Lipase & Lipids for Health

My people perish from a lack of knowledge (Hosea 4: 6)

Image MayonnaiseAfter having been deceived by the low-fat/ no-fat folks, I didn't leap on the butter & mayonnaise-bandwagon, the minute I bought Nourishing Traditions.

I had long-ago given up traditional animal and dairy-fats (red meat, real butter, natural whole-fat cream) exchanging them for the low-fat lie.  

To make another switch, going back to real foods, seemed to take more faith than when I so-easily accepted the poor substitutes. Odd how that works.

Fooled once, I threw myself into checking and double-checking the fat-ology precepts of  Nourishing Traditions (NT) and Weston A. Price Foundation's (WAPF) to better understand why nutrient-dense animal fats and saturated coconut oil could be considered healthy.

It helped that Sally Fallon and Dr. Mary Enig, an experienced chemist and researcher, widely-known and respected for her research on the nutritional aspects of fats and oils, are not figureheads, but readily-available to answer questions in the traditional-fats-are-healthy and modern-fats-are-deadly message.

"Dr. Mary Enig, co-author of Nourishing Traditions, published research in 1978 when she was at the University of Maryland, showing the stastistical correlation between the increase of cancer mortality and vegetable fat consumption in the United States.Dr. Passwater's Interview with Dr. Mary Enig

Dr. Enig is a prolific author, writing from a sound-science point-of-view, as well as widely-interviewed: Dr. Passwater's Interview with Dr. Mary Enig and  Why Fats are Beneficial.

During the last several years, others, like-minded in the need to help educate traditional-fat vs modern-processed-fat, have contributed informative pieces, supporting and verifying the NT and WAPF-message:

"The answer lies in the overriding importance of fats and oils not only for our energy metabolism, but even more so for the structural integrity of our body. Fats, oils and related fat-soluble vitamins and other biochemicals, such as lecithin and cholesterol, are collectively called lipids. Most of our brain, nerves and cell membranes consist of lipids. Lipase is important to maintain optimal cell membrane permeability; this allows adequate nutrient supply into the cells and wastes to flow out.  P.G. Seeger, the most prolific researcher into the relationship between nutrition and cancer, has clearly shown that the first biochemical step towards cancer is a deterioration of the cell membrane." Lipase & Fat Metabolism

Dr. Enig had a Faculty Research Associateship from 1984 through 1991 with the Lipids Research Group in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Lipids and lipase are foundational to the health-supporting message of Nourishing Traditions (NT) and Weston A. Price Foundation's (WAPF).

Here's a quick summary of what is, at best, a gross over-simplification, but enough to understand their valuable role in maintaining major facets of health.

Graphic No 1

Lipids (fats) require special digestive action before absorption into the human body, as the end products must be carried in a water medium (blood and lymph) in which fats are not soluble.

  • Lipids are one of 3 major food groups needed for proper nutrition
  • Lipids are fats (triglycerides), oils and fat-soluble vitamins and other biochemicals (lecithin and cholesterol) found in nutrient-dense whole-foods. 
  • Off topic:  Triglycerides are stored in muscles - for those who body-build
  • Lipids are also a large component of our brain, nervous system and cell membranes all of which need to be restored, refreshed, regenerated by fatty acids (among many other chemical processes). 
  • Lipid-rich foods (triglycerides) must be broken down into their components (fatty acids), for absorption through our intestinal wall.

Fats (or) Oils + Water ---lipase---> Fatty acids + Glycerol

Graphic No 2

Lipase hydrolyze (break down) lipids for proper digestion and absorption in our body. If lipids are NOT properly broken down before they are absorbed, health issues may occur.

  • Lipase (enzyme - a protein) breaks down (hydrolyzes) the lipid ester bonds in triglycerides into basic components of fatty acids, separating them from their glycerol base
  • Lipase require high water content so that the end product (fatty acids and glycerol) may be transported through blood and lymph system
  • Lipase are hormone-sensitive (therefore, thyroid-responsive, reactive..)
  • Best lipase source: Raw, unheated, unrefined fats and oils (egg  yolk, cream, whole coconut, whole avocado, etc.)
  • Produced internally by pancreas and liver
  • Produced in the mouth (lingual lipase) - hydrolyzing appromixately 10% of the ingested triglycerides to glycerol and free fatty acids
  • Gastric lipase - digests already emulsified fats likes egg yolk and cream
  • Important to maintain optimal cell membrane permeability; this allows adequate nutrient supply into the cells and wastes to flow out
  • Regulates blood pressure and functioning of digestive system
  • Maintains proper body weight; low levels may cause weight gain
  • Neutralized by heat (pasteurization) or acids (vinegar, stomach acid, etc.)
  • Destroyed by heat (cooking, grilling, etc.)
  • Lipase are also important in the fermentation process of cheese and yogurt, freeing fatty acids and breaking down fat. (Read more here.)
  • Last but not least? Why did I have such difficulty digesting nutrient-dense WAPF/NT whole-fats after spending 16-years on a low fat diet? Lipase requires a high pH for its activation among food enzymes. That is why fats are the most difficult of all foods to digest.

Lipase Deficiency

When lipase is deficient in the food we eat, or the pancreas becomes over-taxed needing to produce that which the pancreas isn't creating; or when we don't "Chew your food! Chew! Chew! Chew!" but instead, "Wolf it down!", we may experience internal lipase deficiency.

Lipase has vast importance for our health, not just in regard to the commonly recognized diseases of the fat metabolism, such as overweight and underweight, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, strokes and degenerative muscle diseases, but also for skin problems, autoimmune diseases, cancer, degenerative diseases of the brain and nervous system, and also for rejuvenation and regeneration in general. Dr. Walter Last

The natural solution - rather than taking lipase supplements which don't work well for all people, and may cause stomach and digestion upset - is to consume foods that are high in lipids and raw lipase.  Raw egg yolk, grass-fed full-fat cream, butter, milk, and eating whole-foods sources of raw lipase - avocado, coconuts - instead of just their oil, are easy, tasty way to maintain a sufficient supply of food-based lipase. 

Lipase + Vinegar 

Bicarbonate secreted by the pancreas neutralizes acid and protects digestive enzymes. Digestive Enzymes

I do not use apple cider vinegar (ACV) as it may neutralize raw-egg lipase, which then interferes with the lipid-lipase-water interface when breaking down fats. In a nutrient-dense, whole-food diet where there is a good supply of steady lipid-rich foods throughout the day, this may not be a concern, but for those transitioning from a dead-nutrient standard-American diet, every bit of lipase counts.

Fats (or) Oils + Water ---lipase---> Fatty acids + Glycerol

Use heat or vinegar-acid, and you'll remove lipase from the above equation, resulting in an ineffective, indigestible fat, without benefit of freed fatty acids.

Health Benefits of Whole-Food Lipase

  • Hydrolizes lipids (breaks down fats) into fatty acids and glycerol
  • Aids in weight loss
  • Reduces gallstone development and size of gallstones
  • Increases cell permeability for nutrients to enter, wastes to exist
  • Reduces unhealthy fat buildup in bloodstream
  • Lipase deficiency is highest when diet contains no more than 20 grams fat each day
  • Reduce/eliminate fat intolerance - inabilty to digest dietary fats
  • Stabilize cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Reduce varicose veins
  • Improve fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D and E

Where to Start Getting Lipase into Your Diet..

Home-made mayonnaise is rich in beneficial lipids; quick and easy-to-make using Pickl-It lipase-rich mayonnaise recipe.

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To Learn More Graphic




Why Fats are Beneficial - Interview with Dr. Mary Enig

Know Your Fats - Chris Masterjohn

Lipids - Science! Great for your high-school biochem student!

Food Lipds - Ohio State EDU PDF Presentation (good for those interested in biochemistry)

 Utah's Fry Sauce - Utahns, you know what I mean.....

Lipase - University of Maryland

Lingual Lipase - Important for digestion

The Skinny on Fats - Lipids - Weston A Price

The Oiling of America - Sally Fallon & Dr.  Mary Enig

Plant Physiology and Biochemistry of Olive Fruit - As of 2010,  despite the importance of virgin olive oil for nutrition and human health, few studies have been realized on lipase activity in Olea europaea fruits.

Olive Oil Extraction Processes 

Principles of Food Chemistry

Some Oil In Water is Not Absolute Evil

While all lipid-rich (fat) foods are high in lipase,  lipase may not be available.  (For more information on the connection between lipids and lipase and its relationship to our digestive and pancreas-health, read my other article, "Lipids & Lipase: Keys to Good Health".

Online Educational Videos:

Why Fats Are Beneficial - Dr. Mary Enig Interview

Fats and Oils - Sally Fallon & Dr. Mary Enig

How Fats are Digested

Lipids & Membranes 

Industrial Lipase-Fermentation and Applications 

Fats & Lipase - Gluten Sensitivity in Lipase-Deficiency Diet

RAW HUMAN MILK: In recent studies, infants on pasteurized human milk did not gain weight as quickly compared to those fed raw human milk (J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1986 Mar-Apr;5(2):248-53) and premature babies given raw human milk had more rapid weight gain than those given pasteurized human milk. Problems were attributed to pasteurization's destruction of lipase (J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1986 Mar-Apr;5(2):242-7).