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The pineapple enzyme bromelain is widely used as a meat tenderizer and as a component in leather manufacture. Bromelain and pineapple have been recommended components in many weight-loss supplements, but these fat-burning claims are unsupported by scientific evidence. Studies have indicated that bromelain might be effective in the treatment of pain, inflammation or bruising and to help manage cardiovascular conditions.
Bromelain was first identified by the Venezuelan chemist Vicente Marcano in 1891. Initially, the protein-dissolving enzyme was used as a meat tenderizer, and that remains its primary use. By the middle of the 20th century, it was being used as a nutritional supplement for its anti-inflammatory properties. Promising studies of bromelain and pineapple suggest other health benefits might be achieved.
As a natural remedy, bromelain and pineapple are most often recommended to reduce inflammation. Studies indicate that the enzyme can reduce swelling and control pain from injury, but experts do not agree on its effectiveness, and further research might be needed. Bruising appears to heal more quickly as well when treated with the enzyme.
Other forms of swelling have been treated with bromelain and pineapple as well. Studies on the enzyme’s effectiveness on sinusitis and bronchitis are promising. Arthritis patients might also find relief when taking bromelain.
Anticoagulant properties make bromelain potentially useful in treating cardiovascular conditions such as angina. Studies indicate that symptoms reduce or even vanish entirely while one is taking the supplement. The enzyme might also help to reduce cholesterol plaque lining the blood vessels.
Researchers in the areas of cancer and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) treatment have also looked at bromelain, and the results have been promising. The enzyme might help the body to produce cytokines, hormones related to the immune response. Studies have not been able to assess what effect, if any, the enzyme has on survivability or quality of life.
Fresh pineapple is a source of bromelain, along with other important vitamins and nutrients. The richest sources of bromelain are the stem and the core of the pineapple, not the edible flesh. In addition, cooking destroys bromelain, so pineapple should be eaten fresh and raw if it is intended to be a source of the enzyme. Pasteurized pineapple juice does not contain bromelain.
Bromelain and pineapple have no proven weight-loss effects. They are considered generally safe for human consumption, with no dangerous side effects apart from allergic reaction observed, although they are not recommended for patients who are suffering from ulcers. Patients who regularly take anticoagulant drugs should be aware of bromelain’s anticoagulant properties. Consultation with a doctor is recommended before treating a serious condition with this or any other supplement.