If you’ve been hanging around the traditional or real food worlds for any length of time you have heard about the detriments of phytic acid. It’s been called an anti-nutrient by many, while some claim health benefits due to its chelating nature. So is phytic acid friend or foe?
When my husband was experiencing symptoms of mineral deficiency I decided to stop taking everyone’s word for it and start doing a bit of research of my own. This is the result of that research.
Phytic Acid Defined
Phytic Acid, also knows as inositol hexaphosphate (IP6), or phytate, is present in the brans and hulls of most grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. The ring you see above is the inositol (a B vitamin) constituent, which then has six phosphate groups attached. See all of those (-) symbols up there? That means that it is highly charged, which gives phytic acid its chelative (or binding) properties. Basically that means that phytic acid binds to minerals, metals and anything else it can get it’s hands on to and takes them out of the body with it.
Phytic Acid: Friend or Foe?
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the higher the dosage of phytic acid in ones bread, the lower the absorption of minerals. The Journal of Nutrition compared the absorption of minerals in inositols containing fewer phosphates. They found that the fewer phosphate groups did not inhibit absorption to the degree that phytic acid does.
So you could see how that would be bad. If, when phytic acid exits our bodies, it takes other nutrients with it; we are not really taking in the minerals from these foods. Worse yet, if we are already deficient then perhaps it will take what little we have left, exacerbating our health problems.
On the other hand, phytic acid is said to be a powerful antioxidant as well as helpful in ridding the body of heavy metals and other toxins. One such article comes from Science Direct: Protective Effect of Phytic Acid on Oxidative DNA Damage with Reference to Cancer Chemoprevention. In every article I came across that found phytic acid to be friendly it seemed to be used under special medical circumstances, not in the foods we eat every day.
While I do not doubt that phytic acid could be used beneficially in some specific circumstances, it is clear that daily consumption leads to mineral loss. Furthermore I am disheartened by the lack of knowledge of phytic acid in the general community. I came across many articles in big name journals which I suspect those who write up dietary recommendations for the government would have access to. Clearly their interests do not lie in the health of the general public.
A while ago I wrote about my reasoning for and experience with soaking grains, nuts, and beans. My further research into phytic acid has only confirmed previous reasoning so I will continue to soak and ferment those foods high in phytic acid.
Further Reading and Resources
Here are some of the articles I read through in my research:
- Cambridge Journals: Phytic Acid
- Food-Info: What is Phytic Acid?
- The American Journal of Nutrition: Phytic acid added to white-wheat bread inhibits fractional apparent magnesium absorption in humans
- Journal of Nutrition: Inhibitory Effects of Phytic Acid and Other Inositol Phosphates on Zinc and Calcium Absorption in Suckling Rats
One of the best resources for the home cook that I have found dealing with phytic acid is Reducing Phytic Acid in Your Food: A visual analysis of the research on home kitchen remedies for phytic acid. Reading this paper answered a lot of my questions and gave me easy to apply methods for reducing phytic acid at home.
You can also purchase sprouted flour for baking and cooking, which will be low in phytic acid.
What do you think… is phytic acid worth paying attention to?