A growing category, enzymes offer a number of benefits beyond aiding digestive health.
The existence of enzymes has been well known for more than a century. However, much like probiotics, it has taken some time for U.S. consumers to fully understand their purpose and acknowledge their various benefits. Now that they are catching on, the market is growing steadily. According to the latest report by Grand View Research, the market for digestive enzyme supplements is expected to reach $1.6 billion (U.S.) by 2025, almost double than the market size of $794.4 million (U.S.) seen in 2015, noted Shaheen Majeed, worldwide president of the Sabinsa Corporation in New Jersey.
“The forecast is based on growing consumer interest in enzyme supplements on account of increasing health concerns i.e., diseases related to the gastrointestinal tract, such as irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease and gastroesophageal reflux disease, as well as awareness of the role digestion plays in good health,” he said.
Melony Fuller, director of marketing for the National Enzyme Company (NEC) in Missouri, added that enzyme awareness is growing because people are able to share their experiences with enzymes on social media. “Currently, social media is teeming with enzyme conversations—focusing on digestive health and weight management.”
In addition to consumers being able to spread the word about enzymes via social media, Fuller noted that retailers are recognizing the needs of their customers—of all ages. “We believe the elevated awareness about the power of enzymes is in response to retailers’ growing understanding of the shift in generational consumer needs. In the NMI 2017 SORD research, Millennials and Baby Boomers were found to be driving supplement purchases–and these groups couldn’t be more vastly different,” she said. “While each group has different needs, they are both looking for similar solutions.”
Digestive Benefits for All
It is fair to say that a number of people in the U.S. have digestive issues, as the standard American diet (SAD) can often wreak havoc on the digestive system. In addition to dietary changes, incorporating digestive enzymes into their daily routine is likely to be beneficial.
Further, combining digestive pre- and probiotics can be taken to support digestion and address different digestive issues. “Digestive enzymes in combination with pre-and probiotics have the potential to provide maximum support for a healthy microbiome, while enzyme formulations to match personal nutrition plans such as high protein diets is a definite trend,” explained Marc Jensen, technical marketing manager for BIO-CAT in Virginia.
In the digestive process, proteolytic enzymes break down long molecules of protein into amino acids. Fuller noted that consumers are keen to the benefits of protein and seek out protein-fortified products. “Proteolytic enzymes can be delivered as a finished dosage form or incorporated with a protein-fortified product,” she said. “Cultivating this thriving trend, NEC recently launched BioCore AminoTap PS, a proteolytic blend allowing brands and product developers the flexibility to dial-in the product performance by price and formulation flexibility. Backed by in-vitro studies, the efficacious dose range is from 50 to 250 mg depending upon the product strategy.”
Jensen added that microbial-based enzymes, such as fungal protease, work best at low pH similar to the levels in the upper digestive tract. “Formulation testing in artificial stomach models shows efficient digestion of protein, starch and lipids by specific microbial-based enzyme blends,” he said. “This is solid evidence that taking enzymes with food can enhance digestion for consumers. The energy required for typical digestion is not insignificant. Using enzymes to lower the required energy may free energy for other physiologic processes including detoxification and immune response.”
BIO-CAT began marketing its digestive enzyme ingredient, Pro ST in 2017 for texture and flavor modification in protein processing and supplementation for high protein diets to produce both essential amino acids and branched chain amino acids (BCAA) naturally. In addition, the company also markets fungal-based alternatives to animal-derived enzymes, such as trypsin and pepsin. These have been very popular for vegan formulations of digestive enzymes, according to Jensen.
Proteolytic enzymes are also beneficial in the sports nutrition category. According to Majeed, recent trends suggest that demand for digestive enzyme supplements is propelled further owing to their clinically demonstrated benefits in sports nutrition. “Athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts are considering these products in optimal fat digestion to manage weight, in maintaining their physical strength and muscle improvement, and for healthy lifestyle,” he said.
Scott Ravech, CEO of Georgia-based Deerland Enzymes & Probiotics, added that people at various fitness levels, from the casual fitness enthusiast to extreme athlete are consuming whey protein supplements more than ever before, and enzymes for protein hydrolysis is an ideal complement to these types of protein supplements.
“‘Being fit’ has emerged as a core interest among Millennials, as more and more are becoming serious about adopting a healthy lifestyle,” Majeed added. “This has led to a significant growth for sports nutrition products. The category has a range of products like sports drinks, sports foods and supplements that are meant to serve specific needs of larger consumer base, which includes athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts. Recently, enzymes have been introduced into the sports nutrition category owing to their effectiveness in supporting amino acids and protein absorption, and reducing fatigue, and even muscle soreness.”
To address the issues associated with the consumption of high amounts of dietary protein and protein supplements, Deerland Enzymes has introduced a protein hydrolysis product called ProHydrolase. Backed by two human clinical studies, ProHydrolase has been shown to break down protein into smaller peptides in order for it to be used by the body for muscle recovery as intended, and also reduce potential for digestive discomfort. This advanced enzyme blend has shown a superior ability to break down whey, both in the lab and clinical study. ProHydrolase is also effective on other types of protein, such as soy, casein, hemp and pea, according to the company.
Food Intolerances & Special Diets
Digestive enzymes are also incredibly beneficial for people with food intolerances, such as gluten or dairy intolerance or dietary restrictions. Ravech observed that a number of the company’s customers have begun to focus on developing products for those with gluten sensitivity, many of whom experience symptoms that manifest in multiple ways.
“An enzyme-based supplement taken with meals can assist the body in breaking down the proteins that can cause immune responses, such as gluten proteins. Based on extensive research, we’ve found that the fastest way to break down gluten is to cleave its peptide bonds internally and externally,” he said. “The scientists at Deerland Enzymes have developed an enzyme supplement product called Glutalytic that’s uniquely designed with both endo- and exopeptidases to break down gluten proteins faster and more efficiently than traditional DPPIV-only supplements. By attacking the gluten protein in two ways, gliadin, the major immune eliciting protein fraction in gluten, can be degraded down from gram to milligram quantities by the time it reaches the small intestine.”
Ravech explained that Glutalytic also has the unique ability to break down competing proteins that may also be present in a gluten-containing meal, such as milk, nuts, fish and soy. By breaking down these competing proteins, the enzymes in Glutalytic are able to attack the gluten proteins faster. It’s important to note that Glutalytic is not meant to be used as a replacement for a gluten-free diet, but rather as a safeguard from accidental gluten consumption.
Gluten is not the only thing that Americans are having trouble digesting these days. In fact, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reported that an estimated 30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant. However, Ravech noted that many people who experience digestive discomfort from consuming dairy products assume they are lactose intolerant, but still do not find relief using traditional lactase enzyme supplements. Their discomfort may actually be attributed to sensitivity to the protein components of dairy, not intolerance to the lactose.
To combat this issue, Deerland Enzymes & Probiotics offers Dairylytic, a dual-functioning enzyme blend formulated with a combination of both lactase and a unique protease enzyme blend developed solely for superior protein and sugar degradation. “This innovative combination is designed to break down the lactose associated with intolerance, as well as make milk proteins (whey and casein) that could cause an immune response easier to digest and absorb,” Ravech said.
While choosing to eat a vegetarian- or vegan-based diet or consume plant-based supplements is usually not [based on] a food allergy or intolerance, plant-based enzymes are growing in popularity. “Though animal-based enzymes are leading the market currently, microbial enzymes, often termed as ‘plant-derived,’ are making inroads,” Majeed said. “These enzymes are of bacterial or fungal origin and are produced through fermentation.”
“Plant-based enzymes are gaining popularity due to their vegan source and proven health benefits,” he continued. “Anticipating the opportunity far in advance, Sabinsa launched a unique multi-enzyme complex, DigeZyme, comprised of five different enzymes each meant to serve different purposes. This proprietary product is the outcome of Sabinsa’s R&D scientists’ focus on the optimal activity of digestive enzymes to aid proper digestion and in turn better absorption of nutrients.
Anyone who has a pet knows that digestive issues aren’t for just humans—pets can have a sensitive or upset stomach, just like any of us. According to Ravech, enzymes help promote canine and feline health by supporting digestion, helping break down food and transporting nutrients in the body. Further, enzyme supplements can also benefit pets that are unable to produce enough of their own enzymes, which can become an issue for pets as they age. Additionally, enzymes can go beyond aiding in digestive distress—some may even be considered for use in pet supplement formulations for both digestive and joint health.
Currently, using digestive enzymes for the purpose of aiding digestion is at the forefront of the category. However, studies are finding that these enzymes are beneficial to more than just the digestive tract. “Enzyme supplementation has now gone beyond digestive aid alone. Recent research has found that digestive enzymes may be helpful in conditions such as immunity, joint and mental health, and weight loss,” Majeed said. “Hence, this is an opportunity for the category to expand further and reach a broader audience.”
While digestive enzymes still dominate the category, systematic enzymes are growing more popular. Systemic enzymes help maintain overall health and can be taken to address a specific issue or offer general body support. “The demand for enzymes with systemic (cardiovascular, circulatory and joint health) benefits is also increasing,” Ravech explained. “Protease enzymes have long been studied for their systemic benefits for cardio and joint health, due to their ability to degrade certain proteins associated with blood clot formation, such as fibrin.”
According to the company, Deerland Enzymes works with customers to create novel and often proprietary blends that incorporate proteolytic enzymes, such as bromelain, nattokinase, serratiopeptidase and papain, along with proprietary blends that offer accelerated protein hydrolysis when compared with other similar products.
With research and innovation, it seems as though the sky is the limit for the enzyme category. “Though enzyme supplements are largely associated with digestive health, the recent surge in interest is mainly fueled by a newer consumer base and wider appeal—thanks to promising results from clinical research,” said Majeed. “Hence, going ahead, the category is expected to witness increased market share and higher sales.”
Fuller agreed, noting that the category is still in the early stages of innovation with lots of uptick for growth. “Similar to where probiotics were seven to eight years ago, enzymes are looking for their moment of fame,” she concluded. “It will come when consumers finally grasp that supplemental enzymes are as simple as “life’s helpers” in supporting the body’s metabolic systems. I believe Dr. Howell, founder of NEC, provided one of the best definitions of enzymes—‘the spark of life.’” NIE
For More Information:
Deerland Enzymes & Probiotics, www.deerlandenzymes.com
National Enzyme Company, www.nationalenzyme.com
Sabinsa Corporation, www.sabinsa.com