It found that availability of glucose, digested from carbohydrates, was increased fourfold in the healthy digestive system model and by seven times in a model for impaired digestion.
The findings provide scientific confirmation for the first time of the large amount of anecdotal evidence for use of digestive enzymes.
The study used a patented computer-controlled gastrointestinal model (TIM), developed by Netherlands-based research organization TNO, which simulates the conditions of the human stomach and small intestine.
This allowed comparison between healthy gastric and intestinal secretions and adults with impaired digestion due to lower levels of gastric and intestinal secretion.
The two extremes were tested because the digestive capabilities of most humans fall somewhere inbetween, said the company.
Analysing digestion of the same meal, the researchers carried out four different tests : the meal without the digestive blend under perfect digestive conditions, the meal with addition of digestive enzyme blend under perfect digestive conditions, the meal without the digestive blend under 70 per cent reduced gastric and intestinal secretion and the meal with added enzymes under the impaired digestion model.
Samples collected at various times during the digestion process were analysed for glucose and nitrogen content, demonstrating carbohydrate and protein digestion respectively.
The enzymes improved the bioavailability of both proteins and carbohydrates in the lumen of the small intestine, not only under impaired digestive conditions, but also in healthy human digestion, said Dr Rohit Medhekar, director of R&D at NEC.
Glucose availability was increased fourfold in the 'perfect' digestive system and by seven times in the impaired digestion model. Proteins were twice as bioavailable in the impaired digestive process.
He added that activity of any digestive enzyme supplement in the small intestine presupposes that the enzymes survive the acidity of the stomach.
"Our research demonstrates that NEC fungal enzymes not only survive the acidity of the stomach but also are active in that harsh environment where most other types of enzymes are inactivated."
This also means that there is no scientific basis for enterically coating NEC fungal enzymes for general digestive applications, says the firm.