The term enzymes refers to certain specific proteins that function as catalysts in the process of breaking down of other complex proteins into simple usable forms. Numerous enzymes control different processes occurring in our body.
The digestive enzymes are a group of enzymes that help in the process of digestion. These digestive enzymes are either produced by certain specific organs such as the pancreas in our body or by the microorganisms that inhabit the small and large intestines. 1 Along with digestive properties some of the digestive enzymes also have protective features that guard the body against infections, diseases and cancers. 1, 2
A deficiency of these digestive enzymes may lead to many disorders which may require supplementation of the deficient digestive enzyme. 3
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Proteases are certain digestive enzymes that help in the breakdown of proteins. The proteases are widely used in detergent industry, dairy industry and meat industries. The applications of proteases in medical industry are also growing widely. 4 The acid proteases are known to be active in acidic environments (such as the stomach) and are helpful in the digestion of complex proteins. 5 Three major proteins are included in the group of acid proteases. These include: Phytepsin, Plasmepsin IV and Cathepsin D. 6 The acid proteases present in medicinal seeds have been found to be effective against stomach disorders such as stomach ulcers, gastric irritation, lack of appetite and many others. These may have a role in better digestion of proteins in the stomach. Medicinal plants such as Carum copticum, Punica glantum, and Allium sepa are used in traditional medicine for the cure of stomach disorders and these plants and their seeds are said to be rich in acid proteases and alkaline proteases. 7
Maltodextrin is a type of carbohydrate that is completely soluble in our body. It has properties of both sugar and starch and is easily digested in the body. Maltodextrin has very little or no sweetness and is quite bland in taste. Because of this property maltodextrin is suitable for diabetic individuals. It is used widely in processed foods. 8 Maltodextrin is used as a bulking agent in puddings, frozen desserts, cakes and many other dry mix products. The maltodextrin carbohydrate is an essential component of infant formulas. Maltodextrin is also used as a fat and oil replacer wherein it replaces almost 50% of the fats in processed foods. 9,10 Maltodextrin is also available as a separate fat replacement product. The use of maltodextrin as the bulking agent in low-calorie dry mixes reduces the amount of artificial sweeteners used in such products. Maltodextrin is beneficial in diabetics, individuals who want to cut down their glucose intake and for weight loss diets. 9
Proteases belong to the group of digestive enzymes that actively take part in the digestion and breakdown of proteins. 4 These enzymes are produced and secreted in our body by different organs such as the stomach, small intestine, pancreas and other glands that are present along the gastrointestinal tract. The microorganisms present in the colon are also known to produce different types of proteases that help in breaking the proteins. Furthermore, proteases are also produced in different cells and tissues in our body. Proteases are mainly known for their digestive action. However, certain proteases may also have a role in the regulation of growth and development of different cells and tissues. Proteases are known to control certain key mechanisms in the processes such as clot formation, inflammation, and repair. Some protease enzymes may have a role in the progression of numerous disorders in the body requiring the administration of medications that are commonly referred to as protease inhibitors. 11
Amylase is a digestive enzyme that is mainly produced by the salivary glands (in the mouth) and the pancreas. The amylase enzyme is necessary for the breakdown of carbohydrates that we consume into simpler substances for easy digestion. Commercially available amylase enzymes are obtained from certain micro-organisms and are used in different industries including food industry. Amylase helps in the breakdown of carbohydrates both in the mouth as well as the small intestine. 12 Digestive enzymes such as amylase are commonly used in brewing and winemaking, processed foods and other commercially available food supplements. 13 The production of amylase enzyme in the pancreas may be affected due to certain disorders that affect the pancreas. This may lead to a deficiency of amylase enzyme requiring supplementation. Amylase supplementations are commonly advised in a condition known as malabsorption syndrome which is characterized by the body’s inability to breakdown and absorb essential nutrients from the diet. 14
This digestive enzyme is also known as glucoamylase and is responsible for the breakdown of starch to form glucose molecules. Amyloglucosidase belongs to the group of amylolyitic enzymes. 15 These digestive enzymes are generally produced in our body to help in the process of digestion. Amyloglucosidase can also be obtained from plant and animal sources. Microorganisms are commonly used for the production of amylogucosidase for industrial and medicinal use. The industries that have profound use of amylogucosidase enzyme include textile, food and brewing industries. Amyloglucosidase enzyme is also used in the manufacture of glucose and fructose syrups in the food industry. Furthermore, the use amyloglucosidase enzyme in the clinical and medical fields is also being studied widely. A wide use of amyloglucosidase has been noted in the food and pharmaceutical industry where it has been used as fat and oil substitutes, moisture retention compounds and for stabilizing the flavors and spices while packing. 16, 17
Cellulase is a digestive enzyme that is helpful in the digestion of cellulose which is a complex carbohydrate. The cellulose forms an important part of the wall of the plant cells. Cellulase is produced by microorganisms such as fungi, bacteria and protozoa, while it is not produced in the human body. Cellulose enzyme is helpful in the breakdown of plant products being consumed. 18 Cellulose is considered as an excellent source of bioenergy and can be useful for the production of several biobased products. The role of cellulase enzyme is quite vital in this process as it is the key enzyme that breaks down the cellulose to release substances such as glucose which has several uses. 19 Cellulase enzyme is widely used in the textile industry for different processes involved in the manufacture of clothes and other textile products. 20 Cellulase enzyme supplements are available for human use and are believed to help in improving the digestion process.
Lactase enzyme is the specific digestive enzyme that helps in the digestion of lactose, commonly referred to as milk protein. Lactose commonly found in cow’s milk is broken down by the lactase enzyme into simpler forms such as glucose for easier absorption in the body. Our body generally produces sufficient amounts of lactase enzyme that helps in breaking down the milk proteins. However, in individuals suffering from a condition known as lactose intolerance, the amount of lactase produced is very less. Consumption of milk or milk products by such individuals can result in the occurrence of symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal distension, flatulence, diarrhea and pain in the abdomen. Lactase supplementation has been found to benefit individuals suffering from a deficiency of this digestive enzyme. 21 Addition of lactase enzymes in the feeds of babies that are born prematurely has been noted to promote the growth of the premature babies in a few studies. 22
Invertase enzyme breaks the carbohydrate known as sucrose (commonly known as table sugar) into glucose and fructose that are easily digested and absorbed by the body. The invertase enzyme helps to digest sucrose within the cells of the small intestine. Invertase also known as sucrase is commonly used in confectionary industries in the manufacture of chocolates. Invertase is used especially in chocolates with liquid or soft juices in the centre. Invertase enzyme is also used in the production of invert syrups. Commercially available invertase are obtained from yeast that are commonly referred to as baker’s yeast. 23, 24 The invertase enzyme is considered essential for the growth and differentiation of various cells which are mainly dependent on glucose for its metabolic activities. 25 Sufficient amount of these enzymes are required for optimal conversion of sucrose into glucose in the cells of the intestine from where it is transported to other cells in the body.
Maltase enzyme helps in the conversion of maltose (a type of sugar) into glucose for absorption and utilization in the body. A deficiency of this enzyme leads to increased accumulation of glucose in the form of glycogen (a primary form of glucose that needs to be broken down further for utilization) in body. Pompe’s disease also referred to as glycogen storage disease type II or acid maltase deficiency disorder is characterized by deficiency of maltase in the body of the affected individuals. 26, 27 This disorder is associated with multiple abnormalities in the body which if untreated can be mortal. Pompe’s disease affects the muscles more frequently and is noticed in newly born babies. The disabilities arising due to affected muscle activity generally results in the death of the affected babies within the first year of life. Enzyme supplementation for the correction of acid maltase deficiency is commonly advised as a therapy for Pompe’s disease. 28Lipases are a group of digestive enzymes that convert the fats into fatty acids and glycerol. The fats that are consumed in the diet are broken down in the stomach and the intestine by the action of lipase enzymes. The fatty acids and glycerol thus obtained are utilized by the body for different purposes. 29 Lipase is produced in the pancreas and the glands present in the small intestine. A deficiency of this enzyme that is commonly associated with certain digestive disorders or certain specific disorders of the pancreas results in abnormal accumulation of fats in the body leading to further complications. Lipase enzyme is also proposed to have a regulatory effect on the insulin (hormone that controls blood glucose levels) producing cells in the pancreas. 29, 30 Supplementation of lipase enzyme with lipase supplements developed from microbial sources is often advised in the treatment of disorders of the pancreas. Lipase enzyme supplementation has also been found to be beneficial in conditions such as lactose intolerance. 31
Papain is a proteolytic (protein digesting) enzyme that is present in the papaya fruit. This enzyme is obtained from the juice of raw papaya fruits that are processed to form the dry papain powder. Papain enzyme is widely used in different industries including breweries, pharmaceutics, food, meat and fish processing industries. 32 The papain enzyme has been used with other proteolytic enzymes as an effective medicine for its wide number of properties such as anti-infectious, anti-inflammatory, immune-protecting and anti-cancer properties. Papain enzyme is believed to possess anti-cancer properties wherein it inhibits the growth and differentiation of the cancer cells and prevents their progression. 33 Papain enzyme has also been used to treat skin wounds and ulcers that are present since a long duration of time. The dead cells and tissues in such wounds clear faster with the use of papain enzyme thereby hastening the healing process. 34 Further researches are being conducted to identify other possible uses of papain enzyme.
Bromelain belongs to the class of proteolytic (protein digesting) enzymes that are derived from pineapple. This enzyme is known for its beneficial properties that are useful in treating a wide variety of disorders. Bromelain prevents the occurrence of edema (abnormal collection of fluids), inflammation, abnormal collection of platelets (which usually result in formation of clots) and clot formations within the blood vessels. The anti-inflammatory effect of bromelain has promoted its use in various disorders such as asthma, bronchitis, sinusitis, arthritis and many others. It is also known to benefit heart disorders by prevention of clot formation in the blood vessels that supply the heart. Certain amount of anticancer activity has also been reported with the use of bromelain wherein it prevents the progression of cancer cells. Bromelain also promotes the actions of the antibiotic medications being administered thereby ensuring faster healing. Furthermore, bromelain is also believed to promote rapid healing of burn wounds on the skin. 35, 36
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