Promoters of systemic enzyme therapy often emphasize their benefit against cancer and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, writes Dr. Andrew Weil. However, medical research has failed to show that these enzymes conclusively treat or prevent any disease.
Among systemic enzymes, digestive enzymes are most likely to offer actual health benefit, according to Dr. Weil. Digestive enzymes can help a patient with digestive problems. A consumer should interpret other health claims with caution. Ingested enzymes are broken down in the stomach during digestion, making it implausible for these enzymes to exert systemic health benefits.
In particular, serratiopeptidase, an enzyme found in silkworm intestines, has received much attention for its purported health benefits, reports Dr. Weil. Laboratory studies demonstrate that serratiopeptidase has anti-inflammatory properties, and promoters advocate its use for a variety of inflammatory diseases as well as for treatment against the accumulation of atherosclerotic plaque and calcium in the arteries. Advertisers have also touted its benefits for treating everything from chronic bronchitis to sprained ankles. However, a double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial did not support any of these health claims, causing one Japanese manufacturer to recall this product.
Serratiopeptidase is not the only enzyme that has failed to show health benefit when held up to the clinical trial microscope. The American Cancer Society also reports that no credible scientific studies have shown that systematic enzymes effectively treat cancer, Dr. Weil explains.