Protease enzyme health benefit
June 22 2017 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

A protease is any enzyme that breaks down protein by hydrolysis of the peptide bonds that link amino acids together in the polypeptide chain. Protease enzyme are found naturally in all organisms. Protease enzymes are involved in a variety of physiological enzymatic reactions from simple digestion of food proteins to the blood-clotting cascade, the complement system, and other important physiological functions.

Examples of proteases
Nattokinase is a serine protease that is produced by Bacillus subtilis and used for dissolving blood clots and preventing the aggregation of red blood cells. Some use this supplement as a blood thinner.
Papain is a protease from papaya.
Digestive proteases include pepsin, trypsin and chymotrypsin
Blood dissolving proteases include thrombin, plasmin, Hageman factor, and ohters.

Protease supplement use
The effects of protease supplementation on skeletal muscle function and DOMS following downhill running.
J Sports Sci. 2004. Miller PC, Bailey SP, Barnes ME, Derr SJ. Department of Health and Human Performance, Elon University, Elon, NC.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of protease supplementation on muscle soreness and contractile performance after downhill running. Ten matched pairs of male participants ran at a -10% grade for 30 min at 80% of their predicted maximal heart rate. The participants consumed two protease tablets (325 mg pancreatic enzymes, 75 mg trypsin, 50 mg papain, 50 mg bromelain, 10 mg amylase, 10 mg lipase, 10 mg lysozyme, 2 mg chymotrypisn) or a placebo four times a day beginning 1 day before exercise and lasting a total of 4 days. The participants were evaluated for perceived muscle soreness of the front and back of the dominant leg, pressure pain threshold by dolorimetry of the anterior medial, anterior lateral, posterior medial and posterior lateral quadrants of the thigh, and knee extension/flexion torque and power. The experimental group demonstrated superior recovery of contractile function and diminished effects of delayed-onset muscle soreness after downhill running when compared with the placebo group. Our results indicate that protease supplementation may attenuate muscle soreness after downhill running. Protease supplementation may also facilitate muscle healing and allow for faster restoration of contractile function after intense exercise.

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013. The mitochondrial rhomboid protease: its rise from obscurity to the pinnacle of disease-relevant genes. The Rhomboid proteases belong to a highly conserved family of proteins that are present in all branches of life. In Drosophila, the secretory pathway-localized rhomboid proteases are crucial for epidermal growth factor (EGF) signaling. The identification of a mitochondrial-localized rhomboid protease shed light on other functions of rhomboid proteases including the maintenance of mitochondrial morphology and the regulation of apoptosis. More recent work has revealed other functions of the mitochondrial rhomboid protease in mitochondrial and cellular biology, failure of which have been implicated in human diseases. In this review, we will summarize the current knowledge and disease relevance of the mitochondrial-localized rhomboid protease.

Biotechnol Adv. 2011. Production of plant proteases in vivo and in vitro--a review. In the latest two decades, the interest received by plant proteases has increased significantly. Plant enzymes such as proteases are widely used in medicine and the food industry. Some proteases, like papain, bromelain and ficin are used in various processes such as brewing, meat softening, milk-clotting, cancer treatment, digestion and viral disorders. These enzymes can be obtained from their natural source or through in vitro cultures, in order to ensure a continuous source of plant enzymes.

Q. I'm a little confused about protease. I'm interested in two supplements: one is Lecithin and the other is a Multi Enzyme. I've read that Lecithin is a good protease inhibitor that protects against cancer. I've read from different Internet sources that protease is a cancer promoting enzyme. I also like the idea of Multi Enzymes breaking down food and eliminating toxins but practically all multi enzymes have protease. Maybe I don't understand the biological or chemical phases of it but wouldn't these two supplements kind of cancel each other out?
   A. I am not familiar with any human studies regarding the administration of lecithin and evaluation of its protease inhibiting action. I am also not familiar with any human studies regarding the administration of protease supplements in terms of inducing or worsening cancer.

Q. I am thinking of taking a product called Vitalzym which has proteases as the primary ingredient. What kind of protease is in Vitalzym product?
   A. You may wish to ask the makers of Vitalzym since the term protease is a general term and does not specify what kind of protease is in the product.