The applications for enzymes have grown beyond simple support for digestion, and consumers are taking note of their benefits.
Age Stress and a too-fast lifestyle can all take their toll on the body, often leaving us with digestive issues and more. With consumers learning that traditional over-the-counter and prescription products simply mask digestive symptoms, enzymes are seeing growth in sales.
Danielle Harrison, scientific and regulatory affairs manager with National Enzyme Company (NEC, Forsyth, MO), said enzyme-based supplements have exhibited a steady climb in the marketplace. “Our fast-paced, high-stress lifestyles often lead to improper digestion. Stress and anxiety can trigger hormones that inhibit digestion. Furthermore, we tend to eat too much and eat on the run. Americans spend millions of dollars each year on antacids, H2 blockers (drugs used to block the action of histamine on parietal cells in the stomach) and other products trying to treat or prevent heartburn, reflux and other symptoms of indigestion. Digestive enzyme supplements can improve digestion and help eliminate these symptoms. The use of enzyme digestive products has not yet become mainstream, but I think we’re close.”
James Gibbons, president of Nature’s Plus (Melville, NY), added that the Enzyme supplements category has grown very well every year for the past decade, at least, and continues to do so, at over seven percent annually. “However, we see a tremendous surge in consumer awareness, with an increase approaching 24 percent annually. So we feel that enzymes are poised to experience an unprecedented explosion in sales over the next three years.”
And although many people are increasingly becoming proactive with healthy lifestyle choices, including eating more fruits and vegetables and increasing exercise, many are still not getting vital enzyme activity in the foods they eat, noted Julie Dennis, national science educator with Source Naturals/Planetary Herbals (Scotts Valley, CA).
At Enzymedica (Port Charlotte, FL), Director of Education David Barton said the company is particularly interested in therapeutic applications of plant-based enzymes. “These enzyme formulas can offer benefits for maintaining healthy cholesterol and circulation, immunity, weight management, balanced microflora (Candida), seasonal allergies, food intolerances, maintaining blood sugar balance and promoting a healthy inflammatory response.”
And, of course, digestive enzymes offer the benefit of improved digestion and nutrient bioavailability in addition to decreased symptoms of indigestion. “Systemic enzyme therapy is the term applied to the action of enzymes absorbed into the bloodstream,” Harrison explained. “Proteolytic enzymes (that digest food proteins) have been the primary enzymes studied for systemic effects. These enzymes have shown significant effects on inflammation and support cardiovascular health.”
Barton listed what he considers to be the most important attributes of enzymes:
• Digestive enzymes are generally considered safe for all ages.
• Supplemental enzymes are not species specific. While the proper dose may differ, pets can use many of the same enzymes a person takes as well. Many enzymes are able to perform the same function within a pet’s digestive tract as they do in humans.
• Enzymes target specific molecules, which may provide benefits to maintain healthy digestion, immunity, metabolism, detoxification and circulation.
• Proteolytic enzymes provide specific support for the immune system. Digesting damaged proteins more efficiently may take stress off the immune system, leaving more energy available for other bodily functions.
Something trending in enzyme products are new vegetable/plant-based formulas, said Angelica Vrablic, PhD, nutrition research manager with American Health (Ronkonkoma, NY). “We are accustomed to seeing some plant-based enzyme formulas such as papaya enzymes and bromelain. However, there are now many more plant/vegetable enzymes available such as lipases (for fat digestion) and cellulases (for fiber digestion).”
A trend for enzyme blends is for them to become more condition specific, noted Mike Smith, vice president of Specialty Enzymes & Biotechnologies (Chino, CA). “That is, positioning them for a specific use. For example, digestive blends are now being marketed for dairy, gluten or for detox programs, among others. Systemic enzymes are being positioned for joint health or cardiovascular health as well.”
NEC’s Harrison added that broadspectrum digestive supplements are the enzyme backbone, but other product categories are beginning to grow. “Systemic products for immune system and cardiovascular support are starting to gain ground,” she said. “Likewise, specialized digestive products for individuals with specific digestive weaknesses are also being formulated. Gluten intolerance is an area of special interest, which enzymes can profoundly affect. Taking this concept even further, NEC is investigating the effectiveness of various enzyme blends in improving the bioavailability of certain nutrients. And, of course, the role of antioxidant enzymes such as SOD and catalase continues to be of interest.”
Manufacturers have found that consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact of enzyme deficiencies and food intolerances. “The statistics speak volumes,” noted Barton: Lactose intolerance affects 30-50 million Americans, and as much as 15 percent of the world’s population suffers when consuming gluten. In addition, 65 percent of people feel eating the wrong types of foods triggers their digestive problems. “Enzyme supplements offer therapeutic benefits to individuals with multiple food intolerances, including difficulties digesting lactose, casein, gluten and phenols, as well as the gas forming starches in beans, grains and raw vegetables.”
To address food intolerances, Enzymedica offers its flagship Digest Spectrum™ with complete support for individuals with multiple food intolerances delivered in a single capsule. Enzymedica’s Lacto™, GlutenEase™, Gastro™ and CarbGest™ provide specific support for digestive discomfort due to dietary sensitivities.
“One of the most exciting developments is the availability of DPP-IV (dipeptidyl Peptidase-4) in digestive enzyme formulas,” noted Walter Crinnion, ND, an expert in naturopathic environmental medicine and consultant to Enzymedica. “DPPIV has been known to support digestion of casein- and gluten-containing foods. An enzyme such as DPP-IV has great potential for individuals experiencing symptoms commonly associated with food intolerance.” DPP-IV is found in Enzymedica products such as GlutenEase.
Source Naturals RejuvenZyme™ is a Comprehensive blend of systemic enzymes uniquely designed to address metabolic inflammation, and may provide benefits for the cardiovascular system, the joints, immune system response and respiratory and antioxidant support. The company’s Vegetarian RejuvenZyme™ includes the same formulation as RejuvenZyme, but contains ingredients suitable for vegetarians and those with allergies to animalbased enzymes.
American Health now offers Digest HPE™, an intensive strength complex of 13 bio-active naturally derived protein, carbohydrate, fiber and fat-digesting enzymes—at industry leading high performing activity levels—that aid in more thorough and efficient digestion. “It was specially developed to deliver the high levels of important enzymes our bodies need—even the ones the body does not produce on its own (papain, bromelain, cellulase)—to better breakdown everything you eat more efficiently, and feel better about the foods you eat,” said Vrablic. The product is a non-GMO, vegan/vegetarian suitable formula.
In addition to offering a whole line of digestion-focused enzyme products, Nature’s Plus also includes live enzymes in other kinds of products. One of the company’s most popular products is the Whole Food Total Body Cleanse with Açai. It features cleansing whole foods and fiber, as well as enzymes and a full-spectrum blend of probiotics to enhance the health of the entire digestive tract, including the mouth, teeth and throat.
Ways to Ingest
Capsules and tablets remain the preferred delivery method for enzyme supplementation, however, convenience may drive what’s new in the category, said Lisa Hammers, sales representative with American Laboratories (Omaha, NE). “In the past year, we have seen more enzymes supplied as a ready-to-drink mix in individual stick packs. In the next few years, I believe we will see more new ideas for enzymes to be taken by consumers on the go.”
But as Specialty Enzymes’ Smith explained, enzyme stability will always be the controlling factor in novel delivery systems. “Temperature, pH, moisture and light can all affect enzyme activity adversely,” he said. “In terms of shelf life, enzymes are most stable in powder form. Because of this, capsules are generally the best delivery system. You also find enzymes in powder form in meal replacement shakes and high protein powders that are mixed at the time of use. Enzymes only become active once they go into a solution. The down side of that is they begin to denature (become Inactive) over a relatively short period of time (hours to days). As a result, a readyto- drink beverage that contains enzymes is generally not practical due to the short shelf life. Once an enzyme is denatured, it is simply an inactive protein.”
Another delivery consideration is enteric coating, Smith added. “Fortunately, most plant- and fungalderived enzymes have a broad pH range and can easily handle the changes of pH throughout the gastrointestinal tract. Some, but not all of the bacterial-source enzymes do better if they are enterically coated. Serratiopeptidase and nattokinase are included in this category. Some formulators also want animal-source pancreatic enzymes enterically coated since they are best suited to an alkaline environment.”
NEC shared that it stays hopeful and is also exploring the benefits of microencapsulation and various coating materials for different applications and delivery systems.
While manufacturers say it’s difficult to pinpoint specific enzyme research they’re interested in, the hottest areas are systemic enzymes, as well as Long-term stability and safety. Ultimately, manufacturers want to know the therapeutic uses of enzymes and how they can maintain and support healthy functions of the body, including metabolic, immune and cardiovascular.
For the future, enzymes in the natural marketplace will likely see continued strength. “As long as antacids like Tums and H2 blockers like Pepcid are profitable, There is little incentive for major pharmaceutical corporations to market digestive enzymes,” concluded Smith. “The same applies to the systemic enzymes. As a result, enzymes will continue to grow as they have over the past two decades by word of mouth, recommendations from health practitioners open to alternative medicine and publications in the natural products industry. Finally, growth will continue because enzymes produce results you can actually feel.”
No Clowning Around—Enzymes Can Help With Pain
Retailer Lauren Gaffney is the purchasing manager with Mastel’s Health Foods in St. Paul, MN. Founded in 1968, the 800-square-foot store is the oldest in the city. Gaffney has been with the store since 2002. Here, she discusses enzymes with VR.
Q: What are some uses for enzymes besides digestion gaining favor in your store? Inflammation immediately comes to mind. The store has been selling Wobenzym for a long time. Enzymedica is sold and well liked. The products are cultured in-lab, vegan and available in a broad range of pH.
For sports related pain, Enzymedica’s Repair Gold product is more effective than ibuprofen for sore muscles. We do a lot of education in our aisles: for the customer taking warfarin/ Coumadin, we suggest enzymes for pain and inflammation as an alternative to an herbal antiinflammatory, such as turmeric or white willow.
Q: How is that conversation started with customers? Often when customers mention back pain or plantar fasciitis, they want to do something for the pain. Advil may have stopped working for them or ibuprofen upset their stomach, and they want something they can take long-term. Enzymes offer a nice go-to—they can be taken long-term and not be hard on the liver or stomach.
Q: Is this a new concept in the store? Not in our store. We try to stay ahead of the curve, and Enzymedica has been marketing things that way.
Enzymedica offers third-party research on enzymes that we find very useful, especially on enzymes and autism. High quality therablending gives a product the opportunity to be effective.
Q: Have you observed a recent evolution regarding enzymes? Yes, with food sensitivities. People are more aware as there is more information out there on the Internet. More people understand that enzymes can be used in more ways. I have a customer who use uses Enzymedica’s MucoStop for her child when he has a cold. It’s very effective. Basically, consumers are finding that enzymes are more than just animal-sourced and more than just Beano.
Q: How do you suggest your customers remember to take their enzymes? The little pocket travel packs are great for digestive enzymes and very convenient— Especially out at a restaurant. I suggest customers take their enzymes first thing in the morning or mid-morning, on an empty stomach. For older customers who take systemic/proteolytic enzymes and who wake up during the night, I suggest keeping the bottle on their bedside table to take then.
Q: And you don’t just recommend the products to your customers. Is it true you also take them yourself? I was bored with the gym, so I began taking adult circus classes for fitness—I practiced and performed on the trapeze and aerial silk/tissue. With all the drops And twists required, I found the class to be hard on the body, leaving me feeling sore. After taking Enzymedica’s Repair Gold, the difference was remarkable.
I also also suggested my husband go the natural route for pain management. He trains jujitsu and had bad side effects from over-the-counter pain relief medications. Proteolytic enzymes took care of his pain.
A Focus on Pets
Retailer Robert Goodine, owner of 3,000-square-foot Down to Earth Nutrition in Green Bay, WI, agreed with David Barton, Enzymedica’s director of education, that enzymes are beneficial for animals as well as humans. In fact, sales of those products are especially strong in his store. “We have a huge pet section and we sell a lot of enzymes, especially for older dogs. They have smaller digestive systems.” In addition, the store is one of the largest suppliers of raw Dog foods in the state of Wisconsin.
Signs that a dog could benefit from enzyme supplementation are loose stools, frequent vomiting and a dull coat, Goodine said. Not only does he promote a diet of raw food for pets, but he also suggests putting enzymes on top of the food. “And it’s helpful for animals that might have other issues as well, such as cancer or allergies. It helps them digest food a lot more efficiently. I like Enzymedica’s Pet Digest—that’s a great one. Also, you can use Enzymedica’s Digest Gold for your pet. Just open up the capsule and sprinkle half of it onto their food.”