Serratiopeptidase: Enzyme to Fight Heart Threat?

I recently heard that serratiopeptidase extracted from silkworms has the ability to clear arteries of plaque. Is there any truth to it?

– January 10, 2011

Serratiopeptidase is an enzyme found in silkworm intestines that allows the emerging moth to dissolve its cocoon. This enzyme appears to have anti-inflammatory properties and is being promoted online and elsewhere as a treatment for pain associated with arthritis, surgery, trauma and fibromyalgia. And, as you note, it also is promoted as a treatment for atherosclerotic plaque, the buildup of cholesterol, fat, and calcium in arteries. The claim is that serratiopeptidase “digests” the substances that cause plaque without harming underlying tissue.

I’ve seen no scientific evidence documenting or supporting this claim. Most of the published research on serratiopeptidase focuses on its anti-inflammatory properties and, most recently, its potential as a substitute for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and as a topical treatment for inflammation. I believe that inflammation in arterial lining is a root cause of atherosclerosis and recommend an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle as preventive strategies. Even if serratiopeptidase proves to be an effective anti-inflammatory agent, I would not rely on it as a treatment for existing atherosclerotic plaque.

If tests have shown that you have atherosclerosis, the accumulation of plaque along the inner layer of arteries, the danger is that over time, this build-up may grow large enough to block the artery. What’s more, if the plaque is disturbed, platelets may begin to accumulate at the site and form a thrombus, or clot, which can continue to grow until it completely blocks an artery, cutting off the oxygen supply to a vital organ. Alternatively, a clot can break free from the blood vessel wall (become an embolus) and become lodged somewhere else further downstream. This could lead to a heart attack or stroke if the clot blocks the blood and oxygen supply to a major artery leading to the heart or brain.

Instead of using an unproven treatment such as serratiopeptidase to deal with atherosclerosis, your goal should be to reduce your risks via diet (lose weight, if necessary, and avoid saturated fats), exercise, cholesterol control and blood pressure control. If you smoke, stop now.

To support heart health, I also recommend fish oil (add oily fish such as wild Alaskan salmon to your diet, or take fish oil supplements, two to three grams daily of a product containing both EPA and DHA) and 90-120 milligrams a day of coenzyme Q10.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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