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Lipase: The Critical Balance of Fat in Your Diet
Fats (lipids) are one of the three major food groups needed for proper nutrition. Lipase is the digestive enzyme needed to digest fat.
Lipase is an enzyme that hydrolyzes lipids, the ester bonds in triglycerides, to form fatty acids and glycerol. While too much fat in our diet can cause severe health conditions including heart disease and cancer, some fat is absolutely required. All cell membranes and other structures are made up of lipids, thus an adequate supply of essential fatty acids in the diet are important to ensure viable cells. Most health care professionals suggest that your daily caloric intake should not include more than 30% of fat calories. Many say no more than 20%.
As important as limiting your fat intake, it is equally or more important to ensure that you properly digest the fat you do eat. If fats (lipids) are not properly broken down before they are absorbed, some health consequences may occur.
The Importance of Lipase
Fats require special digestive action before absorption because the end products must be carried in a water medium (blood and lymph) in which fats are not soluble. Lipase is the primary digestant used to split fats into fatty acids and glycerol. Although little actual fat digestion occurs in the stomach, gastric lipase does digest already emulsified fats such as in egg yolk and cream.
Emulsification is the real key to the proper digestion of fats. The large fat molecule presents comparatively small surfaces for the lipase to work on, so the process of emulsification by the action of bile produced by the liver is necessary. Bile breaks down the large fat molecule to tiny droplets which provide lipase with an enormously increased surface to work on. This action takes place in the small intestine and the lipase involved here is a part of the pancreatic secretion.
The Role of Bile
When a diet is vegetarian, low in protein or high in refined carbohydrates, little bile can be produced by the gall bladder. If the amount of bile is insufficient or the gall bladder is not made to empty itself, or the liver is not stimulated to produce bile, fats remain in such large particles that enzymes cannot combine readily with them; hence fat digestion is incomplete and fat absorption markedly reduced.
How Lipase Deficiency Can Affect Our Health:
For information on how proteins are digested, see Protease.
For information on how carbohydrates are digested, see Amylase.
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Enzyme Essentials products containing LIPASE: