Papaya and Pineapple Enzymes

Belonging to the class of proteolytic enzymes, papaya and pineapple enzymes work by breaking protein molecules into their constituent amino acids. These enzymes, found in their corresponding fruits, have been used to treat several ailments, including digestive and sinus issues.

Belonging to the class of proteolytic enzymes, papaya and pineapple enzymes work by breaking protein molecules into their constituent amino acids. Credit: Thu Thai Thanh / EyeEm/EyeEm/GettyImages

Papaya and Pineapple Enzyme Sources

While the enzyme papain is derived from papaya, bromelain comes from pineapple. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, the pineapple plant, or Ananas comosus, is best grown in tropical or subtropical locations around the world.

Papaya or Carica papaya is an herbaceous plant that's native to Central America. It also thrives in tropical and warm, subtropical locations. The short-lived tree produces fleshy, sweet papaya fruit, which is actually considered to be a berry.

There are two main sources of the pineapple enzyme, bromelain. The first is derived from the fruit part of the pineapple and is called fruit bromelain, while the second is derived from the fruit's stem and appropriately named, stem bromelain.

Read more: Can You Use Digestive Enzymes for Weight Loss?

Bromelain derived from the stem is the more common variety that's found in pineapple enzyme supplements. Both papaya and pineapple enzymes are sold in a variety of forms, including as capsules, powders and even in creams.

Benefits of Pineapple Enzymes

According to the authors of a study published in January 2017 by Aga Khan University, studies have shown that bromelain exhibits anti-inflammatory properties. The enzyme has been effectively used to treat inflammation caused by surgery, accidents and burns.

Read more: What Are the Benefits of Eating Pineapple?

A report featured in the September 2016 issue of the journal Biomedical Reports explains that bromelain is able to reduce the side effects of antibiotics. It is also most effective in decreasing the mechanisms of inflammation in cells, especially in terms of the development of cancer and inflammatory bowel disease. Bromelain has also been known to help reduce swelling in nasal passages, quell the symptoms of osteoarthritis and can also be topically applied to burns on the skin.

A study published in Scientific Reports in December 2017 states that bromelain also contains anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties, making it effective in the treatment of microbial activity in wounds. In addition, according to the authors of the September 2016 report in Biomedical Reports, consumption of bromelain in animals helps to prevent the onset of diarrhea that results from the bacterial enterotoxins in E. coli and Vibrio cholerae.

Benefits of Papaya Enzymes

Researchers who conducted a study published in the March 2017 issue of the Journal of Food Measurement and Characterization found that both papaya and pineapple enzymes are effective at tenderizing squid. However, it was papain that fared better at tenderizing the muscle as compared to the enzyme bromelain.

The enzyme papain is able to break down not just proteins, but carbohydrates and fats as well, explains MedlinePlus. This ability is what makes it an effective meat tenderizer. The papaya fruit may also offer antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effects.

According to a study in the October 2017 issue of Trends in Food Science & Technology, papain is not just used for personal consumption. Apart from its ability to tenderize meat efficiently, papain is also effectively used in animal feed, water treatment facilities, baking and even in the brewing process.

According to Harvard Health, it is both the papain in papaya and bromelain in pineapple that may help in heartburn relief. These proteolytic nature of these enzymes, consumed as supplements, can help cleave proteins in food into smaller amino acids, which can then be easily digested and absorbed by the body.

Papaya and Pineapple Side Effects

Even though the benefits of papaya and pineapple enzymes are plenty, there are some side effects to consider. According to Mayo Clinic, the pineapple enzyme bromelain may affect people on blood thinning medication. Bromelain can increase the incidence of bleeding due to its anti-platelet mechanism.

Read more: 3 Side Effects of Eating Too Much Papaya

Papaya that has been fermented may cause a reaction in people with Type 2 diabetes, as it has the ability to decrease blood sugar levels. That, coupled with diabetes medication, may cause one's blood sugar to drop too low, having negative consequences. Similarly, both papaya and pineapple enzymes can have a negative effect on children with cystic fibrosis. High doses of the enzymes affect the colon, causing a disease called fibrosing colonopathy.

The same is true for consuming papaya and pineapple during pregnancy. Consuming papaya as a supplement when pregnant may poison the fetus or lead to birth defects in the baby. As a result, it's best to only consume the fruits in moderation and avoid both supplements of papaya and pineapple during pregnancy.

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