Diastase was the very first enzyme discovered. It was identified by Jean-Francois Persoz and Anselme Payen, workers in the French sugar factory where the enzyme was extracted from a malt solution in 1833. This enzyme helps break down carbohydrates and turn them into sugar, which makes them easier to digest.
In modern times, this enzyme can be extracted from barley seed after the ingredients of beer are all mashed up together and heated. It causes starch from the seed to form into a soluble sugar, which allows the pod to pull apart from the seed. The enzyme can also be found and extracted from sources such as milk, saliva and other plants. As a natural enzyme, it can be extracted rather easily from many natural sources.
Amylase and glucoamylase are the enzymes found in human saliva that help break down carbohydrates into sugar so they can be digested. While these enzymes are present in saliva, some people may not produce enough to regulate the breakdown of foods correctly. Diastase helps this process, as it is a natural form of amylase. Typically, the enzyme extracted from malt is taken as a supplement for easier digestion of starchy foods such as potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and grains. Some tests indicate that those who may benefit from it include individuals with digestive disorders, those looking for help losing weight, and people in the early stages of diabetes, but these statements have not been endorsed or approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Another use that has been found for diastase is as a treatment for those who have acid reflux issues. Acid reflux is caused by certain foods people eat that are not being digested properly — it causes symptoms of upset stomach, burning in the throat or chest, and abdominal pain. Honey and milk contain this enzyme naturally, and a warm mixture of the two has been said to help treat minor acid reflux symptoms. People who take the supplements regularly may also be able to correct an ongoing problem if medication is not an option.
Those who are taking diastase supplements should always follow the instructions on the packaging. While this enzyme may help in the breakdown and digestion or starches, it may not be enough to correct some medical issues. Those who continue to experience problems with digestion or diabetic symptoms may wish to see a medical professional for further assistance.