Enzymes as Digestive Aids

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An array of products, that contain supplemental digestive enzymes are currently in the market. Some of these preparations exhibit a single enzyme activity aimed at degrading a specific dietary substance, while others exhibit multiple enzymatic activities for the degradation of various dietary components. These supplemental enzymes can be used to complement normal digestion, or to provide an additional digestive capacity. Supplemental digestive enzymes are frequently depolymerases that act on polysaccharides, proteins, and lipids [1,18]. A brief overview of the various enzymes utilized for this purpose is provided here.

A number of enzymes are utilized as digestive aids (Table 13.1), and the majority have been derived from animal (pancreatic extract), microbial (e.g., Aspergillus oryzae), and plant (e.g., barley) sources [155]. Amylases are enzymes that catalyze the hydrolysis of a(1-4)-glycosidic linkages of polysaccharides such as starch and glycogen to yield dextrins, oligosaccharides, maltose, and glucose. Amylases are secreted by the pancreas and salivary glands in humans. They are classified according to the manner in which the gly-sosidic bond is hydrolyzed. a-Amylases hydrolyze endo a(1-4) glycosidic linkages, randomly yielding dextrins, oligosaccharides, and monosaccharides (glucose), which are easier to digest [156]. Amylase is administered as a digestive aid to improve digestion of dietary carbohydrate. Cellulase is not produced by humans and is administered as a digestive supplement to alleviate flatulence and to improve overall digestion, especially table 13.1

Enzymes Employed as Digestive Aids

Enzyme Substrate



Invertase a-Galactosidase

Papain, pepsin, bromelains

Superoxide dismutase



Carbohydrates (e.g., starches)


Sucrose a-Galactosides




Fats, carbohydrate, and protein in high-fiber diets [1]. Cellulase hydrolyzes the P(1-4) glycosidic bonds of cellulose, an indigestible plant polysaccharaide, releasing glucose. Cellulase can be derived from fungal (Aspergillus niger) and bacterial (Bacillus) sources [157,158].

Invertase is utilized as a digestive aid in alleviating the symptoms of sucrase-isomaltase deficiency [159]. Invertase alleviates symptoms by hydrolyzing sucrose to glucose and fructose, which are absorbed to portal blood. The enzyme can be derived from Aspergillus or Saccharomyces species [160]. a-Galactosidase, which is not produce by the body, catalyzes the hydrolysis of the a(1-6) linkages in a-galactoside carbohydrates such as melibiose and raffinose. The enzyme can be derived from selected strains of Aspergillus niger [161] and Saccharomyces cerevisiae [160]. a-Galactoside carbohydrates are widely found in legumes and cruciferous vegetables including beans, peas, broccoli, and cabbage. These carbohydrates are fermented by bacteria in the colon, with the accompanying production of gas. Supplemental a-galactosidase catabolizes the oligiosaccharides prior to reaching the colon and prevents flatulence and the symptoms associated with it [1].

Papain is a highly active plant protease obtained from the juice of the unripe fruit of the tropical plant Carica papaya Linn. It has a broad range of proteolytic activity and is less expensive to produce than microbial enzymes [162]. The proteolytic enzyme pepsin is derived from the zymogen pepsinogen, which is secreted by gastric mucosal cells, and it hydrolyzes dietary protein to shorter polypeptides and peptides. Pepsin used as a digestive aid is typically derived from the gastric mucosa of slaughterhouse animals [18]. Bromelain (EC is a complex natural mixture of proteolytic enzymes derived from pineapple stems. Bromelain is used as a digestive aid to promote healthy digestion by assisting in the hydrolysis of dietary protein [160,163]. SODs play major roles in the protection of cells against ROS. As previously mentioned, CuZn-SOD has been marketed as a nutritional supplement with putative anti-inflammatory activity [127,164].

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