Date: September 2004
Are enzymes present in foods we consume (like papain and
bromelain found papaya and pineapple, respectively) absorbed in tact
(that is, as whole active enzymes) by our digestive system?
Background: There are many nutritional therapies and diets and
nutritionists and doctors that place great importance on getting enzymes
through our diet and that they support the immune system in fighting some
diseases or illnesses. However, enzymes are generally pretty complex
proteins and, as such, woul d
1) be denatured by heat and the acidic
environment of the stomach and
2) be first broken down into smaller amino
chains before being absorbed.
I agree. I suppose that the proteases mentioned could enhance digestion in the
stomach before they themselves were digested.
Ron Baker, Ph.D.
You are correct that many enzymes should be degraded within the
environment of the stomach and the intestines. However, a number of
enzymes are resistant to this environment and could retain some
catalytic activity. These enzymes could function in the digestive
system and alter the chemical composition of the contents of the
digestive system. It might be possible that some could be taken up by
the circulatory system or by the cells lining the digestive system and
be active within a cell. I am not aware of the current research in this
specific area of whole protein uptake and so I do not know how common
this possibility is.
Dr. Jim Tokuhisa
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Update: June 2012