What is Pancreatic Lipase?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 February 2020
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Pancreatic lipase is a water-soluble enzyme secreted by the pancreas. Like other lipases, its function is to break down lipids (fats) in the intestinal tract. Unlike other pancreatic enzymes, such as trypsinogen and chymotrypsin, however, it is secreted in pancreatic “juice” as an active enzyme and doesn’t need to undergo conversion to digest lipids. In addition, this enzyme possesses the ability to break down dietary fats via hydrolysis by breaking hydrogen bonds.

One of the primary tasks of pancreatic lipase is to break down triglycerides. This is critical since these particular lipids cannot be absorbed through the intestinal lining without first undergoing hydrolysis. The enzyme acts as a catalyst to promote the conversion of triglycerides into 2-monoglyceride and fatty acids. The successful hydrolysis of triglycerides is dependent on the adequate availability of bile salts provided by the liver.

Excessive production of this enzyme may indicate the presence of certain disorders, most notably inflammation of the pancreas, or pancreatitis. Elevated levels also occur with bowel obstruction, peptic ulcers, or kidney disease, and are also a temporary side effect of some medications, like morphine and codeine. On the other hand, diminished levels may suggest that some cells of the pancreas are irreversibly damaged. Pancreatic lipase monitoring is also used to help diagnose Crohn's disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease.


People who are concerned with losing weight may be more than familiar with this enzyme and what it does. That’s because several dieting products have surfaced that boast the ability to block its activity in order to inhibit the absorption of fats. In fact, orlistat is a prescription medication that prevents up to 30% of dietary fats, including triglycerides, from being absorbed through the intestines. This results in a reduction in total calorie intake and, subsequently, weight loss.

Researchers have learned about a few other unique properties of pancreatic lipase by studying hibernating squirrels. While this enzyme is normally found in the intestines, it is found in great concentration in the hearts of these animals, but only from late fall until early spring. Apparently, after completing the job of digesting dietary fats for storage during the big sleep, the enzyme takes up residence in the heart to help it function while body temperature and oxygen levels dramatically decline. What is particularly interesting about this is that most other enzymes are rendered inactive below certain temperatures, while this one retains about 30% of its activity.


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Post 3

@burcidi-- Yes, I used one for about a month last year. I don't really recommend it because as you said, it messes up the digestion system. And it's not really something you can use forever to maintain weight because it can have pretty severe side effects.

Since it prevents pancreatic enzyme lipase from absorbing fats, anytime you eat fats, you get diarrhea. And you don't only lose the fat molecules but also the vitamins and nutrients that require fat to be absorbed. I think if this medication is used long-term, it can cause serious vitamin deficiencies. Not to mention the short-term effects like dehydration due to diarrhea.

I did lose weight during that one month I used a pancreatic lipase inhibitor. But I didn't leave the bathroom and had so much gas and stomach pain. It really wasn't worth it. I think proper diet and exercise is a much better and safer route to take.

Post 2

Has anyone tried a pancreatic lipase inhibiting weight loss pill?

I've been hearing so much about them lately. I'm part of several weight loss groups and a lot of people have started using these pills to help with their weight loss. I'm intrigued but not sure if it's right for me.

The fact that this inhibitor changes pancreatic lipase levels and messes with how the digestion system works is kind of scary to me. Won't it have long-term side effects that could give me problems in the future?

If anyone has tried a pancreatic lipase inhibitor, I would love to learn more about the advantages versus the disadvantages of using them.

Post 1

My nephew has a genetic pancreatic lipase deficiency. His parents took him to the pediatrician after realizing that he wasn't gaining weight as he should and his stool was unusually smelly and looked like it had oils in it. The pediatrician referred them to a gastric expert who diagnosed my nephew with the deficiency.

The doctor said that this is a very rare deficiency that is hereditary but is not expressed most of the time. Basically, my nephew doesn't have enough pancreatic lipases and can't digest fats. So they go straight through his system without being absorbed.

Thankfully, it's possible to supplement with pancreatic lipase. He's been getting the supplements for several months now and is doing so much better.

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