What Does the Amylase Enzyme Digest?

The amylase enzyme begins the digestion of starch, breaking the long polysaccharide starch chains into smaller molecular units. Amylase is produced by the salivary glands in the mouth and the pancreas, notes Dr. Michael Gregory of Clinton Community College.

As Dr. Gregory explains, the human body uses glucose as an energy source. Starch, a polysaccharide, is composed of glucose molecules bound together. It is the job of enzymes like amylase to separate the molecular bonds so the body can obtain the simple glucose molecule for energy. While a person is chewing, salivary amylase is released into the saliva to begin acting on the starches in food. The pancreas secretes additional amylase into the duodenum of the small intestine as a component of its pancreatic juices. As food passes through the digestive system, amylase ultimately separates starch into maltose, a disaccharide sugar containing two glucose molecules. An additional enzyme, maltose, completes the final digestive step, cleaving into two simple glucose molecules.