Bromelain: Sources, Structure & Interactions

Instructor: Sujata Archer
In this lesson you will learn about a mixture of enzymes found in pineapples called Bromelain, its sources, therapeutic findings, structure and interactions.

What is Bromelain?

Sherry, a 55 year-old patient, has recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. She is at her wits end because nothing seems to work. Then one day she goes to her doctor very excited because she has heard about Bromelain and wants to start taking it. She feels since it is from pineapples there will be no side effects, however, Sherry needs to know more about Bromelain because it is not considered medication and may have adverse interactions.

Sources and Therapeutic Benefits of Bromelain

Sherry is correct that Bromelain is derived from pineapples ('Ananas comosus'), which are native to Central and South America and were often consumed in ancient times for various ailments. In 1957, Bromelain was extracted from pineapples and started getting attention for therapeutic uses.

Bromelain is absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and is mixture of proteolytic enzymes, which means it helps breakdown proteins. Studies in rats have found about 40% of it in the bloodstream after oral ingestion.

Bromelain is found with different names such as extract d'annanas, enzyme d'annanas, pineapple extract and pineapple enzyme. It is found in the fruit and stem of pineapples. Commercial and therapeutic Bromelain is extracted from the stem of the pineapple.

Many therapeutic influences of Bromelain have been reported:

  • Anti-thrombotic
  • Reduces swelling
  • Enhances absorption of some drugs
  • Prevents tumor growth

Structure and Function

Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes, or proteins, and have unique structures necessary for their function. It has a cysteine amino acid side chain, which is necessary for it to carry out its functions. Bromelain, as a proteolytic enzyme, breaks down proteins. For patients like Sherry who suffer from osteoarthiritis, Bromelain lowers bradykinin levels. Bradykinin is a protein that causes blood vessels to swell, so when bradykinin levels are reduced by Bromelain, inflammation is reduced too.

Factors that can make Bromelain stop working

If Bromelain is denatured by high temperatures or becomes very acidic, then it will not be able to function. When Bromelain is denatured, its shape is changed and it cannot function normally. A simple home experiment can illustrate this structure and function related to pineapples. If cooked pineapples are used to make Jell-O, the gelatin will set since the enzymes have been denatured by heat. However, uncooked pineapple will leave the Jell-O liquid because the Bromelain is active and will prevent it from becoming solid.

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