Lipase is an enzyme capable of degrading lipid molecules. The bulk of dietary lipids are a class called triacylglycerols and are attacked by lipases to yield simple fatty acids and glycerol, molecules which can permeate the membranes of the stomach and small intestine for use by the body. Gastric lipase, secreted by the stomach lining, has a pH value for optimal activity around neutrality and would appear, therefore, to be essentially inactive in the strongly acid environment of the stomach. It is suggested that this enzyme is more important for infant digestion since the gastric pH in infancy is much less acid than later in life. Most lipid digestion in the adult occurs in the upper loop of the small intestine and is accomplished by a lipase secreted by the pancreas.
Lipase: The Missing Enzyme
Fats are the most difficult component of the diet to digest. Fatty foods cause more indigestion than proteins or starches.
Most Americans have crossed-wires when it comes to fats. Because of bulging waistlines, most Americans battle between fat-phobia and fat-craving. The human body is programmed to crave fats. Without essential fats and fatty nutrients animals and humans cease to thrive. Omega-3 and omega-6 fats from flaxseed and cold-water fish were found to be essential for human health by physiologists in the 1930s.
The American diet is intentionally laden with saturated fats and hardened hydrogenated fats, leaving about 80% of the population deficient in the essential fats required for the maintenance of the human nervous system, the production of hormones and the control of inflammation.
Foods actually taste better when they contain fats. A famous fast-food quarter-pound hamburger actually has a saturated fat content equivalent to 16 pats of butter! The fast-food engineers really know how to stimulate our taste buds.
It is worth noting here that weight loss is a common finding among individuals with chronic heart failure. It is evident that malabsorption of fats is related to heart failure.
In one study subjects with heart disease had 10 times more fat in their stool than heart-healthy individuals. This means those with heart disease weren’t absorbing their fats (Am J Cardiiology 5: 295, 1960). Yet heart patients are typically placed on low-fat diets! These individuals were leaner, but not healthier.
It was not till 1997 that researchers found that lipase also can help to control LDL cholesterol and is helpful in stubborn cases of high triglycerides. (Lipds 32: 1147, 1997).