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Table of Contents > Supplements > Lipase
Dietary Sources
Available Forms
How to Take It
Possible Interactions
Supporting Research


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. Studies suggest that they may also be helpful for the following conditions:

Celiac Disease
Pancreatic enzymes have been most 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, weight loss, and fatigue. People with celiac disease must consume a life-long gluten-free diet. 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 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 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, some with this condition may experience improvement with use of pancreatic enzymes.

Although scientific evidence is lacking, lipase has been used by trained clinicians to treat food allergies, cystic fibroris, and autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

Dietary Sources

Lipase is produced primarily in the pancreas and is not found in food.

Available Forms

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


A pediatrician will determine the appropriate amount of lipase or other pancreatic enzymes to treat celiac disease in children.


One to two capsules of 6,000 LU (Lipase Activity Units) three times per day


Dietary supplements should be taken only under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare provider.

There have been no reported side effects from lipase or other pancreatic enzyme supplements.

Possible Interactions

If you are currently being treated with any of the following medications, you should not use lipase without first talking to your healthcare provider.

Orlistat 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.

Supporting Research

Berkow R, ed. The Merck Manual of Medical Information. Home Ed. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories; 1997.

Carroccio A, Iacono G, Montalto G, et al. Pancreatic enzyme therapy in childhood celiac disease. A double-blind prospective randomized study. Dig Dis Sci. 1995;40(12):2555-2560.

Heck AM; Yanovski JA; Calis KA. Orlistat, a new lipase inhibitor for the management of obesity. Pharmacother. 2000 Mar;20(3):270-279.

Physicians' Desk Reference. 55th ed. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, Inc.; 2001.

Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Lea and Febiger; 1999

Suarez F, Levitt MD, Adshead J, Barkin JS. Pancreatic supplements reduce symptomatic response of healthy subjects to a high fat meal. Dig Dis Sci. 1999;44(7):1317-1321.

Yanovski SZ, Yanovski JA. Obesity. N Engl J Med. 2002;346:591-602.

Review Date: April 2002
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Ruth DeBusk, RD, PhD, Editor, Nutrition in Complementary Care, Tallahassee, FL; Jacqueline A. Hart, MD, Department of Internal Medicine, Newton-Wellesley Hospital, Harvard University and Senior Medical Editor Integrative Medicine, Boston, MA; Gary Kracoff, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Johnson Drugs, Natick, Ma; Steven Ottariono, RPh (Pediatric Dosing section February 2001), Veteran's Administrative Hospital, Londonderry, NH. All interaction sections have also been reviewed by a team of experts including Joseph Lamb, MD (July 2000), The Integrative Medicine Works, Alexandria, VA;Enrico Liva, ND, RPh (August 2000), Vital Nutrients, Middletown, CT; Brian T Sanderoff, PD, BS in Pharmacy (March 2000), Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy; President, Your Prescription for Health, Owings Mills, MD; Ira Zunin, MD, MPH, MBA (July 2000), President and Chairman, Hawaii State Consortium for Integrative Medicine, Honolulu, HI.

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

  Uses of this Supplement
Cystic Fibrosis
Food Allergy
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus
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