Lipase 101: Why This Enzyme Is Required for Good Digestive Health | 1MD Nutrition™

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Lipase 101: Why This Enzyme Is Required for Good Digestive Health

Lipase, along with protease and amylase, is one of the most important of your digestive enzymes. Understanding the role of lipase in the body is the start of learning how to ensure you always have healthy levels for optimal digestive health.

6 minute read

Last Updated April 7, 2022

Lipase 101: Why This Enzyme Is Required for Good Digestive Health

Lipase and other digestive enzymes are essential for maintaining optimal digestive health. These enzymes first start to work when food comes into contact with saliva. From there, different enzymes perform different functions along the path of the digestive tract.

Let’s take a deeper look into lipase and why it’s essential for proper digestion. Lipase is found in the pancreas and small intestine. Because its primary purpose is to break down lipids, or fats, it’s important to understand how fat affects the body. From there, we can truly understand the importance of lipase and what it does.


How Fats Affect the Body

First of all, there are three main types of digestive enzymes:

Amylase breaks down starches and carbohydrates into sugars.

♦ Protease breaks proteins down into amino acids.

♦ Lipase breaks down lipids (fats and oils) into glycerol and fatty acids.

Lipase is for lipids, which means fat.

Fats aren’t all inherently bad. In fact, they’re an important part of a healthy diet. But some fats are better than others, and choosing the right ones can help lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, and other problems.

Fats are a nutrient that gives your body the energy it needs to run smoothly and effectively. During exercise your body starts using calories from carbohydrates, but after 20 minutes it switches to burning calories from fats.

Not only do fats give your body energy, they keep your skin and hair healthy by absorbing vitamins A, D, E, and K.



Fats are transformed by lipase into essential fatty acids called linoleic and linolenic acids. These two acids are not found in your body naturally; they have to come from food. They are needed for brain development, controlling inflammation, and blood clotting.

The confusion over good and bad fats isn’t easy to clear up because all fats have saturated and unsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fatty acids are considered bad because they raise your LDL cholesterol levels.

High LDL cholesterol puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke and other health problems. If a food has more saturated than unsaturated fatty acids, it’s typically categorized as a bad fat. If foods have more unsaturated fatty acids than saturated, it’s considered a good fat.

Then there are the trans fatty acids, which are unhealthy fats that come from vegetable oil that’s hardened through hydrogenation. Sometimes called hydrogenated fats, they’re used to keep foods fresh longer. They’re very unhealthy and not only raise LDL cholesterol levels, they lower your HDL (good) cholesterol levels.

Understanding Lipase

Lipase takes these fats and breaks them into fatty acids and glycerol, which are then carried by bodily fluids to the areas they’re needed or energy.

a close-up of a person's legs

Not all lipase is created equally. Lipase produces the digestive enzymes that break down lipids, but they are further broken down into categories based on the specific roles they play in the digestion process.

But lipase doesn’t work on its own, it needs bile from the gallbladder to break down the fat molecules before it can even begin to go to work.

While we’ve known for some time that lipase is mainly responsible for helping the body process and absorb fat, it has recently been discovered that lipase has other functions as well.

Lipoprotein lipase plays a role in triglyceride metabolism. This is a form of fat needed for energy.

a table with food and drinks

While the body needs triglycerides, too many of them are bad and can lead to heart issues. Lipase breaks them down into smaller molecules that are then used for energy and dispersed.

It’s also been found that people with digestive issues, especially those of the pancreas, may benefit from lipase in a pill form.

Your digestive enzymes can actually be disrupted fairly easily. They work best at normal body temperatures so a fever can disrupt their function. The pH level of your stomach and intestines can also cause problems. If you take inhibitors, those can interfere with your body’s enzymes.

In addition to adding digestive enzymes in a pill form to help you digest, some foods actually come with their own enzymes that work with your body.

One great example is a banana. Bananas are high in carbohydrates but they also contain amylase so you can easily break down those carbs and turn them into energy.

a bunch of bananas on a table

The Bottom Line

Eating the right foods is important to your overall health, but digesting those foods is a critical component of turning food into energy and waste products. Your body cannot process foods and digest them without the help of enzymes.

While we should stay away from saturated fats, we need fats to survive and be as healthy as possible. Lipase digestive enzymes helps us get the energy and nutrients we need from the foods we eat.