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Name: Michael
Status: Educator
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
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.

Dear Michael,

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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