Health Benefits of Proteolytic Enzymes
For the Treatment of Inflammation, Indigestion, and More
Proteolytic enzymes (proteases) are available as supplements that promote proper digestion of food. These enzymes also help regulate metabolic functions (such as helping to break down and digest protein into amino acids).
Proteolytic enzymes are produced in the pancreas, so the body can make its own supply, but they are also contained in certain types of foods. Papaya and pineapple are said to be the two plant sources that contain the highest level of proteolytic enzymes.
Papaya (which supplies the enzyme called papain) and bromelain (which can be found in fresh pineapples) are used commercially to make tenderizers, because of their ability to break down the protein in meat.
Other names for proteolytic enzymes include:
- Digestive enzymes
Proteolytic enzymes are said to have many health benefits, including:
- Supporting a healthy immune system
- Promoting healing of tissues
- Encouraging muscle recovery
- Aiding in digestive function (particularly in the digestion of proteins)
But what does the research say?
As with many herbal medicines and natural supplements, there is overall a lack of enough evidence from clinical research trials to support many of the claims that proteolytic enzymes are effective in the treatment of various maladies.
Much of the research data is very old, and many studies were performed on animals and not on humans. There have been a few studies published, but much of the data is considered insufficient by the medical experts.Digestive Problems A primary use of proteolytic enzymes is to alleviate digestive problems. But an older small double-blind placebo study found that there was no benefit from taking proteolytic enzymes for the treatment of indigestion (dyspepsia).
The results measured a comparison between those with indigestion given pancreatic enzymes for 24 days, compared to the study group participants who took a placebo. There was no evidence of any type of short-term beneficial effect of the pancreatic (proteolytic) enzymes.
Several studies provide preliminary evidence that proteolytic enzymes may be beneficial for treating various types of pain (such as long-term neck pain) as well as osteoarthritis. For example, a 1996 double-blind placebo study discovered that there was a modest reduction of pain when proteolytic enzyme mixtures were given.
Another study involving 400 study participants looked at the results of those taking proteolytic enzymes versus the group that took a standard anti-inflammatory medication called diclofenac for the treatment of osteoarthritis.
The study revealed equal pain management benefits in the group that took the medication and the group that took the proteolytic enzymes.
But, according to the Winchester Hospital Health Library, these studies are said to be inconclusive because there were “various flaws,” including the fact that there was not a placebo group (a group that took a sugar pill).
A 1965 double-blind placebo study (the gold standard of studies) of 44 people with ankle injuries from sports accidents discovered that proteolytic enzymes helped to promote faster healing and 50% less time away from training, as compared with the study group who took the placebo.
According to the Memorial Slone Kettering Cancer Center, the purported effectiveness of proteolytic enzymes for various conditions includes:
- Inflammation: Some studies show benefits in treating inflammation, but there is a lack of sufficient clinical research data to definitively back these claims.
- Autoimmune disorders: There is not enough clinical research data to support the effectiveness of using proteolytic enzymes to treat autoimmune disorders (such as rheumatoid arthritis).
- Viral infections: Clinical research evidence is lacking to support the beneficial use of proteolytic enzymes to treat viral infections.
- Cancer(and cancer treatment symptoms): The research is conflicting.
- Hepatitis C: There is a lack of adequate research evidence to support the use of proteolytic enzymes to effectively treat hepatitis C.
Some of the more recent scientific evidence supporting the beneficial use of proteolytic enzymes for the treatment of various conditions involves combination products, such as proteolytic enzymes plus bioflavonoids or other substances.
Source: Verywell Health
By: Sherry Christiansen
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