What is Phytase Enzyme?
Phytase belongs to the family of phosphatase enzymes. It works by catalyzing the hydrolysis of phytic acid (or phytate.) Before we explain the phytase health benefits and effects, let’s first explore what phytic acid is and why it is important.
How Does Phytase Work?
First, phytic acid is indigestible phosphorus. It’s available in plant-based foods such as various grains that include cereal and wheat. In fact, two-thirds of the indigestible phosphorus that is present in plants is in the form of phytic phosphate. Now enters phytase which works to jumpstart the hydrolysis of the phosphorus that makes it useable for your body.
Additionally, we must look at the mineral value that comes from the hydrolysis of the calcium-phosphorus that is essential for our human bodies. Also bound in the phytic acid molecule are the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc. This is where phytase works to cleave and free the minerals from the phytic acid molecule for more efficient use by every cell in your body.
Many plant materials include phytase which is necessary for the digestive process. In fact, it breaks down and enhances the nutritional qualities of corn, grains, legumes, and seeds thereby increasing digestive health and reducing the need for additional calcium phosphate.
Phytase Health Benefits & Effects
Bone Health Enhancements
As an essential element for healthy bone density, this study shows that phytase increases the bioavailability of phosphorus. Additionally, this study shows that in lab animals it results in optimum body weight, the efficiency of the digestive process, and bone strength.
Digestive Tract – Lowers Toxin Build-Up
Phytase breaks down phytic acid. This helps make our digestive system more efficient and there is, therefore, less chance of excessive insoluble complexes building up in the digestive system.
Phytates enhance natural “killer cells” that eliminate cancer cells while they amazingly do not affect normal cells. They also inhibit the growth of new cancer cells.
Tip o’ the Hat to ClevelandClinic.org.
Mineral Absorption Increases & Deficiency Reduces
One study shows that taking phytase supplements work to ingest greater absorption by the body of important minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, and zinc.
Another study by the Federal Research Centre for Nutrition and Food in Germany shows the positive benefits of taking phytase supplements. Interestingly, it suggests that it reduces phytate in the cereal and legume foods and increases mineral availability. What’s more this study shows promise for reducing mineral deficiencies in vegans, vegetarians, pregnant women, and people in non-industrialized regions.
Radiation Damage Protection
In the book Diet for the Atomic Age, author Sara Shannon lists 11 nutrients that offer natural protection against the harmful effects of heavy metal toxicity and radiation. Interestingly, phytates are known to bind with radioactive molecules and release them from the body.
Phytic Acid Benefits
We know that cereals, corn, legumes, seeds, and soybeans contain large quantities of phytic acid. However, it is interesting to note that they have an anti-nutritional quality in that they reduce the absorption of nutrients. Unfortunately, this creates insoluble proteins and minerals. However, fortunately, the phytase enzyme breaks down excess phytic acid thereby freeing phosphorus for healthy use by our bodies.
Phosphorus Increases for Every Cell
Phosphorus is a necessary component of every cell in both human and animal bodies and wraps cells as a semi-permeable membrane containing phosphate and lipids. Phytase works to free this phosphorus for use by every cell in the body.
Foods High in Phytase & Other Sources
Phytic acid is both good and bad, depending on the factors involved. However, if you follow a healthy and sensible diet, too much phytic acid should never become a health concern.
Iron or Zinc Deficiencies
If you are at risk for a deficiency of either zinc or iron, then simply diversify your diet to not include foods in all meals that are high in phytate. This scenario especially comes into play if you have an iron deficiency or are vegan or vegetarian.
To further explain, you will find these two types of iron in food:
- Heme Iron which derives from meat
- Non-heme iron which derives from plants
The down-side of non-heme iron is that it does not easily absorb. On the other hand, heme iron does absorb well by the body.
Additionally, zinc that derives from meat also absorbs effectively. This is one of the reasons why mineral deficiencies are rare among people who eat meat.
But, if your diet consists primarily of grains and legumes which are high-phytate foods, it may result in significant nutrient issues. This is especially true in third world countries where the diets consist mainly of cereals (grains), legumes, and nuts.
Even though, as previously discussed, foods high in phytates might cause iron and zinc deficiency in some people, there is a countermeasure you can employ. This consists of soaking, sprouting, or fermenting foods.
This is important because you don’t want to avoid foods that are high in phytates because most of them are very nutritious. If this pertains to you, here are the primary methods for preparing your food to be lower in phytic acid.
- Soaking your grains, nuts, and legumes in water overnight will reduce the phytate level.
- Sprouting grains, nuts, and legumes cause phytates to degrade. This is also known as germination.
- Fermenting organic acids breaks down phytate. Sourdough bread is one such example.
For those who eat meat regularly, this is not a concern. But, if you are vegan, vegetarian, or do not have a more balanced diet available to you as in many non-industrialized regions, these methods can be useful and effective.
This supplement measures out in phytase units, or FTU phytase. This comes from the Foods Chemical Codex (FCC) which is a division of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP). When using this type of measurement for supplements, you must note that the higher the number, the more active the phytase enzyme supplement will be in your system.
Phytase belongs to the family of phosphatase enzymes and works by catalyzing the hydrolysis of phytic acid (or phytate.) It is also indigestible phosphorus that’s available in plant-based foods such as grains, nuts, and legumes. Phytase works to break down their nutritional qualities thereby making those nutrients more bioavailable for our bodies. If this is something that you think you might need, we suggest that you continue your research and consult with your medical professional to determine if the phytase enzyme supplement is right for you.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products discussed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.