What are Protease?
The Importance of Protein
Protein is generally hailed as one of the “building blocks” of the human body, being an essential component in many bodily structures as well as bodily processes. However, like every other type of nutrient, we need to be able to extract it from either our diet or another source. The main way that our bodies do this is through enzymes, and in protein’s case, the primary enzymes that get the job done are proteases, also known as eptidases, proteases or proteinases. Notably, both plants and animals rely on proteases for daily function, and this fact may actually be relevant for your health, as we will explain.1
The Role of Protease
Compared to lipase and amylase, which break down fats and carbohydrates, respectively, the protease family has more extensive roles. Yes, protease helps break down proteins in foods into amino acids, which the body can then use for energy. This mirrors its counterparts. But where proteases stand apart is the fact that they also play a number of other roles in essential processes, such as:
In some cases, enzymes are directly responsible for activating these processes, and in other cases, they speed them up to the point where they have a notable effect.Studies are also showing that getting added protease may have some potential health benefits. Here are some standout findings.
- Blood clotting
- Cell division
- Recycling of proteins
- Immune support2
Digestive support: We mentioned that protease helps the body absorb essential amino acids, but by helping the digestive process, protease enzymes may help people who experience indigestion symptoms like loss of appetite, bloating and abdominal discomfort.3
Muscle soreness: Athletes consider protein to be a major part of their health regimen, and protease may factor in as well. In one study, a protease enzyme blend reduced muscle tenderness and soreness post-workout over a placebo.4 Wound healing: One small study showed that swelling and discomfort sensations were reduced in post-dental surgery patients after taking the protease enzyme serrapeptase.5
Supporting Your Protease
So now that we know all that proteases can do, where can you get them from? As mentioned earlier, both plants and animals have proteases, and in some cases, incorporating those plant enzymes is a great option. Two popular proteases that come from plant sources are papain from papayas and bromelain from pineapple. Both of these have been used for their ability to break down proteins for centuries, but as a meat tenderizer, not for health reasons.6 These are two of the most popular food sources, but there are others as well, such as ginger, asparagus, kiwifruit and kimchi. Another option is getting it from supplements for a variety of health support functions. For example, uses protease in a digestive formula that helps with nutrient absorption while supporting digestive stability. However, proteases are also used in which helps lower excessive mucus due to allergies or temperature changes. Note that proteases are a wide umbrella, so each supplement uses the right proteases for the particular situation. When it comes to trying to get more proteases through diet or supplemental means, it’s important to find the right fit for your situation. The best way to do this is to meet with a doctor before taking a protease supplement to determine exactly what type of enzyme help you may need. It may also be a good idea to get your pH levels checked, as all enzymes need to be within a certain pH range to function.7
- Hartl M, Giri AP, Kaur H, Baldwin IT. The multiple functions of plant serine protease inhibitors: defense against herbivores and beyond. Plant Signal Behav. 2011;6(7):1009-11.
- Mótyán JA, Tóth F, Tőzsér J. Research applications of proteolytic enzymes in molecular biology. Biomolecules. 2013;3(4):923-42.
- C. Ciacci, F. Franceschi*, F. Purchiaroni*, P. Capone**, F. Buccelletti*, P. Iacomini*, A. Ranaudo**, P. Andreozzi**, P. Tondi#, N. Gentiloni Silveri*, A. Gasbarrini°, G. Gasbarrini§. Effect of beta-Glucan, Inositol and digestive enzymes in GI symptoms of patients with IBS. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci 2011; 15 (6): 637-643
- Udani JK, Singh BB, Singh VJ, Sandoval E. BounceBack capsules for reduction of DOMS after eccentric exercise: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover pilot study. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2009;6:14.
- Al-khateeb TH, Nusair Y. Effect of the proteolytic enzyme serrapeptase on swelling, pain and trismus after surgical extraction of mandibular third molars. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2008;37(3):264-8.
- Bekhit AA, Hopkins DL, Geesink G, Bekhit AA, Franks P. Exogenous proteases for meat tenderization. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(8):1012-31.
- Mcdermid AS, Mckee AS, Marsh PD. Effect of environmental pH on enzyme activity and growth of Bacteroides gingivalis W50. Infect Immun. 1988;56(5):1096-100.
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