Thoughts about phytase, phytates & phytic acid

by brenda on April 22, 2011


{photo credit}

I mis-spoke in my blog about Grains and Iron. I said that humans don’t have the enzyme phytase. That isn’t completely true (I learned tonight). We do have phytase, but we have such a tiny amount of it that our bodies are not able to process unfermented grains. 

I read a study that compared the amount of phytase in a human gut to the amount in a rat’s gut. The study is called Phytase activity in the human and rat small intestine. My husband thinks the things I read are boring, what do you think? :) I get excited over studies like this! :)

Phytase is the enzyme that allows a body to break down phytates, or phytic acid. If a body cannot break down phytates, they cause essential minerals to leave the body.

The study says: "…the normal human small intestine has very limited ability to digest undegraded phytates."


"Excessive ingestion of undegraded phytates can cause mineral deficiencies in humans."


"The low level of phytase activity in the intestine dictates that, from the nutritional point of view, foodstuffs comprising high concentrations of phytic acid should undergo processing before human consumption."

This doesn’t mean that white bread is healthier for us than whole wheat homemade bread. It does mean, however, that whole wheat should be soaked in an acid medium (like whey) before it is consumed by humans. It is dangerous to our bodies to consume whole wheat that is not prepared properly. 

There is study upon study showing what mineral deficiencies do to humans.

Like, The Impact of the Discovery of Human Zinc Deficiency on Health. This study admits that "High phytate content of the cereal proteins consumed in the developing world, results in decreased availability of zinc for absorption."

but then claims that Zinc therapy (taking zinc pills and fortifying foods with extra zinc) has been successful.

But, there are studies about zinc supplementation causing a 2 to 3 fold risk of prostate cancer. 

So we start with a problem–we eat unfermented grains and our bodies lack zinc. So we take zinc pills and eat extra zinc in every bite of cereal, and we end up with cancer. It all comes back to the grain. If we prepared it properly in the first place (or didn’t eat it all together), we would never have the initial problem.

Zinc is only one of the minerals that is lost by eating grains and cereals, and this was only one of the studies on that mineral. Trust me, you could Google scholarly articles on mineral deficiencies (linked to eating cereal & grains) for a week and not read everything! (This is the kind of thing I spend my "spare time" doing…Trust me ;)).


There are current studies that suggest that phytic acid is actually healthy, because it can fight off colon cancer and breast cancer. This works because phytic acid is a natural chelator. It removes minerals from the body. Breast cancer and colon cancer tumors need certain minerals to grow (I believe I read that it was iron, specifically). So consuming foods that are high in phytates (sesame seeds, soy, beans, oats, wheat, rice, etc.) without preparing them properly (soaking/fermenting) could lead to a decrease in the size of colon and breast cancer tumors. Yay, sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? The only problem is, eating such foods doesn’t just remove iron from your body–it removes phosphorus, calcium, zinc, etc. Leaving your body defenseless, weak, and unprepared for the next attack….


So what’s the bottom line? :) Grains, beans, rice, seeds, nuts, etc. are not prepared properly in our country and we are deficient in minerals because of it. Damage from phytates can lead to health problems. I believe that the way to deal with these health problems is to eat grain-free. At least for a short while, so that the body can restore itself and gain strength. And then, if grains are re-introduced, I believe that they have to be soaked in an acid medium. If grains (or any high phytate foods) are not prepared properly or are highly processed (like cereal), they are not meant to be eaten by humans. Our bodies cannot process them, cannot use them, and will only be damaged by them.


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  • http://- prem

    i think u should check out the enzymes obtained by aspergilli
    it has phytases it can be supplimented

  • Annsengoutdoor

    i just read that a rat has 30x phytase than a human. it was a reputable source, check it out. makes you wonder what a blood transfusion from a rat would do to a human with a metabolic disease. ann

  • Annsengoutdoor

    I just wrote that a rat has 30x phytase than a human but I just rechecked my source, Mellanby (Dr.), and it was that a mouse has 30x than a human so I would have to check how much a rat has.

  • Riaan François Venter

    you sound like a quack, are you an expert, or are you just reading articles on the internet like this one and then posting your ‘facts’?

  • Brenda

    Hi Riaan, I research legitimate medical studies, not other blogs. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Email

    Your next step could be researching about promoters of Fe/Zn absorption and to find out if they can fight against phytate’s negative effect. ;)

  • foxtail

    Sorry I know this is an old thread, but just to add to your ponderings: yeast fermentation (or lactic acid bacteria fermentation of course) also reduces phytate levels quite efficiently. I’m not too convinced about soaking in an acidic medium: this approach assumes there’s significant phytase activity present in the grain/flour. This is the case with wheat, rye, triticale and buckwheat but by no means for all grains/legumes (Egli et al., 2002). Generally, sourdough fermentation makes the phytate go BOOM: 3 h sourdough fermentation reduces phytate by 62%, and 5 h with yeast by 38% (which is good too) according to one study (Lopez et al., 2001). Germination followed by sourdough fermentation is extremely efficient (increase in phytase activity during germination -> decrease of pH towards the optimum + possibly the presence of microbial phytase -> good bye phytate!) (Valencia et al. 1999). Germination alone has some influence but it varies very much between different grains and legumes (Egli paper compared loads of grains). So as long as you ferment your stuff, preferably using sourdough, I wouldn’t worry about it. If you eat beans, soaking them overnight, draining, and germinating for 24-48 h before cooking should do the trick. You know what’s the worst? Soda bread and whole wheat scones: whole wheat leavened with baking soda. Yuck.

    Egli et al. 2002. J Food Sci 67(9): 3484-3488.
    Lopez et al. 2001. J Agric Food Chem 49(5): 2657-2662.
    Valencia et al. 1999. Int J Food Sci Nutr 50(3): 203-211.

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