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Do Digestive Enzymes Promote Weight Loss?

Do Digestive Enzymes Promote Weight Loss?

Digestive enzymes are often used to support healthy digestion and increase nutrient absorption.

Studies show that they may benefit conditions like lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source).

In addition, many people wonder if digestive enzymes could help them lose more weight.

This article reviews whether digestive enzymes can promote weight loss.

What are digestive enzymes?

Digestive enzymes are compounds that help break down foods into smaller components that your body can absorb (3Trusted Source).

The three main types are:

  • Protease: breaks down proteins into amino acids
  • Lipase: breaks down lipids into glycerol and fatty acids
  • Amylase: breaks down complex carbs and starches into simple sugars

Your body naturally produces digestive enzymes, but they’re also available in supplement form.

These supplements are often used to improve conditions like lactose intolerance and other digestive issues like celiac disease and IBS (1Trusted Source2Trusted Source).

SUMMARYDigestive enzymes help break down proteins, fats, and carbs into smaller components. They’re produced naturally by your body and are also found in supplement form.

May affect gut bacteria

Some studies show that digestive enzymes may enhance the health of your gut microbiome — the microorganisms that live in your digestive tract (4Trusted Source).

In one study, administering digestive enzymes to mice promoted the colonization of beneficial gut bacteria (5Trusted Source).

Plus, a test-tube study showed that pairing a probiotic supplement with digestive enzymes could help protect against changes in the gut microbiome caused by chemotherapy and a type of antibiotic (6Trusted Source).

Interestingly, some studies have found that the gut microbiome may play a role in weight control (7Trusted Source).

In fact, one review of 21 studies reported that enhancing the beneficial bacteria in your gut may reduce body mass index, fat mass, and body weight (8Trusted Source).

That said, more studies on the effects of digestive enzyme supplements on weight control in humans are needed.

SUMMARYSome test-tube and animal studies show that digestive enzymes may improve the health of your beneficial gut bacteria — bacteria that may be involved in weight control.

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Effects of lipase

Lipase is a digestive enzyme that boosts the absorption of fat in your body by breaking it down into glycerol and free fatty acids (9Trusted Source).

Some studies show that supplementing with lipase may decrease feelings of fullness (10Trusted Source11Trusted Source).

For example, one study in 16 adults found that those taking a lipase supplement before consuming a high fat meal reported significantly decreased stomach fullness after 1 hour, compared with a control group (10Trusted Source).

On the other hand, lipase inhibitors — which decrease lipase levels — have long been used to promote weight control by increasing the excretion of fat (12Trusted Source).

While more research is needed, increasing your lipase levels by taking digestive enzyme supplements could potentially increase fat absorption, thus contributing to weight gain.

SUMMARYLipase may decrease feelings of fullness. On the other hand, decreasing lipase levels can promote weight loss by reducing fat absorption.

Best types

Although research shows that digestive enzymes may or may not directly increase weight loss, they could improve gut health and digestion.

They may also alleviate bloating and promote regularity, especially for those with conditions like IBS (3Trusted Source13Trusted Source).

Most digestive enzyme supplements contain a combination of lipase, amylase, and protease. Some types also contain other specific enzymes that can be beneficial if you have difficulty digesting certain ingredients.

Other common enzymes found in digestive enzyme supplements include:

  • Lactase: improves the digestion of lactose, a type of sugar found in dairy
  • Alpha-galactosidase: helps break down complex carbs in beans, vegetables, and grains
  • Phytase: supports the digestion of phytic acid in grains, nuts, and legumes
  • Cellulase: converts cellulose, a type of plant fiber, into beta-glucose

Supplements are derived from microbial or animal sources. Although animal-based digestive enzymes are more common, microbial-based supplements may be an effective, vegan-friendly alternative (14Trusted Source15Trusted Source).

To ensure quality, check the ingredients label and steer clear of supplements high in fillers, additives, and preservatives. Plus, opt for supplements that have undergone third-party testing and are certified by organizations like the United States Pharmacopeia (USP).

Be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking a new supplement, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications.

Additionally, note that you should always take digestive enzymes with food to maximize their effectiveness.

SUMMARYMost digestive enzymes contain a combination of protease, lipase, and amylase, but they may also contain other specific enzymes to promote healthy digestion. Supplements are derived from both animal-based and microbial sources.

Enzyme inhibitors could support weight loss

While digestive enzymes may not directly boost weight loss, research shows that enzyme inhibitors might.

Digestive enzyme inhibitors decrease the absorption of certain macronutrients and are sometimes used in the treatment of obesity to increase weight loss (16Trusted Source).

According to a review of 14 studies, supplementing with an amylase inhibitor extracted from white beans may increase both weight loss and fat loss in humans (17Trusted Source).

Another study showed that blocking the effects of trypsin, a protease enzyme that breaks down proteins, decreased food consumption and weight gain in rats (18Trusted Source).

Additionally, lipase inhibitors are used to reduce the absorption of fat, which could also result in significant weight loss (19Trusted Source20Trusted Source).

In particular, the lipase inhibitor called orlistat may reduce fat absorption by 30%. It does this by decreasing the production of lipase in the stomach and pancreas, resulting in weight loss (19Trusted Source).

One study in 40 women with obesity also found that long-term use of orlistat increased levels of certain hormones that suppress hunger and appetite (21Trusted Source).

However, other studies have found that orlistat could decrease these hormones and instead speed up the emptying of the stomach (22Trusted Source23Trusted Source24Trusted Source).

Aside from potentially affecting hormone levels, other common side effects of lipase inhibitors include diarrhea, stomach pain, and fat in the stools (19Trusted Source).

SUMMARYEnzyme inhibitors block the activity of digestive enzymes, which could promote weight loss and fat loss. However, studies have had contradicting results.

The bottom line

Digestive enzymes are substances that help break down macronutrients into smaller compounds to promote their absorption.

Some test-tube and animal studies show that they could improve the health of your gut microbiome, which may affect weight control.

On the other hand, digestive enzyme inhibitors have been shown to reduce food intake and increase weight loss and fat loss.

While digestive enzyme supplements may or may not directly boost weight loss, they could promote healthy digestion and regularity, especially for those with certain gastrointestinal conditions.

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