Digestion of Starch by Salivary Amylase

Topics: Starch, Digestion, Enzyme Pages: 3 (628 words) Published: December 14, 2010
The role of salivary amylase in the digestion of
starches remains controversial. In the absence of
pancreatic amylase, the key enzyme for starch
digestion, salivary amylase may well represent a
potential compensatory alternate pathway for the
digestion of amylose, amylopectin, and glycogen.
Clinically significant depression of pancreatic amylase
occurs in chronic pancreatitis, pancreatic resection,
pancreatic neoplasm, cystic fibrosis, and
other causes of pancreatic insufficiency. Quantitation
of salivary amylase in these diseases has yet to
be performed. It is also unclear whether the presence
of starch in a meal protects salivary amylase
from inactivation by the acidic gastric environment.
In the first six months of life, pancreatic amylase
is very low or absent. Despite this physiologic
pancreatic amylase deficiency, young infants seem
to tolerate moderate amounts of starches in the diet
(1). Fi,rthermore, during acute diarrhea in infancy,
soluble polymers of glucose derived from corn are
well tolerated. The use of polymers of glucose have
the advantage of providing the infant with potential
mucosal injury with a carbohydrate source that can
be readily absorbed and has a high caloric density
with low osmolality (2). It seems, therefore, that
salivary amylase and glucoamylase of the small
intestinal brush border can compensate for physiologic
amylase deficiency in infancy, even during
diarrheal episodes.
In this issue of Digestive Diseases and Sciences,
Fried, Abramson, and Meyer (3) utilized a selective
salivary isoamylase inhibitor (4, 5) to quantitate the
amount of salivary amylase in postprandial jejunal
fluid. This is a comparatively simple method using a
wheat isolate that inhibits 88% of salivary amylase
and 27% of pancreatic amylase. Standard curves of
amylase inhibitor activity were constructed by mixing
known concentrations of pure salivary and
Address for reprint requests: Dr. E. Lebenthal, Children's...
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