Vegetarian vs. animal derived enzymes

Many of the digestive and systemic products on the market today contain enzymes derived from animal sources, such as the pancreatic tissue of pigs. However, microbial or vegetarian enzymes have several distinct advantages when compared to animal enzymes.

Vegetarian enzyme supplements can provide greater digestive or systemic activity per capsule or tablet than animal enzyme supplements. Vegetarian enzymes can be concentrated more than animal enzymes, so more activity can be included in each capsule or tablet. This means vegetarian enzymes require fewer capsules or tablets than animal enzymes to provide equivalent digestive or systemic action, which results in better patient compliance. This is particularly significant for systemic use of proteolytic enzymes where large numbers of pancreatin-based tablets are often recommended.1

Vegetarian enzymes function throughout the entire digestive tract. Pepsin only functions in the high acidity of the lower stomach and pancreatin, trypsin and chymotrypsin can only digest food in the alkaline pH of the intestines.

There are many in the enzyme supplement industry using the term “plant” or “plant-source” to describe enzymes from Aspergillus.  This is technically incorrect.  For a number of years, the scientific community has recognized three broad classifications of organisms (animal, plant and microbial) instead of the two many of us learned (animal and plant). 


Since Enzymes, Inc. products are from Aspergillus, a fungal source, they would technically be considered microbial.  But with “microbial” not being readily understood, Enzymes, Inc. uses the term “natural, vegetarian source” - or simply, vegetarian - to describe Aspergillus enzyme products.  The plant enzyme designation should be reserved for enzymes truly from plant sources such as bromelain (pineapple) and papain (papaya).

The most notable distinction between vegetarian enzymes and plant enzymes is the plant enzymes limited digestive activity.  Both bromelain and papain focus entirely on protein-digestion, offering no assistance with carbohydrate, fat and fiber digestion.

In addition, commercially-grown pineapple and papaya are generally exposed to environmental contamination, including pesticides, preservatives and growth-enhancers (not to mention allergic reactions to pineapple and papaya). 

Vegetarian enzymes are optimally active at the precise temperature of the body.  Papain and bromelain enzymes are fully activated at temperatures substantially higher than body temperatures.

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*The information contained on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice provided by a physician or other health care professional. Readers are asked to consult other sources as well as to obtain direct consultation with a physician when making decisions about their health care. The statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, mitigate, cure or prevent any disease.