What Enzyme Breaks Down Carbohydrates: Quickly

What Enzyme Breaks Down Carbohydrates: Quickly

For anyone striving to improve their digestive health or optimize their diet, knowing how carbohydrates are broken down in the body is fundamental. The enzyme responsible for this critical task ensures that we can efficiently convert carbohydrates into usable energy. This article delves into the science behind carbohydrate digestion, offering insights and practical advice for a diverse audience, including those with digestive issues, athletes, and health professionals.

How Does Enzyme Break Down Carbohydrates?

Amylase, the primary enzyme responsible for breaking down carbohydrates, initiates the digestion process in the mouth where it is secreted by the salivary glands. As you chew, amylase begins to hydrolyze the complex carbohydrates (starches) into simpler sugars like maltose and dextrin upon ingestion. This process continues in the small intestine, where pancreatic amylase further breaks down these sugars into glucose, which can be easily absorbed into the bloodstream. The efficient functioning of amylase, along with other enzymes that break down lipids, ensures that carbohydrates are converted into usable energy, supporting various bodily functions and maintaining overall health.

What Enzyme Breaks Down Carbohydrates?

Salivary Amylase

The salivary glands produce salivary amylase, also known as ptyalin, which starts the digestion of carbohydrates in the mouth. As you chew, this enzyme breaks down complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars, making it easier for your body to digest and absorb them later in the digestive tract.

Pancreatic Amylase

The pancreas secretes pancreatic amylase into the small intestine, where it continues the work that salivary amylase started in the mouth, aided by saliva. This enzyme further breaks down the partially digested carbohydrates into maltose and other disaccharides, which other enzymes then convert into glucose for absorption into the bloodstream.


Maltase is an enzyme located in the lining of the small intestine and continues to work as food moves towards the colon. It specifically targets maltose, a disaccharide produced from the breakdown of starches by amylase. The intestinal cells can easily absorb and use the two glucose molecules that maltose splits into for energy.


Sucrase is another enzyme found in the small intestine, responsible for breaking down sucrose (table sugar) into glucose and fructose. This process is crucial for the efficient absorption of these simple sugars, which are vital sources of energy for the body.


Lactase is an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the sugar found in milk and dairy products, into glucose and galactose. This enzyme is essential for individuals to properly digest dairy products and avoid symptoms of lactose intolerance, such as bloating and gas.

Why Are Carbohydrates So Hard To Break Down?

Carbohydrates and lipids can be challenging to break down due to their complex molecular structures, which require specific enzymes to act on them through hydrolysis, converting them into simpler, absorbable molecules. Starches, for example, are long chains of glucose molecules, known as polysaccharides, that need to be progressively broken down by enzymes like amylase, maltase, sucrase, and lactase.

Additionally, some carbohydrates, such as fiber, are resistant to digestive enzymes and pass through the digestive system largely intact. Factors like enzyme deficiencies, digestive disorders, and variations in individual digestive health can further complicate the breakdown process, leading to issues such as bloating, gas, lipid malabsorption, and carbohydrate intolerance.

Does Enzyme Speed Up Metabolism?

Enzymes play a crucial role in speeding up metabolism by catalyzing biochemical reactions that convert food, including vitamins, into energy and other essential compounds. Specifically, digestive enzymes like amylase, protease, and lipase break down carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into simpler molecules that the body can readily absorb and utilize. By facilitating these reactions, enzymes ensure that nutrients and vitamins are efficiently processed and converted into energy, which fuels metabolic activities. While enzymes themselves do not directly increase metabolic rate, their efficiency in breaking down food, including lipids, can support a more effective and faster metabolism, contributing to overall energy levels and metabolic health.

What Are Simple Carbohydrates To Digest?

  1. Glucose
    • Glucose is a simple sugar that the body can easily absorb. It is a primary source of energy and is found in foods like fruits, honey, and some vegetables. It is a monosaccharide, so digestion is minimal and the body uses it right away.
  2. Fructose
    • Fructose is another monosaccharide found naturally in fruits, honey, and root vegetables. It is absorbed directly into the bloodstream during digestion, making it a quick source of energy. However, excessive intake can lead to digestive issues for some individuals.
  3. Sucrose
    • Sucrose, commonly known as table sugar, is a disaccharide composed of glucose and fructose. It is found in many fruits and vegetables, as well as in processed foods. The enzyme sucrase breaks down sucrose into its component sugars, which are then simple to absorb.
  4. Lactose
    • Lactose is a disaccharide found in milk and dairy products. The enzyme lactase breaks it down into glucose and galactose, which the body then absorbs. While lactose is generally easy to digest for those with sufficient lactase, individuals with lactose intolerance may find it challenging.
  5. Maltose
    • Maltose is a disaccharide formed from two glucose molecules and is found in foods like malted grains and some cereals. It is a simple carbohydrate to digest because the enzyme maltase breaks it down into glucose, which the body can easily absorb.
  6. Galactose
    • Galactose is a monosaccharide that is less common in foods but is a component of lactose. Galactose is another simple carbohydrate that is easily digestible after lactase breaks down lactose and converts it into glucose in the liver.
What Are Simple Carbohydrates To Digest?

Are Proteins Easier To Break Down Than Carbohydrates?

Proteins and lipids are generally more complex and harder to break down than carbohydrates due to their intricate structures. The digestion of proteins begins in the stomach, where the enzyme pepsin and stomach acid denature the protein molecules, breaking them into smaller peptides. This process continues in the small intestine with the help of pancreatic enzymes like trypsin and chymotrypsin, which further break down peptides into individual amino acids for absorption. In contrast, carbohydrates, particularly simple sugars, are more straightforward to digest, as they require fewer enzymatic steps to break down into absorbable monosaccharides like glucose. Therefore, while both macronutrients are essential, the digestion of proteins is typically more complex and time-consuming compared to carbohydrates.

What Can I Do To Help Break Down Carbohydrates Faster?

  1. Chew Your Food Thoroughly
    • Chewing food thoroughly increases the surface area for enzymes to act on, making it easier for salivary amylase to begin breaking down carbohydrates in the mouth. This initial step can significantly aid in the overall digestion process.
  2. Stay Hydrated
    • Drinking plenty of water helps maintain the optimal function of digestive enzymes and ensures that food moves smoothly through the digestive tract. Proper hydration can enhance the efficiency of carbohydrate breakdown and nutrient absorption.
  3. Eat Probiotic-Rich Foods
    • Consuming foods rich in probiotics, such as yogurt, kefir, and fermented vegetables, can support a healthy gut microbiome. A balanced gut flora aids in the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, making the process more efficient.
  4. Incorporate Digestive Enzyme Supplements
    • Taking digestive enzyme supplements that contain amylase and other digestive enzymes can help improve the breakdown of carbohydrates, especially for individuals with enzyme deficiencies or digestive issues. These supplements can provide the necessary enzymes to enhance carbohydrate digestion.
  5. Manage Stress Levels
    • High stress levels can negatively impact digestive function by reducing the production of digestive enzymes and slowing down the digestive process. Practicing stress-reducing techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, and regular exercise can help maintain optimal digestive health and improve carbohydrate breakdown.

Is Alpha-Amylase Critical For Carb Break Down?

Yes, alpha-amylase is critical for carbohydrate breakdown as it initiates the digestion of complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars. Produced by both the salivary glands and the pancreas, alpha-amylase acts on starches by hydrolyzing the bonds between glucose molecules, converting them into maltose and dextrin. This enzymatic action begins in the mouth and continues in the small intestine, ensuring that carbohydrates are efficiently broken down into glucose, which can be readily absorbed into the bloodstream. Without sufficient alpha-amylase activity, the digestion of carbohydrates would be significantly impaired, leading to issues such as incomplete digestion, nutrient malabsorption, and digestive discomfort.


Understanding the role of enzymes, particularly alpha-amylase, in carbohydrate digestion is essential for optimizing digestive health and overall well-being. These enzymes are crucial for breaking down complex carbohydrates into simpler sugars that the body can easily absorb and use for energy. By incorporating practices such as thorough chewing, staying hydrated, consuming probiotic-rich foods, and managing stress, you can support the efficient functioning of these enzymes. Whether you're a health-conscious individual, a fitness enthusiast, or someone dealing with digestive issues, knowing how to enhance carbohydrate digestion can lead to better health outcomes and improved energy levels.

Final Thoughts

Experience the superior benefits of enzyme supplementation with Vitalzym Extra Strength by World Nutrition. This thoughtfully designed vegetarian supplement is infused with serrapeptase, bromelain, papain, and other powerful ingredients to rejuvenate enzyme levels, support immune health, speed up recovery post-exercise, and enhance circulation. Elevate your health and adopt a more vibrant lifestyle with the transformative power of Vitalzym and other exceptional offerings from World Nutrition.*


  1. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=ux1048&lang=en-ca
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbohydrate
  3. https://www.forbes.com/health/weight-loss/how-to-increase-metabolism/
  4. https://study.com/academy/lesson/protein-digestion-and-absorption-process.html

These statements have not been evaluated by the food and drug administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

In a recent Federal District Court case involving World Nutrition and AST Enzymes, the Judge found that the serrapeptase in AST products Serracor NK, Excellacor, Serrapeptase and Ultimate Metabolic Formula were only able to retain 27% of its enzyme activity after exposure to the stomach acid and that 73% of the serrapeptase will be degraded by the time it reaches the intestines.

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