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What is lipase? Why do we need it?

Lipase is one of three categories of enzymes manufactured by the pancreas. In addition to pancreatic lipase, there is also gastric lipase (produced by the stomach), pharyngeal lipase (produced by the salivary glands) and hepatic lipase (produced by the liver).

Each lipase has different properties. Gastric and pharyngeal lipases, for instance, have lower molecular weights and greater pH stability than pancreatic lipase. Gastric lipase metabolizes food molecules within the stomach and intestine, while pharyngeal lipase breaks down molecules in the mouth and esophagus.

Lipases are used by the body to aid in the digestion of fats by breaking them down into free fatty acids and monoglycerides. They can also be used to treat digestive problems and conditions that may cause a person to have trouble absorbing nutrients. Some practitioners believe pancreatic enzyme supplements can treat autoimmune disorders, inflammations and some food allergies.

How much lipase should I take?

Most people already produce plenty of pancreatic lipase. However, to aid in the digestion of fats, some practitioners recommend taking 1-2 capsules of 6,000 LUs (lipase units) before meals.

What are some good sources of lipase?

Lipase is manufactured by the body and does not come from one's diet. However, people can take lipase supplements and other pancreatic enzymes, which are available in capsule and tablet form. Before taking any supplements, however, be sure to consult with a certified health professional.

What can happen if I don't get enough lipase?

Some people are unable to manufacture certain types of lipase, which can hinder the absorption of some nutrients. Damage to the pancreas or liver can also reduce the production of certain lipases. In these situations, lipase and other enzyme supplements are recommended.

What can happen if I take too much?

No side effects or toxicology have been reported in patients taking lipase supplements and other pancreatic enzyme supplements.


  • Berkow R (ed.) The Merck Manual of Medical Information. Home Edition. Whitehouse Station, NJ: Merck Research Laboratories, 1997.
  • Heck AM, Yanovski JA, Calis KA. Orlistat, a new lipase inhibitor for the management of obesity. Pharmacotherapy Mar 2000;20(3):270-9.
  • Mahan KL, Marian A. Krause's Food Nutrition and Diet Therapy, 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Co., 1993.
  • Murray MT. Encyclopedia of Nutritional Supplements. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1986.
  • Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M (eds.) Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease, 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lea and Febiger, 1994.
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