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Phytates and phytic acid.

Phytic acid the storage form of phosphorus is one of those pesky antinutrients the Paleo community keeps telling you to avoid.
Its often considered an anti-nutrient because it binds minerals in the
digestive tract, making them less available to our bodies.
Yet these same anti-nutrient properties can also help in the
prevention of chronic disease.
What is phytic acid?
Seeds such as nuts, edible seeds, beans/legumes, and grains store
phosphorus as phytic acid. When phytic acid is bound to a mineral in the
seed, its known as phytate.
Phytate digestion
Most phytate (37-66%) is degraded in the stomach and small intestines.
Ordinarily, our bodies regulate phytate levels pretty well, adjusting uptake
in the gut and excretion until body levels come into balance.
Vitamin D status in the body seems to influence how much phytate is
actually retained. The more vitamin D, the more phytate retained; the
less vitamin D, the less phytate retained.
Potential problems with phytic acid
Phytic acid can bind minerals in the gut before they are absorbed and
influence digestive enzymes. Phytates also reduce the digestibility of
starches, proteins, and fats.
Potential benefits of phytic acid
Despite its potential drawbacks, phytic acid is similar in some ways to a
vitamin, and metabolites of phytic acid may have secondary messenger
roles in cells.
Some experts even suggest that its the phytic acid in whole grains and
beans that lends them their apparent protective properties against
cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
(Remember, the grains with little to no phytic acid are the refined ones.)
The supplement industry has caught on to this. Have you even seen a
bottle of inositol hexaphosphate, or IP6? Thats simply a supplemental
source of phytic acid.
When phytic acid binds minerals in the gut, it prevents the formation of
free radicals, thus making it an antioxidant. Not only that, but it seems to
bind heavy metals (e.g., cadmium, lead) helping to prevent their
accumulation in the body
In the balance

Is phytic acid worth worrying about? Maybe not, for most of us.
One study showed that subjects consuming a Mediterranean-style diet
that included 1000-2000 mg of phytic acid per day did not suffer from
reduced mineral bioavailability.
Overcoming phytic acid as an antinutrient
Luckily, its possible to overcome the anti-nutrient effects of phytic acid in
our foods while still getting the benefits of a plant-rich diet. Here are a few
strategies that my be more or less helpful depending on the specific
Heating foods can destroy small amounts of phytic acid. (Note: heat can
also destroy phytase and vitamin C.)
Milling grains and removing the bran decreases phytic acid.
Unfortunately, milling also tends to remove many of the minerals!
Removing the bran and then enriching a food with minerals might allow
for enhanced nutrient absorption in the body.
Soaking beans and grains can reduce phytic acid (and other
Fermentation and bread leavening (using yeast) can help to break down
phytic acid due to the activation of native phytase enzymes, reducing the
number of phosphate groups.
This is big stuff since myo-inositol phosphates with fewer than five
phosphate groups dont inhibit zinc absorption (IP1 to IP4). And those with
fewer than three phosphate groups dont inhibit iron absorption (IP1 to
Also, some of the acids produced during fermentation might actually boost
absorption of certain minerals.
Sprouting and malting enhances native phytase activity in plants and thus
decreases phytic acid.
Vitamin C
Vitamin C appears strong enough to overcome phytic acid. In one study,
adding 50 mg of vitamin C counteracted the phytic acid load of a meal. In
another study, 80 mg of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) counteracted 25 mg of
phytic acid.
Protein powders

During processing of plant-based protein powders, its possible to dephytinize (via addition of microbial phytase). Also, protein isolates and
concentrates can be treated with dialysis or ultrafiltration to remove
phytic acid.
Seed breeding
Scientists are working on seed breeds containing less phytic acid. There
are modern seed hybrids of grain and legume plants that contain less
phytic acid.
Animal protein
Animal protein may enhance absorption of zinc, iron, and copper. Adding
small amounts of animal protein might increase the absorption of these
minerals in the body. (Well, except for dairy/casein, as it also seems to
hinder iron and zinc absorption.)
Gut health
A low pH in the gut enhances iron absorption. Balancing the level of
beneficial bacteria in the GI tract might help with this.
Summary and recommendations
In healthy people eating balanced diets, phytic acids effects on iron, zinc,
and manganese status is minimal and it doesnt seem to cause nutrient
To argue that some plant foods are unhealthy because of their
phytic acid content seems mistaken, especially when phytic acids
potential negative effects on mineral assimilation may be offset
by its health benefits.
So we should aim to reduce phytic acid rather than eliminate it.
To reduce the anti-nutrient effects of phytic acid in foods, try the following:
Soak, sprout, ferment, and cook plant foods.
Consume vitamin C-rich foods with meals that contain phytic acid.
Dense source of vitamin C include guava, bell pepper, kiwi, oranges,
grapefruit, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, papaya,
broccoli, sweet potato, pineapple, cauliflower, kale, lemon juice, and
Use vinegar in salad dressings and cooking to enhance mineral
absorption and offset phytic acid.
Supplement with phytase enzymes if necessary.
Eat mineral fortified foods if necessary
Supplement minerals if there is still a shortfall in your diet.
If youre eating a plant-based diet and have confirmed nutrient
deficiencies, and youve tried all the above strategies with no
success, adding small amounts of animal foods on occasion might
boost stores of necessary minerals in your body.

16 Health Benefits of The Anti-Nutrient Phytic Acid
1) Phytic Acid is an Anti-oxidant.
Phytic acid has protective effects against alcohol related liver inury by
blocking ROS production and elevating antioxidant potentials.
Roasting/cooking foods with phytic acid improved antioxidant ability. (R)
The antioxidative action of phytic acid is as a result of inhibiting Xanthine
Oxidase and by preventing formation of ADP-iron-oxygen complexes (R).
2) Phytic Acid Reduces Inflammation.
Phytic acid was found to decreas IL-8 and IL-6, especially in colon cells (R,
3) Phytic Acid Induces Autophagy
Phytic Acid was found to induce autophagy (R).
Autophagy is a physiological process for degrading and recycling
junk proteins. (R)
It has recently been recognized as a principal response to cellular stress
and an important regulator of neuronal function and survival. (R)
It plays a role in the destruction of intracellular pathogens and aids the
cell to eliminate the pathogens. (R)
As a quality control process, autophagy is believed to be particularly
beneficial in neurodegenerative disorders Alzheimers, Parkinsons, ALS
and Huntingtons. This is because these disorders are, in
part, characterized by the accumulation of misfolded disease-causing
proteins. (R)
Research suggests that autophagy is required for the lifespan-prolonging
effects of caloric restriction (R) and for much of the health benefits of
exercise (R). Inhibiting mTOR increases autophagy, which is part of the
reason mTOR inhibition increases longevity. (R)
4) Phytic Acid Has Potential For Treating Multiple Cancers
Phytic acid was found to be anti-cancer against bone, prostate, ovarian,
breast, liver, colorectal, leukemia, sarcomas and skin cancers (R, R2, R3,
R4, R5, R6)
5) Phytic Acid Benefits Blood Glucose Control
Studies show that phytate reduces blood glucose levels in mice and rats
(R, R2, R3).
It works in part by slowing the rate of starch digestibility (R).
6) Phytic Acid is Neuroprotective
Neuroprotective effect of PA was found in a cell culture model of
Parkinsons disease (R). It was found to protects against 6Hydroxydopamine-Induced dopaminergic neuron apoptosis, which causes
Parkinsons (R).
By inducing autophagy, it can also protect against Alzheimers (R) and
other neurodegenerative diseases

7) Phytic Acid Reduces Triglycerides and Increases HDL

Studies have found reduced serum triglycerides and increased total
cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels in the group fed phytic acid
supplement. (R)
8) Phytic Acid Repairs DNA
It was found that phytic acid can enter cells and act as a cofactor in DNA
repair by nonhomologous end-joining. This repairs breaks in the
strands. This is a potential mechanism by which phytate prevents cancer.
9) Phytic Acid Increases Bone Mineral Density
Phytate consumption had a protective effect against osteoporosis,
suggesting that low phytate consumption should be considered as an
osteoporosis risk factor (R).
Adequate consumption of phytate may play an important role in the
prevention of bone mineral density loss in postmenopausal women (R).
10) Phytic acid protects human skin from UVB exposure
UVB radiation damages skin cells, potentially inducing chronic skin
damage, cancer and suppression of the immune system. (R)
Studies show that phytic acid protects cells from UVB-induced
destruction and mice from UVB-induced tumors. (R)
11) Phytic Acid Can Protect The Gut From Toxins
Phytic acid supplementation increased surface amplification in the
intestines, resulting in increased gut transit time and more efficient
absorption of nutrients (R).
Phytate also protects intestinal cells from certain toxins at least in
pigs (R).
12) Phytic Acid Helps Prevent Kidney Stones
In rats treated with phytic acid, calcifications in their kidneys was reduced,
which suggests potential for preventing kidney stones. (R)
In another animal study found that it inhibited the formation of calcium
oxalate stones. (R)
In a study on humans, phytate urinary levels in a group of active calcium
oxalate stone formers were studied and compared with those found in
healthy people. Urinary phytate was significantly lower for stone formers.
Low phytate levels may be why kidney stones is more of a problem in the
paleo world.
13) Phytic acid binds to Heavy Metals, Mycotoxins, Uranium, Iron,
Manganese and (all good)
Phytic acid is one of few chelating therapies used for uranium removal (R).
Phytic Acid reduces the toxicity of mycotoxins, which may be explained by
its antioxidant activity (R).

14) Phytic Acid Decreases Uric Acid/Helps Gout

By inhibiting the enzyme xanthine oxidase, phytic acid blocks the buildup
of uric acid and can help prevent gout (R).
15) Phytic Acid is Anti-HIV
Phytate was able to inhibit the replication of HIV-1 in cell lines. PA was
only beneficial on an early replicative stage of HIV-1. (R)
16) Phytic Acid Increases The Bioavailability of Flavones
Phytate is a potential absorption enhancer for
pharmaceuticals/supplements. The oral bioavailability of isorhamnetin,
kaempferol, and quercetin was enhanced by the co-administration
of Phytate. The main mechanisms are related to their enhanced aqueous
solubility and permeability in the presence of phytate. (R)
How Phytate Interacts With Minerals
Theres really only a few minerals that phytate binds to and as a result of
the binding may potentially lead to health problems.
The minerals you should pay attention to are Zinc and to a lesser
extent calcium and chromium.
Phytic acid can bind to zinc somewhat strongly and can cause GI
problems, among other health issues. Zinc binding I think is the biggest
issue and most people eating a plant based diet should supplement with a
small amount of zinc. Not only is phytate a problem because of zinc
binding, but since eating such a diet contains a lot of copper, it will
interfere further with zinc absorption. For these reasons, I supplement
with 15mg of zinc glycinate and recommend this dosage to others,
especially men. Women need less zinc, so its less likely to as big of a
problem for them (RDA for men 19+ yrs old is 11mg and 8mg for women).
10mg of supplemental zinc should suffices for women.
Phytate can also bind to calcium, albeit not as strongly as it binds to zinc.
But not only have I not seen health problems as a result of this binding to
calcium, Ive only seen studies where it increases bone mineral density,
which is unexpected. We obviously dont have the full story. My wild guess
is that it mainly binds to extra calcium that the body isnt using and helps
utilize or retain the rest of the calcium in some fashion. I supplement with
250mg 2X a day, not so much because of the phytic acid, but more
because I dont eat dairy and I dont get the recommended level of
calcium. If I did eat dairy, Id consume maybe 150mg of calcium just to be
safe (the RDA is 1000mg), because after all phytic acid does bind to
calcium. Linus pauling institute: Phytic acid is a less potent inhibitor of
calcium absorption than oxalate. Only concentrated sources of phytate,
such as wheat bran or dried beans, substantially reduce calcium
absorption. So, I think people should focus on getting the RDA for calcium
and maybe take a bit more if you consume a lot of phytate just in case.

Ive also seen a study where it binds to chromium and I was deficient in
chromium at one point, so that may be a problem, too. Chromium
deficiency is supposedly rare, but my experience possibly suggests
otherwise, since I was eating a whole food diet with no added sugar (sugar
causes an excretion of chromium). It could be that I was deficient in
chromium not because of phytic acid but because of decreased gut
function from ingesting gluten or from a zinc deficiency. I take 100mcg of
chromium GTF every day. These interventions are extremely cheap,
simple and safe, so I find the drawbacks of consuming phytic acid
to be very minimal.
Most people actually have too much iron. Ive experimented with a starch
based diet for a while and my iron levels were still higher than the ideal
range for anti aging purposes, and that was without eating red meat. In
addition, I also drank tea, kombucha, curcumin and a bunch of other iron
chelators. Iron is in all foods and deficiency is usually caused by
something else other than low consumption of iron. This is the reason you
see some people donating blood to get rid of excess iron. Menstruating
women should monitor their iron levels more closely, however. I should
also mention that people have different genetics with regard to how well
they store iron and I might be genetically a good iron storer.
Selenium is an important mineral that I supplement with, since its good
for autoimmune conditions of the thyroid. I take 100mcg daily, which is a
conservative dosage. I also make sure not to eat brazil nuts or else I may
be getting too much of it. Phytate doesnt seem to be an issue for
selenium, at least according to this study on baby chicks. If anything it
seems to be a benefit. A quote: Phytate increased selenium in all tissues
except muscle; it is not clear if this resulted from increased absorption or
increased retention.
The fact the phytate binds to manganese is a plus since people get too
much manganese in a starch based diet. Potassium, Magnesium These
minerals are abundant in plant-based foods and I found that I was getting
double or more of the RDA for magnesium. Some binding by phytate
wouldnt cause ill health outcomes.
Copper absorption is actually enhanced by phytic acid in copper deficient
diets. I dont know what would happen in diets that werent deficient in
copper. Id actually rather it bind to copper because starch based diets
are too high in copper. In any case, zinc supplementation should reduce
copper absorption, so no worries here.

In Conclusion
If you adopt a plant-based omnivorous diet you likely wont have a
problem, except for zinc. If you want to be safe you can take a small
amount of chromium and calcium, though theres no evidence that
its necessary if you consume dairy and a balanced diet. This is a very
small price to pay to get the health benefits of phytate. A review article on
phytate and minerals in a vegetarian diet (not a diet I support):
Despite the apparent lower bioavailability of zinc, copper, manganese,
and selenium in vegetarian diets because of the high contents of phytic
acid and/or dietary fiber and the low content of flesh foods in the diet, the
trace element status of most adult vegetarians appears to be adequate.
Children, however, appear to be more vulnerable to suboptimal zinc
status, presumably because of their high zinc requirements for growth and
their bodies failure to adapt to a vegetarian diet by increased absorption
of dietary zinc. Ref.