Supplements: Lipase

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Lipases are one of three categories of enzymes manufactured by the pancreas. The pancreas is a leaf-shaped gland about five inches long. Along with lipase, the pancreas secretes the hormones insulin and glucagon, which your body needs to metabolize sugar into the bloodstream. The other two enzymes include amylases, which break starch molecules into more simple sugars, and proteases, which break protein molecules into single amino acids. Lipases help your body digest fats by hydrolyzing (breaking up) triglycerides into base glycerol and fatty acid molecules creating free fatty acids and monoglycerides, which are more easily used by the body.


Lipase can be used to treat digestive problems and conditions that cause you to have trouble absorbing nutrients from food. These conditions can result in nutrient deficiences. Lipase supplements can help your body absorb food more easily, keeping your body's nutrients at healthy levels.

Some consider pancreatic enzymes of value in treating autoimmune disorders (such as rheumatoid arthritis), inflammatory diseases, and food allergies. Pancreatic enzymes have been most studied in treating early diagnosed celiac disease (a condition that affects the intestinal tract and can cause nutrient deficiencies) by enhancing the benefit of a gluten-free diet.

Dietary Sources

Lipase is manufactured by the pancreas. It does not come from your diet, but it can be supplemented with animal enzymes.

Other Forms

Lipase produced by the pancreas is called pancreatic lipase. There is also gastric lipase (produced by the stomach) and hepatic lipase (produced by the liver).

How to Take It

Pancreatic enzymes are available in tablet and capsule form. Follow the package directions or your health care provider's instructions for the proper dose.


Most people produce plenty of pancreatic lipase. You are only considered to have a lipase deficiency when your pancreas produces 10 to 15 percent less than normal levels.

Lipase and other pancreatic enzyme supplements are not associated with side effects.

Possible Interactions

Lipase deficiency caused by pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) can be a serious, even life-threatening condition. Self-treatment with lipase supplements is not recommended without medical supervision.

Tablets or capsules of lipase enzymes may be helpful, but you should also avoid alcohol (alcoholism is the leading cause of pancreatitis). Because the pancreas aids in the digestion of fats, a low-fat diet is often recommended.

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Previously Published in OSA Today Reproduced by permission
Updated on: 02/01/10