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What Is an Amylase Inhibitor?

An amylase inhibitor is a substance that halts the enzyme amylase from breaking down starches into sugars, aiding in weight management and diabetes control. By interfering with carbohydrate absorption, it can be a powerful tool for maintaining blood sugar levels. Curious about how this could impact your diet and health? Discover the potential benefits and sources of amylase inhibitors in our full article.
Jillian O Keeffe
Jillian O Keeffe

Amylase is an enzyme that is found naturally in the digestive tract. Its job is to break down starch in food, so that the body can use it for energy. An amylase inhibitor is a substance that blocks the action of amylase, and some are found naturally in foods such as white beans. Scientific studies appear to indicate that amylase inhibitors can help reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics and also may have a positive effect on weight loss.

The body takes in food so it can break it down for nutrients and energy. Starch is a high energy type of food, and the body therefore has evolved a specific enzyme, which is amylase, to break it down into usable bits. A drawback to this evolved mechanism for starch usage is that the energy from the starch can contribute to obesity and Type 2 diabetes in people who do not eat a healthy diet. To help diabetic people control their blood sugar, and obese people lose weight, scientists are investigating the ability of individual substances to have an amylase inhibitor effect on the body.

Kidney beans contain natural amylase inhibitors.
Kidney beans contain natural amylase inhibitors.

A variety of natural substances appear to contain molecules that have amylase inhibitor effects. Wheat and white kidney beans are the main sources, as of 2011, and generally, scientists test concentrated extracts of these molecules, and not the vegetables or grains themselves. One possible reason that a plant may contain an amylase inhibitor is that the molecule may protect against insects or animals choosing to eat the plant. Centuries of domestication of plants may have changed the nutritional profile of the plants to be more tasty, while still containing some of the original protective molecules.

An amylase inhibitor, when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and traditional medications, may help diabetics control blood sugar levels.
An amylase inhibitor, when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and traditional medications, may help diabetics control blood sugar levels.

An enzyme is basically a molecule with a particular three-dimensional structure that can lock onto a specific target substance. What an amylase inhibitor does is latch onto this molecule, and prevent it from recognizing starch. Without the starch identification, the enzyme cannot function, and the starch moves through the digestive process unaltered. If an amylase inhibitor works efficiently, the energy from the starch does not enter the body, and the person does not see a spike in blood sugar from the food, or put on weight from the starch energy.

Many chili recipes call for kidney beans, some of which act as amylase inhibitors.
Many chili recipes call for kidney beans, some of which act as amylase inhibitors.

As of 2011, amylase inhibitors do not appear to be as efficient as necessary to be widely used in weight loss or diabetes treatment. Research is ongoing, however, and some versions are already on the market as plant extracts. As the substances may have effects on blood sugar, however, people with diabetes need medical advice before using the products. Further research can potentially also detail the possible side effects of the amylase inhibitors, but no other serious side effects have yet been noted.

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    • Kidney beans contain natural amylase inhibitors.
      By: Schlierner
      Kidney beans contain natural amylase inhibitors.
    • An amylase inhibitor, when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and traditional medications, may help diabetics control blood sugar levels.
      By: Gordan Jankulov
      An amylase inhibitor, when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and traditional medications, may help diabetics control blood sugar levels.
    • Many chili recipes call for kidney beans, some of which act as amylase inhibitors.
      By: Fotocat4
      Many chili recipes call for kidney beans, some of which act as amylase inhibitors.
    • It's important that diabetics seek the advice of a physician before using an amylase inhibitor.
      By: dalaprod
      It's important that diabetics seek the advice of a physician before using an amylase inhibitor.
    • Amylase inhibitors may help reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics.
      By: zothen
      Amylase inhibitors may help reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics.
    • Energy from starch can contribute to obesity.
      By: viperagp
      Energy from starch can contribute to obesity.
    • Amylase is an enzyme found naturally in the digestive tract.
      By: graphicgeoff
      Amylase is an enzyme found naturally in the digestive tract.