Food Enzymes: Accelerating growth in Nutraceutical Industry
C. L. Rathi, Managing Director, Advanced Enzyme Technologies, gives a detailed account of the digestive enzymes supplements that have been popular in the nutraceutical industry
While general digestion is still the largest category, enzymes directed at food sensitivities have become a significant factor in enzyme demand. One of the challenges is the lack of well controlled, double-blind clinical studies on digestive enzymes. The reality is that it is difficult to demonstrate the effect of enzymes within the gastrointestinal system without significant invasive techniques. As a result, those studies that exist tend to be anecdotal, not that they are without value. In fact, in the case of indigestion, it is pretty easy to tell if you receive relief. So for enzyme trials, you will find anecdotal studies to be pretty reliable. In addition, there are some very ingenious in vitro mechanisms to demonstrate digestion which all verify the efficacy of exogenous enzymes to aid digestion.
Consumers as a whole still tend to treat the symptoms of acid indigestion, heartburn, gas and bloating with antacids. Those with chronic indigestion may reach for OTC (Over-The-Counter) acid blockers like H2 Antagonists or Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs). These reduce the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. All of these may provide temporary relief but tend to be counterproductive since the net result is slowing of digestion. In this environment there is little incentive for major pharmaceutical corporations to market digestive enzymes. Yet, digestive enzymes grow year after year. There is no denying the relief of heartburn and other digestive discomforts that come from digestive enzyme supplements. When something works so drastically, that generally makes a believer out of everyone.
Digestive enzymes supplements have been popular in the nutraceutical industry for many years. Originally, enzymes from animal sources like pancreatin dominated. However, many found animal source enzymes to be objectionable due to religious or lifestyle choices.
Today microbial and plant source enzymes dominate the market. Microbial source enzymes are produced by fermentation of a fungal or bacterial organism. True plant source enzymes are extracts. For example, bromelain is an extract from the stem of pineapple, and papain is an extract from papaya. Some advantages of microbial and plant source enzymes are they are suitable for vegetarians, and are Kosher and Halal certified. In essence, virtually everyone can take them. Further, digestive enzymes used in the dietary supplement industry are considered GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Our company produces many different enzymes, from amylase to xylanase and almost everything in between. The most commonly used enzymes include proteases (breaks down protein), amylases (breaks down starch), lipases (breaks down fat), and lactase (breaks down milk sugar). Some others help break down plant material, like cellulase (breaks down cellulose), xylanase (breaks down fiber) and hemicellulase (breaks down 5-carbon hemicellulose). General digestive enzyme blend may also help prevent or reduce Gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD). One thing these enzyme blends have in common is they are Kosher certified, Halal certified and suitable for vegetarians
In this same area, meal replacement shakes have become an important category for consumers on the run and those individuals that have trouble digesting food. The addition of enzymes can enhance digestion and increase the nutritional value of meal replacement shakes. In sports and bodybuilding nutrition, protease enzymes help athletes digest and utilize larger amounts of protein in their diet. Typically, adults can only digest about two ounces of protein at a time. But athletes and bodybuilders need to consume more in order to reduce catabolism of muscle tissue, increase digestion of protein and absorption of the resulting amino acids.
Today, the trend in digestive health products continues toward condition specific enzyme blends - most notably, lactose intolerance. It is estimated that as much as 20% of the population is lactose intolerant. Some ethnicities have much higher levels of intolerance. Given that dairy products are complex foods and much more than just lactose, a more comprehensive enzyme blend is needed that will also break down the proteins and fat present in milk, including casein, gamma globulin, lactoglobulin, as well as just about any other food consumed with a milk product.
A concern for gluten intolerance continues to increase, almost exponentially. Nutritionists estimate that somewhere between 6 - 10 % of the population is sensitive to gluten. Many feel that gluten sensitivity is even more common. Gluten sensitivity should not be confused with Celiac Sprue (Celiac Disease or gluten-induced enteropathy), which is an auto-immune disease. For this latter group, gluten can be deadly. Gluten sensitivity is a basic intolerance or difficulty digesting cereal grain products, wheat, barley and rye. Dipeptidyl peptidase IV (DPP IV) enzymes are designed to help reduce the indigestion and discomfort in those individuals with gluten sensitivity.
A digestive blend that includes special enzymes helps to cleanse and maintain the intestinal system, and the friendly flora that inhabit it. It helps to clean out the debris caught between the villi and microvilli of the intestinal system. It is also available with probiotics. It can be used as part of a cleansing or detox program and for maintenance of a healthy gastro-intestinal tract.
Digestion is a complex process with many feedback mechanisms and redundancies. Still, digestion can be problematic for many reasons. A safe and natural approach with enzymes is always the best choice. After all, unlike many dietary supplements, with enzymes you can actually feel the difference.
The opinions expressed in the article are the author’s own.