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  • Enzymes extracted from fruits like papaya, pineapple, kiwifruit and fig have uses as medicines, food-processing agents and dietary supplements.

    Fruits contain enzymes

    Fruits like papaya, kiwifruit, pineapple and figs all contain enzymes called proteases. Proteases speed up the breakdown of proteins.

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    Enzymes in papaya have a number of uses including tenderising meat and treating wounds.

    Uses of fruit enzymes

    Fruit enzymes that break down proteins have many potential uses. For example, papain, the protease enzyme from papaya, is used for tenderising meat, treating wounds, dietary supplements and removing particles from cold beers.




    (or pawpaw)


    • Meat tenderiser
    • Clarifying cold beers
    • Dietary supplement
    • Wound treatment
    • Treating jellyfish stings and insect bites
    • Clotting milk
    • Treating wool to prevent shrinkage



    • Dietary supplement



    • Dietary supplement
    • Wound treatment



    • Deworming medicine

    Kiwifruit enzyme may aid digestion

    PhloeTM – a kiwifruit-based dietary supplement developed by New Zealand company Vital Foods and launched in 2007 – has proven benefits in regulating bowel movements with no side effects such as cramps or diarrhoea. It is commonly used in hospital wards for treating constipation.

    Recent research undertaken at the Riddet Institute has confirmed that eating green kiwifruit with a protein-rich meal helps improve digestion of several food proteins. This confirms beliefs that have existed for some time – that enzymes in green kiwifruit can break down proteins for better absorption in the digestive process.

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    Food provides macronutrients and micronutrients. Kiwifruit is a good source of vitamin C – a micronutrient that is essential for health and wellbeing and the kiwifruit enzymes help digestion.

    Other uses of kiwifruit enzymes

    Over the last 10 years, scientists have shown that fruit enzymes may act as an insecticide, protecting the fruit from attack from insects. Researchers at Plant & Food Research have shown that the protease in kiwifruit can reduce insect growth and survival.

    The kiwifruit ate my jelly!

    Have you ever eaten a piece of pineapple or kiwifruit and felt a prickly sensation in your mouth? This is caused by proteases acting on the inside of your mouth. They can even cause an allergic reaction in some people.

    Whilst fruit enzymes are good for breaking down meat proteins, they also digest other types of protein. For example, if you made a jelly and added some raw kiwifruit or raw pineapple, the protease enzymes will digest the gelatine and stop the jelly from setting properly.

    Classroom experiment

    You can try a simple experiment to look at the action of marinades. It could be used as an introduction to experiments with enzymatic digestion of proteins and as the basis for further experimentation.

    Related content

    The article Catalysing chemical reactions with enzymes includes an animated video outlining in detail how enzymes work.

    See our Enzymes Pinterest board for more resource ideas.

    Useful links

    Listen to Dr William Laing in the Plant & Food Research podcast Waiter there are enzymes in my food. Dr Laing discusses the many powers of enzymes and describes some of the enzyme actions that we may come across in our kitchen.

    Plant & Food Research article about the effects of kiwifruit enzyme on insect growth and survival in New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science, Volume 33, 2005, Issue 2.

    Read about research at Riddet Institute confirming that green kiwifruit extract enhances the digestion of a variety of food proteins more completely than digestive enzymes alone.

    A Stuff 2009 news article about the results of clinical trials of a kiwifruit dietary supplement.

      Published 29 May 2012, Updated 28 August 2018 Referencing Hub articles
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