Glucoamylase (also known as amyloglucosidase or AMG) is an important digestive enzyme that helps us absorb nutrients and create energy from some of the most common plant foods that we eat. It does this by breaking down the starch that occurs naturally in most vegetables that we eat. This starch is present in high amounts in common foods like potatoes, corn, rice, and wheat. It’s also added as a filler or processing additive in prepared food products.
All starch is formed of individual glucose molecules connected in a polysaccharide (poly=many saccharide = sugar). Glucoamylase cleaves or breaks off a glucose molecule from the end of starch polysaccharide molecules. It can also break apart disaccharides (2-sugar molecules) like maltose. The glucose molecule that is freed can then be used as a source of energy for the body. Humans and other animals produce glucoamylase produced in the mouth and pancreas, but it may also be derived from non-animal sources.
Glucoamylase is often described separately from amylase because it digests starches by removing a glucose molecule from the end of polysaccharide rather than cleaving longer strings of glucose molecules in the middle, forming smaller chains. Specifically, this enzyme acts on the alpha-glycosidic bonds between glucose molecules in a polysaccharide. Note, glucoamylase cannot cleave the beta-bonds between glucose molecules of cellulose, which is another type of starch found in plants and commonly called fiber.
The Health Benefits of Glucoamylase
Every day, the typical human consumes large amounts of starches, and while these carbohydrates have some nutritional value, they cannot be absorbed or digested by the body without the help of enzymes. Glucoamylase is one of several digestive enzymes that can break down these starches into glucose, which is usable by the body. This encourages smooth digestion and may help deter common digestive upsets such as heaviness, lethargy, bloating, gas and loose stools. Here are some of the health benefits of glucoamylase.
1. Eases Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Glucoamylase, when combined with other enzymes may ease the negative effects of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). One double-blind, crossover study shows the efficacy of enzymes like glucoamylase in optimizing digestion. Healthy participants who ate a high-calorie, high-fat meal took digestive enzymes, and other placebo group participants did not. Their gastrointestinal symptoms were recorded over a period of 17 hours, and it was found that people taking the enzymes had a statistically significant reduction in bloating, flatulence, and the sensation of fullness. The researchers suggested that because of these results, digestive enzymes may help IBS.
2. Helps Digestive Upset & Gastrointestinal Issues
Many people take digestive enzyme supplements and describe the effect as a little efficiency boost to their digestive system. There are many anecdotal reports of people experiencing smoother digestion, less sensitivity to foods that may typically “not agree” with them, and an improvement in gastrointestinal issues from supplementing with digestive enzymes. Commonly cited benefits include a reduction of symptoms like nausea, vomiting, gas, heartburn, bloating and loss of appetite.
3. Supports the Immune System
Studies show that glucoamylase combined with other enzymes can promote a normal autoimmunity response.[2, 3] In the case of autoimmune disorders, antigens, and antibodies, when not cleared out over time, can create tissue damage in the body. This can lead to diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and some types of kidney disease. While not a disease preventative, research suggests that enzymes can influence the immune system in beneficial ways.
4. May Help Digestive Organs
Studies show a clear link that supplemental enzymes reduce the load on digestive organs. Animal experiments show that enzymes create healthier intestinal health and better nutrient absorption capacities.
5. Encourages Normal Blood Sugar Balance
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that glucoamylase plays a key role in starch digestion and in balancing blood sugar around meals in laboratory mice. Removing the gene needed for starch digestion in mice led to 40% higher blood glucose levels after a meal. Glucoamylase specifically plays a role in breaking down glucose from food.
How to Read the Units of Measurement for Glucoamylase
AGU (Glucoamylase or Amyloglucosidase Unit) is the FCC measurement for glucoamylase. One unit of glucoamylase activity is defined as the amount of glucoamylase that will liberate 0.1 µmol/min of p-nitrophenol from the PNPG Solution at pH 4.5 and 50°C on a casein substrate. The FCC notation stands for Foods Chemical Codex and is a division of USP (United States Pharmacopeia). It sets standards for ingredients. In the case of enzymes, FCC is a standard assay used to accurately determine the activity of enzymes. The current compendium is FCC VI.
Even though it is difficult to understand how the units are determined, it is crucial to understand that activity is uniform in order to compare the strength of one product to another or to make sure that you are taking enough of the enzyme to have an effect.
Where Can I Find the Best Source of Glucoamylase?
VeganZyme® is an advanced, full-spectrum systemic and digestive enzyme formula. It’s a blend of digestive enzymes which help digest fats, sugars, proteins, carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and other types of food, as well as systemic enzymes to break down excess mucus, fibrin, toxins, allergens, and excess clotting factors throughout your body.
VeganZyme provides glucoamylase produced by the natural fermentation process of Aspergillus niger. It’s non-GMO, kosher-certified, gluten-free, and contains no animal products.
What’s Your Story?
Do you take an enzyme supplement that contains glucoamylase? What was your motivation for taking it and what results have you noticed? Leave a comment below and share your experience with us.
- Suarez F, Levitt MD, Adshead J, Barkin JS. "Pancreatic supplements reduce symptomatic response of healthy subjects to a high fat meal. Dig Dis Sci. 1999;44(7),1317-21.
- Stauder G, Ransberger K, Streichhan P, Van Schaik W, Pollinger W. The use of hydrolytic enzymes as adjuvant therapy in AIDS/ARC/LAS patients." Biomed Pharmacother. 1988;42(1),31-4.
- Nouza K. "[Systemic enzyme therapy in diseases of the vascular system]." Bratisl Lek Listy. 1995 Oct;96(10),566-9. Czech.
- Nichols BL, et al. "Mucosal Maltase-Glucoamylase Plays a Crucial Role in Starch Digestion and Prandial Glucose Homeostasis of Mice." J Nutr. 2009;139(4),684-690.
- Nichols BL, et al. "Mucosal maltase-glucoamylase plays a crucial role in starch digestion and prandial glucose homeostasis of mice." J Nutr. 2009;139(4),684-90.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.