Amylase is one of the primary starch-digesting enzymes secreted in the body. This enzyme is somewhat unusual in that it is produced not only by the pancreas but also in the mouth as a component of saliva. In the oral cavity, as food is chewed and mixes with saliva, amylase begins the enzymatic digestion of dietary starch and glycogen (carbohydrates) into smaller molecules and ultimately glucose and maltose.
How Does Amylase Work?
The amylase in the mouth first begins to work on polysaccharides, such as starch and glycogen, which are present in food. The form of amylase in the mouth is known as ptyalin (ti´ah-lin), and as you chew your food, it begins to digest larger, insoluble starches into soluble dextrins and ultimately, the single sugar maltose. If this important enzyme were not excreted in the saliva, the small intestine would have a much harder time breaking down sugars and starches. In this way, amylase helps the entire digestive system work better.
The process is inactivated as the food enters the more acidic environment of the stomach, although salivary amylase can act on the food bolus in the stomach for up to an hour before the gastric acid renders it inactive. Once the partially digested food moves from the stomach into the small intestine, pancreatic amylase goes into action. Starches continue to be broken into smaller trisaccharides and disaccharides and finally, into glucose which the body uses for energy.
Alpha-amylase hydrolyzes (breaks down) the alpha bonds in long starch or glycogen molecules into smaller chains of glucose called dextrins, which are easier to digest. Both salivary and pancreatic amylase are the alpha-amylase form. Amylase is also produced by various bacteria and fungal organisms like Aspergillus oryzae from which it can be isolated for effective, vegan-safe dietary supplements.
Due to poor dietary habits and age, most people become deficient in amylase production and may show some signs of deficiency which may include skin rash, allergies, gas, constipation, mood imbalances, and general digestive upset. What is more, having sufficient amylase activity reduces contributors to some degenerative diseases, as it helps the body digest and excrete dead white blood cells. Without proper amylase activity, inflammation can be excessive. Low amylase is also thought to be a factor in a variety of diseases that affect blood sugar and many forms of food sensitivities.
The Health Benefits of Amylase
1. Supports Normal Autoimmune Responses
One study on digestive enzymes and autoimmune diseases found that these enzymes could help slow the aggregations of antigens (molecules that trigger immune responses), as well as the resulting tissue damage from the heightened conglomeration of antibodies (immune system proteins that neutralize foreign cells). Some scientists are looking into the strong possibility that enzymes such as amylase can play a role in boosting immunomodulatory activity halting these strong immune states.[2, 3, 4, 5]
2. Resists to Swelling and Redness
Many European research groups are actively studying enzymes such as amylase. Oral enzymes are even being used in European countries as studies show that oral enzymes are effective at reducing swelling. Several placebo-controlled comparison studies found that patients with rheumatic ailments taking enzymes experienced some anti-swelling effects. These studies suggest that enzyme preparations can be just as effective as strong drugs, without many of the harmful side effects.[6, 7, 8, 9]
3. Inhibits Cell Growth
While not an approved course of action in the United States, enzyme therapy is even being studied in Switzerland for its uses as a supportive therapy in inhibiting the growth of tumor cells with metastatic capacities.[10, 11] The Swiss research team concluded these astounding results of the study: "Enzyme therapy can reduce the adverse effects caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. There is also evidence that, in some types of tumors, survival may be prolonged. The beneficial effect of systemic enzyme therapy seems to be based on its potential to reduce redness."
4. Normalizes Blood Sugar
Studies have linked low amylase levels to increased metabolic health conditions. One study looked at diabetic patients and found when blood sugar was higher, amylase levels were lower. The scientists in that study connected the decreased amylase production to an impaired pancreas. Although there are no studies that link amylase supplementation to improved metabolic conditions, the research indicates that taking amylase – especially as it declines with age – may have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels.
How to Read the Units of Measurement for Amylase
Alpha-amylase is measured by the FCC in DU (Dextrinizing Unit). This is a measure of the hydrolysis of gelatinized starches to dextrins and sugars. One DU is defined as the number of grams of soluble starch dextrinized per hour at 30 degrees Celsius and pH 4.6. The FCC notation stands for Foods Chemical Codex and is a division of USP (United States Pharmacopeia). It sets standards for ingredients. In the case of enzymes, FCC is a standard assay used to accurately determine the activity of enzymes. The current compendium is FCC VI.
Where Can I Find the Best Source of Amylase?
VeganZyme® contains a 100 percent vegan form of amylase produced by the natural fermentation process of Aspergillus oryzae. It comes from all vegetarian, non-GMO sources, is kosher-certified, gluten-free, made in the USA from globally sourced ingredients, contains no animal products, and is suitable for vegetarians and vegans. VeganZyme is the most advanced full-spectrum systemic and digestive enzyme formula in the world and is free from fillers and toxic compounds.
This formula contains digestive enzymes which help digest fats (lipids), sugars, proteins, carbohydrates, gluten, fruits and vegetables, cereals, legumes, bran, nuts and seeds, soy, dairy and all other food sources. VeganZyme may also be used as a systemic enzyme blend to break down excess mucus, fibrin, various toxins, allergens, as well as excess clotting factors throughout your body.
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- Stauder G, Ransberger K, Streichhan P, Van Schaik W, Pollinger W. "The use of hydrolytic enzymes as adjuvant therapy in AIDS/ARC/LAS patients." Biomed Pharmacother. 1988;42(1),31-4.
- Stauder G. "Pharmacological effects of oral enzyme combinations." Cas Lek Cesk. 1995;134(19),620-4.
- Nouza K. "Systemic enzyme therapy in diseases of the vascular system." Bratisl Lek Listy. 1995;96(10),566-9. Czech.
- Heyll U, et al. "[Proteolytic enzymes as an alternative in comparison with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) in the treatment of degenerative and inflammatory rheumatic disease: systematic review]." Med Klin (Munich). 2003;98(11),609-15. Review. German.
- Klein G, et al. "Efficacy and tolerance of an oral enzyme combination in painful osteoarthritis of the hip. A double-blind, randomised study comparing oral enzymes with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs." Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2006;24(1),25-30.
- Akhtar NM, et al. "Oral enzyme combination versus diclofenac in the treatment of osteoarthritis of the knee--a double-blind prospective randomized study." Clin Rheumatol. 2004;23(5),410-5.
- "Oral enzyme therapy in osteoarthritis of the knee." Proteolytic enzyme are effective with few risks. MMW Fortschr Med. 2001 Jun 7;143(23):44-6. German.
- Leipner J, et al. Therapy with proteolytic enzymes in rheumatic disorders." BioDrugs. 2001;15(12):779-89. Review.
- Novak JF, Trnka F. "Proenzyme therapy of cancer ." 2005 Mar-Apr;25(2A):1157-77. Erratum in: Anticancer Res. 2005 May-Jun;25(3c):2599.
- Leipner J, Saller R. "Systemic enzyme therapy in oncology: effect and mode of action. Drugs. 2000 Apr;59(4):769-80. Review.
- Yadav R, et al. The evaluation of serum amylase in the patients of Type 2 diabetes mellitus, with a possible correlation with the pancreatic functions. J Clin Diagn Res. 2013 Jul;7(7):1291–1294.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.