our lipase needs from normal food and commercial products are needed. In order to get all the health benefits of lipase, supplements with both digestive enzymes and systemic enzymes are the best choice.
Lipase supplements can cure celiac disease, according to some studies. This disease is caused by a dysfunctional intestinal tract due to gluten, the main protein found in wheat and other grain types. It also has an effect on the pancreas and the enzyme production decreases, which leads to low levels of lipase. Celiac disease has a wide array of bad symptoms, it starts with stomach pain but can lead to chronic fatigue, bloating and reduced weight. Cystic fibrosis patients also have a reduced pancreatic output and can benefit from taking lipase supplements. According to research, enzyme supplements allow these people to properly digest fats and improve their overall health.
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In general, enzymes facilitate digestion and allow us to process the food, extracting as much of the vitamins and nutrients from it. Without lipase, we wouldn't be able to assimilate any of the important fatty acids. Improper digestion stops the processing of fats, which can't be broken up and end up being eliminated as waste.
When should you consider taking lipase supplements? The first signs are digestive issues after a meal, especially if it was very rich in fats. Sometimes these are caused by gallbladder problems or its removal through surgery, since lipase can't work properly without the bile produced by this organ. Lipase is also helpful in low-fat diets, in particular for people who want to reduce their high cholesterol levels.