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Amylase Enzyme Function and Amylase Enzyme Test Explained

Amylase is a digestive enzyme that is mainly secreted by the pancreas and salivary glands. Apart from that, it is found in a minimal amount in the tissues.

You will find the amylase enzyme in your saliva.

Amylase Enzyme’s main functionality is to act as a catalyst that aids in converting starch into maltose, a sugar.

The process of splitting starch into smaller carbohydrate molecules by adding water molecules is known as hydrolysis.

The function of Amylase Enzyme in the digestive system

The moment any food enters your mouth, it encounters amylase, the herald of the digestive system.  This proactive enzyme is one of the first to go to work on any new culinary arrivals.

Unfortunately for it, amylase doesn’t have long to get started since as soon as you swallow it and the food it has taken hold of, amylase gets “turned off.”

This is because amylase has a difficult time working in the highly acidic environment of the stomach.

Amylase much prefers neutral environments.  However, don’t worry; amylase will get a second shot at your meal once it hits the small intestine.

The pancreas manufacturers produce more amylase, and these newly created enzymes finish converting the starch into sugar maltose. The amylase then passes the sugar on to his partner, the enzyme maltase.

Maltase finishes the job off, converting the sugar maltose into glucose, which is in due order swallowed up by the bloodstream.

How Amylase Enzyme evolved?

Evolutionary biologists believe that Amylase’s development in humans was one of the key evolutionary steps that aided in our species’ ultimate survival and success.

The theory goes that our ancestors could only metabolize the sugars from fruits and the proteins from meat at one point.

However, at some point, some of our ancestors developed the amylase enzyme, which allowed us to take the first step towards digesting carbohydrates.

This was important because it significantly increased the range of possible diets humans could use to survive.

It helps us not only in times of food scarcity but possibly, in adapting to diverse new environments.

Classification Amylase

The amylase enzyme is classified under three heads.

  • Alpha-amylase (α-amylase)
  • Beta-amylase (β-amylase)
  • Gamma-amylase (γ-amylase)

Alpha-amylase is found in humans, animals, plants, and microbes. Beta-amylase is only found in plants and microbes. Gamma-amylase is found in animals and plants.

What are the optimum Alpha-amylase levels?

Alpha-amylase is also called ptyalin, which is secreted by the salivary glands. It is found in the human digestive system and many other mammals.

Whereas the pancreases produce pancreatic amylase into the small intestine.

The optimum ph level of Alpha-amylase is 6.7 to 7.0.

Why are amylase levels important?

Any pancreatic disorder is identified using an amylase levels test.

If your amylase levels are higher than normal, you suffer from pancreatic disorder and many other conditions.

One study has revealed that people having metabolic syndrome are more likely to have low serum amylase levels.

Similarly, another study has indicated that salivary alpha-amylase levels are extra sensitive to psychosocial stress.

Moreover, a recent study suggested that if starchy foods give you any discomfort, it is important to check your doctor’s amylase levels.

The elevated amylase, also called hyperamylasemia, is primarily found in salivary and pancreatic diseases.

Moreover, elevated amylase also contributes to gastrointestinal diseases, gynecological diseases, and malignancy.

So, high amylase can give rise to a variety of conditions, which includes:

  • salivary disease
  • pancreatic disease
  • decreased metabolic clearance
  • intestinal disease
  • macroamylasemia
  • Benign Pancreatic Hyperenzymenia (chronic disease)

And, the low amylase can be seen in the below conditions:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Preeclampsia
  • Liver disease

All about the Amylase test

Type of amylase test and procedure

There are two types of amylase test

  • Blood amylase test
  • Urine amylase test

Both types of amylase tests measure the amount of amylase in your blood or urine. If the amylase is at an optimum level, then it is normal.

Otherwise, the large or small amount of amylase indicates a pancreatic disorder, the spread of infection, alcoholism, and other medical condition.

To diagnose the amylase level, you need to provide blood samples and urine samples for both blood or urine test.

Moreover, there is no special preparation needed before a blood or urine test.

What does the amylase test result mean?

The test result doesn’t mean the actual cause of any underlying disease. The amylase test result may get affected by any conditions.

It may be possible that you may not be having any problem if the amylase test result is different from normal. Share your result with your doctor for a better analysis of your medical condition.

The normal amylase levels for adults in the blood sample are 30 to 110 units per liter (U/L).

If the amylase is higher than the normal level, then you may have the following health condition:

  • Acute pancreatitis (Sudden swelling of the pancreas)
  • Chronic pancreatitis (if swelling get worsen)
  • Pancreatic pseudocysts (cyst in your pancreas)
  • Ascites (swelling in your abdomen)
  • Macroamylasemia (non-cancer (benign) condition due to the presence of substance Macroamylasemia in the blood)
  • Perforated Ulcer (Peptic ulcer that has a hole in it)
  • Acute cholecystitis (swelling in your gallbladder)
  • Death of tissue in the intestines or blockage in the intestines
  • Peritonitis (swelling in the inner lining of the abdomen)
  • Appendicitis, kidney problems, postoperative complications, and Diabetic ketoacidosis
  • Burns, mumps, a higher level of triglycerides, alcohol use, eating disorders (bulimia or anorexia nervosa), and use of drugs such as morphine
  • Ruptured ectopic pregnancy and IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease)

The low amylase level indicates the following medical condition:

  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Chronic pancreatitis
  • Liver failure condition

What affects your amylase test results

If you are on certain medications like aspirin, morphine (pain reliever), or medicines containing estrogen.

Alcohol consumption, pregnancy, and people with recent kidney transplants will affect the overall amylase test results.

It is good to disclose with your doctor if you are taking any medication, OTC drugs, supplements, herbal medicine, or vitamins.

Other details of Amylase Enzyme

Amylase Enzyme was the First Enzyme

The amylase enzyme also played a significant role in the development of the study of biochemistry.

In 1831, French chemists identified how saliva broke down starches, transforming them into sugar.

However, only two years later, a French chemist working at a borax factory, Anselm Payen, isolated the protein he called “diastase” as a compound that was doing the work in the process his colleagues had noticed.

And so the first enzyme was born.  Years later, it would take on the name it bears today, amylase.

What is an enzyme?

Enzymes are responsible for accelerating chemical processes in the body.

If we didn’t have enzymes, we would track digestion with a calendar rather than a clock; in short, without the energy that enzymes speed things up, life as we know it would not be possible.

Technically, enzymes are catalysts, substances that speed up biological processes without themselves changing.

A catalyst is like a hammer that you can repeatedly use without changing itself in the process.

Enzymes work like this except that they will often lose their shape and ability to do the bodily process because of the heat involved in the process.

Enzymes are also proteins, and since high temperatures can alter proteins, they can also alter amylase. Metal ion and pH levels have a similarly strong effect on enzyme proteins.

Also, they differ greatly from normal catalysts, as enzymes have one and only one function.  They exist to accelerate only one action in one process; when they are done, they no longer have a reason for being.

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DISCLAIMER: This article is for educational purposes only, always check with your medical doctor before stopping any prescription medications or when implementing any dietary and lifestyle changes.

Healthlyious has strict sourcing guidelines, believes in trustworthy and reliable sources, and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, medical journal publications, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.

  • Salivary Amylase: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6825871/
  • The usefulness of salivary alpha-amylase: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4002342/
  • Low serum amylase: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3102610/


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