What is a Lipase?

A. Pasbjerg

In order to be digested, fats need to be broken down so they can be absorbed by the intestine. This process is performed by a type of water-soluble enzyme known as a lipase. Most lipases are created by the pancreas, though they are also produced in other parts of the body as well, including the stomach, liver and salivary glands.

Pancreatic lipase is responsible for breaking down lipids in the intestinal tract.
Pancreatic lipase is responsible for breaking down lipids in the intestinal tract.

A lipase acts to break down fats, or lipids, via hydrolosis. This is a chemical process where a molecule is broken down by adding a water molecule to it. The liver first releases bile salts, which attach to the surface of fat droplets, making them easier for the lipase to break down. The fats are then separated into two basic components, fatty acid and glycerol. These molecules can then be absorbed by the small intestine.

Lipase breaks apart lipids by adding a water molecule to them.
Lipase breaks apart lipids by adding a water molecule to them.

Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, may impact the production of pancreatic lipase and its levels in the body. There are several possible causes for pancreatitis, including excessive consumption of alcohol, gall stones or infection. It can lead to high amounts of the enzyme in the blood. If pancreatitis is suspected, a doctor may conduct a lipase test, where a sample of blood is taken and the enzyme levels are measured, to confirm.

Too few lipases in the body can cause several issues. As the enzymes are responsible for breaking down fats, people with deficiencies can have high levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in their blood, and also may have trouble losing weight. In the long run, these problems to can lead to more serious issues, such as heart disease and diabetes. Sufferers may also experience muscle and colon spasms. Some causes of lipase deficiency are underproduction by the pancreas and certain genetic conditions.

Lipase supplements are available for people with deficiencies. These supplements can be made using animal or plant enzymes and generally come in pill form. In addition to helping people with low levels of the enzymes, they may also be effective in alleviating gastrointestinal issues such as gas, bloating, and indigestion.

People with certain disorders may be unable to absorb enough nutrients from the food they eat, which can often lead to nutrient deficiencies and weight loss. Celiac disease and Crohn's disease, which damage the intestines, may have this affect. Patients with cystic fibrosis may have thick mucus present in the intestine that blocks enzymes and nutrients. For these types of issues, a lipase supplement may be helpful in aiding nutrient uptake.

Crohn's disease and similar disorders can lead to malnutrition in a number of ways, so diet must be carefully monitored.
Crohn's disease and similar disorders can lead to malnutrition in a number of ways, so diet must be carefully monitored.

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Discussion Comments

MrSmirnov

@manykitties2 - I wouldn't bother with lipase supplements as lipase production doesn't even happen in the stomach. The lipase your body produces actually works in the intestines, and unfortunately the acid in your stomach would just neutralize any enzyme you ingested making it worthless.

If you want a real weight loss pill I suggest going to your doctor and getting them to prescribe you something that actually works. These drugs aren't cheap and do have side effects so you really have to be sure that you're making the right step. Over the counter weight loss medication in general just doesn't work.

manykitties2

Does anyone know if taking lipase supplements is actually good for weight loss?

I have been seeing a lot of advertisements online for lipase enzymes which are supposed to help your body to deal with fats so you'll lose more weight.

Over the past few years I have been struggling with weight loss and am willing to try just about anything. I have used some other herbal supplements before and they really didn't do very much except cost me a small fortune.

I am dieting and exercising as well, but I would really like something to help me along. I wonder if lipase is the answer?

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