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
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
Indigestion 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.
Other 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
Lipase is produced primarily in the pancreas and is not found in food.
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
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
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
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 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.
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Carroccio A, Iacono G, Montalto G, et al. Pancreatic enzyme therapy in
childhood celiac disease. A double-blind prospective randomized study. Dig
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Heck AM; Yanovski JA; Calis KA. Orlistat, a new lipase inhibitor for the
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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.
Yanovski SZ, Yanovski JA. Obesity. N Engl J Med.
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.
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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