7

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Phytic acid in the paleo diet?

Answered on January 05, 2015
Created August 16, 2010 at 12:41 AM

It seems like almond and almond based foods seem popular in paleo but this is interesting because I found this article.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phytic_acid

I need some help deciphering that table. Most of the food sources are grains and legumes, but the highest offenders are actually nuts and seeds, especially paleo superstars like almonds and flax.

The worst one apparently is sesame seed flour (I'm not sure if that applies to sesame seeds since the results are all over the place and oat meal has a much higher rating than oats.

Is phytic acid not that bad after all? I have to wonder why phytic acid would be one of the reason to avoid grains if it is found in foods considered paleo too. I feel very confused by it all.

I read that the wild almond is toxic, so maybe it is not so paleo after all.

In fact in my Googling I found this interesting little essay, which is unrelenting in its defense of grains' phytic acid (warning: there's some religious preaching about God wanting us to eat bread at the end)

Phytic acid???s ???chelating??? ability is considered by some to be a detriment to one???s health. On the other hand, many researches embrace this ability to bind with minerals as its most powerful asset. In her book, Diet for the Atomic Age, Sara Shannon, lists 11 nutrients in particular that protect against heavy metal toxicity and radiation damage. Phytates bind with radioactive and toxic substances and carry them out of the body. Aware of phytic acid???s mineral binding properties, Shannon states that an adequate diet will more than compensate. One must also remember that whole grains themselves are an abundant source of iron, calcium, and zinc. After extensive research, Shannon found that the more toxic our environment becomes, grains are our best source of protection, particularly due to the phytate content. She believes that ???for optimal health, at least half of every meal should be grains???. Why would one want to denature something that is so beneficial? In fact, a supplement company is actually isolating this ???powerful antioxidant??? because of its anti-tumor, anti-carcinogenic, and blood sugar regulating properties!

Studies show that phytic acid, particularly from wheat bran, actually stimulates the productions of phytase in the small intestine. The fact that phytase can be produced in the small intestine eliminates the necessity of fermenting all grains before consuming them, as in the case of unleavened breads, quick breads (that do not use yeast as a leavening), and parched or boiled grains. Phytase activity in the small intestine actually increased, not decreased, the absorption of minerals, especially, calcium. (Journal of Nutrition 2000:130: 2020-2025). Over the years we have seen numerous people healed of life long anemia issues after they began grinding their own grains to make their bread. How could this be if phytic acid in the bran kept iron from being absorbed?

How would you respond to this? I find it very intriguing although the book sounds very obscure and from what I can gather Sara Shannon advocates an almost vegetarian diet (with occasional consumption of fish a few times a week). I'm not giving credence to her ideas, I am just curious what you make of everything in my post and how you would respond to it. I'm also curious about the studies apparently showing that phytic acid stimulates production of phytase in the small intestine.

I am sure some here will say that high phytic acid content proves nuts and seeds are bad for you. Maybe some others have some different opinions too. Perhaps this is one case where Wikipedia's information on phytic acid content is unreliable.

9dd0c8a268969f6f55d52bddd9af0c72

(80)

on January 24, 2012
at 09:38 PM

If to this we add the omega-6/omega-3 ratio most nuts have, which is quite bad, in the end it looks like nuts are a pretty bad source of food. Isn't it?

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on August 18, 2010
at 02:14 AM

The authors ideas on heavy metal detoxification and phytic acid are interesting, and we should investigate them. There is no reason to believe all grains are bad under all circumstances.

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on August 17, 2010
at 07:52 AM

Well, if phytic acid has a protective effect against the heavy metals in our modern water and food supply, at least we know there are paleo sources.

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on August 16, 2010
at 11:07 PM

I agree with most of your post. I would just quibble with "nuts are not addictive." Anecdotal evidence from low carbers indicates that nuts are addictive and moreover weight-loss stallers for a lot of people.

93f44e8673d3ea2294cce085ebc96e13

(10502)

on August 16, 2010
at 06:23 PM

@Stancel -- Aside from the content and arguments based on scripture, I would also consider the source of the article. How is the author making their, uhm, daily bread? By selling bread.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on August 16, 2010
at 12:29 PM

Phytic acid is in nuts anyway. Not need for grains even if you believe its good.

A89f9751a97c3082802dc0bcbe4e9208

(13978)

on August 16, 2010
at 05:36 AM

Great question!!

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on August 16, 2010
at 03:55 AM

I agree with you Hannah and also tend to think, like Dr. Harris from Panu, that trying to mimic too much a SAD diet with Paleo choices is like smoking candy cigarettes, it's just a bad habit to keep in the long term. I think people who eat Paleo long enough will discover that the best way to go about eating is simply to dump a big piece of fatty meat on a plate with a generous side of veggies cooked in animal fat. Much simpler than Paleo pancakes. Of course it doesn't mean you can't impress guest with a fancy sauce and ingenious use of spices, but that not the same thing.

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on August 16, 2010
at 03:49 AM

Very true Eva, I think that trying to compartmentalize health too much causes a problem of micromanaging and loosing the big picture of what health should be. A food for this, a food for that, it's no wonder people are lost when it comes to nutrition, the general nutrition advice is just so damn complicated.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 16, 2010
at 03:32 AM

Phytic acid strips nutrients from the surrounding cells, including cancer cells. Cancer cells grow faster so they need more nutrients than regular cells. It has been shown that phytic acid slows cancer growth. I have not seen any studies that show it PREVENTS cancer growth. I have seen a few studies that show fiber in veggies may help prevent cancer growth, but I've also seen a few that show it might promote it. (so mixed reviews on the veggie fiber). Also, some substances seem to prevent cancer in some areas of the body but promote it in others. SO I think must look at big picture.

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8 Answers

2
8e06ab9062a38077df842b67a4e383f8

on August 17, 2010
at 04:59 AM

I know many Paleo followers who also take phytic acid IP6 (Inositol Hexaphosphate) for its numerous health benefits including heavy metal chelation. The key is to take it away from meals to ensure it does not chelate good minerals.

IP6 surely is not paleo (extracted from rice bran); but it has much positive medical science behind it, and is what I consider a "paleo+" supplement. This is because it looks to chelate some heavy metals we may be exposed to at higher rates in a modern environment, and also it is a still a plant extract. Also, its benefits are more orientated towards longevity; which it can be argued Paleo is blind too (far far beyond reproduction or even typical grand parenting ages ~80-100+ years old).

I take it a few times a week, and everyone else I know who has done the research on it has also agreed it appears to be part of our arsenal of staying healthy for a very long time.

Protection against cancer by dietary IP6 and inositol

Inositol hexaphosphate (IP(6)) is a naturally occurring polyphosphorylated carbohydrate, abundantly present in many plant sources and in certain high-fiber diets, such as cereals and legumes. In addition to being found in plants, IP(6) is contained in almost all mammalian cells, although in much smaller amounts, where it is important in regulating vital cellular functions such as signal transduction, cell proliferation, and differentiation. For a long time IP(6) has been recognized as a natural antioxidant. Recently IP(6) has received much attention for its role in cancer prevention and control of experimental tumor growth, progression, and metastasis. In addition, IP(6) possesses other significant benefits for human health, such as the ability to enhance immune system, prevent pathological calcification and kidney stone formation, lower elevated serum cholesterol, and reduce pathological platelet activity. In this review we show the efficacy and discuss some of the molecular mechanisms that govern the action of this dietary agent. Exogenously administered IP(6) is rapidly taken up into cells and dephosphorylated to lower inositol phosphates, which further affect signal transduction pathways resulting in cell cycle arrest. A striking anticancer action of IP(6) was demonstrated in different experimental models. In addition to reducing cell proliferation, IP(6) also induces differentiation of malignant cells. Enhanced immunity and antioxidant properties also contribute to tumor cell destruction. Preliminary studies in humans show that IP(6) and inositol, the precursor molecule of IP(6), appear to enhance the anticancer effect of conventional chemotherapy, control cancer metastases, and improve quality of life. Because it is abundantly present in regular diet, efficiently absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, and safe, IP(6) + inositol holds great promise in our strategies for cancer prevention and therapy. There is clearly enough evidence to justify the initiation of full-scale clinical trials in humans.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17044765

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on August 17, 2010
at 07:52 AM

Well, if phytic acid has a protective effect against the heavy metals in our modern water and food supply, at least we know there are paleo sources.

2
C8521a858edd480815a55f683afff86a

(2065)

on August 16, 2010
at 03:15 AM

This author's claims are utterly ridiculous. It is true that phytic acid can chelate some harmful heavy metals and toxins from the body, but to claim that this makes grains the healthiest staple of the diet is absurd. She states that the grains themselves are a rich source of calcium, iron and zinc and therefore the phytic acid isn't problematic. This is a contradiction, b/c of course these minerals are not readily absorbed as a result of the presence of phytic acid. The SAD is already so deficient in minerals, eating even more grains is not the answer. There is a reason that most school children have a head full of cavities. We need to up the animal products which are rich sources of most vitamins and minerals and be careful about ingesting foods that block mineral absorption.

Her claim that the presence of phytase in the small intestine creates no need to ferment grains is preposterous. As Eva states above, not everyone will produce phytase. Every culture that has sustained itself using grains knew that fermentation and proper preparation was absolutely necessary. Never has the human diet included the quantities of non-fermented grains that it does now. It is a dangerous experiment that is failing miserably.

As for nuts and seeds being popular in paleo eating, I for one eat barely any (too $$). You have probably noticed all the fake pancake/bread/etc recipes that use almond flour and it could seem like it's a staple. I think most people are eating these things rarely if at all. Just because nuts have phytic acid and grains do as well, don't be confused. Foods are obviously made of more than a single component. A high phytic acid content doesn't "prove" nuts are bad for you. It's just one aspect of their nutritional content and makes them inappropriate to use as a staple. In moderation they are perfectly fine.

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on August 16, 2010
at 03:55 AM

I agree with you Hannah and also tend to think, like Dr. Harris from Panu, that trying to mimic too much a SAD diet with Paleo choices is like smoking candy cigarettes, it's just a bad habit to keep in the long term. I think people who eat Paleo long enough will discover that the best way to go about eating is simply to dump a big piece of fatty meat on a plate with a generous side of veggies cooked in animal fat. Much simpler than Paleo pancakes. Of course it doesn't mean you can't impress guest with a fancy sauce and ingenious use of spices, but that not the same thing.

1a8020e101199de55c1b3b726f342321

(1973)

on August 18, 2010
at 02:14 AM

The authors ideas on heavy metal detoxification and phytic acid are interesting, and we should investigate them. There is no reason to believe all grains are bad under all circumstances.

1
9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

on August 16, 2010
at 03:20 AM

I think Sara Shannon didn't work a lot with people dealing with digestive issues/leaky gut/IBS, because I didn't hear of one person not feeling better without grains.

It reminds me of a study I came across that was trying to show that removing gluten from the diet could have detrimental effects to the gut flora. Studies like that are often poorly designed. In the gluten study, they observed the change in gut flora over only a few weeks of people who suddenly cut gluten-containing grains. There was no information on the new diet. Those people probably suddenly got a much lower amount of fiber in their diet and the gut flora is bound to go through some changes in that situation. Evaluating the changes in gut flora only for a few weeks following a big dietary change is not enough to come to a conclusion. Of course it doesn't take us a study to come to the conclusion that there is no way gluten could actually be beneficial in the long run.

From the Wikipedia article:

Researchers now believe that phytic acid, found in the fiber of legumes and grains, is the major ingredient responsible for preventing colon cancer and other cancers.

That is over the top! A new food preventing a new disease? I think we're better off ditching the new foods and preventing all new diseases. It's a sad thing to see science arrive at such bad conclusion. As much as we like what studies bring to the table in terms of concrete proof, there are always so many variables to consider that sometimes just a bit of common sense goes a long way and while people are going to be trying to prevent colon cancer by eating grains and feeling sick, I'm going to sprint under the sun and be happy eating my steak with all the fat!

9bc6f3df8db981f67ea1465411958c8d

(3690)

on August 16, 2010
at 03:49 AM

Very true Eva, I think that trying to compartmentalize health too much causes a problem of micromanaging and loosing the big picture of what health should be. A food for this, a food for that, it's no wonder people are lost when it comes to nutrition, the general nutrition advice is just so damn complicated.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 16, 2010
at 03:32 AM

Phytic acid strips nutrients from the surrounding cells, including cancer cells. Cancer cells grow faster so they need more nutrients than regular cells. It has been shown that phytic acid slows cancer growth. I have not seen any studies that show it PREVENTS cancer growth. I have seen a few studies that show fiber in veggies may help prevent cancer growth, but I've also seen a few that show it might promote it. (so mixed reviews on the veggie fiber). Also, some substances seem to prevent cancer in some areas of the body but promote it in others. SO I think must look at big picture.

0
Bbf025b48d2b064b75313fca68c1f7a3

on January 05, 2015
at 07:21 PM

This is from Cheeseslave, quo is quoting Bruce Fife, ND.

“Phytic acid occurs in nuts and seeds in two forms — phytic acid and phytic acid salts [Reddy, NR and Sathe, SK (Eds.) Food Phalates. CRC Press, 2001]. Both are generally referred to as “phytates.” Together, these two compounds make up the total percentage of phytates reported in various foods. However, they do not possess the same chelating power. So the chelating effect of the phytates in corn, wheat, or soy are not the same as those in coconut. You cannot predict the chelating effect based on total phytate content alone.

The mineral-binding effect of the phytates in coconut is essentially non-existent. It is as if coconut has no phytic acid at all. In a study published in 2002, researchers tested the mineral binding capacity of a variety of bakery products made with coconut flour. Mineral availability was determined by simulating conditions that prevail in the small intestine and colon. The researchers concluded that coconut flour has little or no effect on mineral availability.” (Trinidad, TP and others. The effect of coconut flour on mineral availability from coconut flour supplemented foods. Philippine Journal of Nutrition 2002; 49:48-57). In other words, coconut flour did not bind to the minerals. Therefore soaking or other phytic acid-neutralizing processes are completely unnecessary.

Soaking has been suggested as a means to reduce the phytic acid content in grains and nuts. Some suggest coconut flour should also be soaked. To soak coconut flour doesn’t make any sense. The coconut meat from which the flour is made, is naturally soaked in water its entire life (12 months) as it is growing on the tree. To remove the meat from the coconut and soak it again is totally redundant. After the coconut meat has been dried and ground into flour, soaking it would ruin the flour and make it unusable. You should never soak coconut flour.

In the tropics coconut has been consumed as a traditional food for thousands of years. Those people who use it as a food staple and regard it as ‘sacred food,’ do not soak it or process it in any way to remove the phytates. It is usually eaten raw. This is the traditional method of consumption. They apparently have not suffered any detrimental effects from it even though in some populations it was served as their primary source of food.” (Source: Weston A. Price Foundation Wise Traditions Journal, Fall 2011

0
68dff0ba8a0def14261630eda03278dc

on June 15, 2013
at 12:09 PM

I've read bits of Shannon's book, enough to realise that it is grossly misrepresented by Sue Becker. Sue Becker is a nutcase, I could write a full critique of her misleading article but it's just too obvious.

0
D31a2a2d43191b15ca4a1c7ec7d03038

on November 09, 2010
at 02:08 AM

I've been wondering about this, too. Here is what I've found so far:

From WAPF:

http://www.westonaprice.org/food-features/1893-living-with-phytic-acid.html

The section on Nuts:

NUTS

In general, nuts contain levels of phytic acid equal to or higher than those of grains. Therefore those consuming peanut butter, nut butters or nut flours, will take in phytate levels similar to those in unsoaked grains. Unfortunately, we have very little information on phytate reduction in nuts. Soaking for seven hours likely eliminates some phytate. Based on the accumulation of evidence, soaking nuts for eighteen hours, dehydrating at very low temperatures—a warm oven—and then roasting or cooking the nuts would likely eliminate a large portion of phytates.

Nut consumption becomes problematic in situations where people on the GAPS diet and similar regimes are consuming lots of almonds and other nuts as a replacement for bread, potatoes and rice. The eighteen-hour soaking is highly recommended in these circumstances. It is best to avoid nut butters unless they have been made with soaked nuts—these are now available commercially. Likewise, it is best not to use nut flours—and also coconut flour—for cooking unless they have been soured by the soaking process.

It is instructive to look at Native American preparation techniques for the hickory nut, which they used for oils. To extract the oil they parched the nuts until they cracked to pieces and then pounded them until they were as fine as coffee grounds. They were then put into boiling water and boiled for an hour or longer, until they cooked down to a kind of soup from which the oil was strained out through a cloth. The rest was thrown away. The oil could be used at once or poured into a vessel where it would keep a long time.50

By contrast, the Indians of California consumed acorn meal after a long period of soaking and rinsing, then pounding and cooking. Nuts and seeds in Central America were prepared by salt water soaking and dehydration in the sun, after which they were ground and cooked.


According to this site, almonds have 1280 mg of phytic acid per 100 grams:

http://www.phyticacid.org/nuts/almonds-and-phytic-acid-phytates/


If I find something with a better answer, I'll post. I'm still looking.

0
892f9eb3a35eb5b888d256b1287c962d

on August 16, 2010
at 05:27 AM

First off, let me see the actual studies(proof) from where she draws her conclusions. These so-called studies can sometimes be biased it's information or material could be misrepresented.

0
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on August 16, 2010
at 02:16 AM

Some people can produce phytase in small amounts. Of course, the phytase will only be produced when the phytic acid shows up, simply because it is not needed at other times. SO there is nothing super magic about stimulating phytase production just as there is nothing magic about fat stimulating bile production. However, the prob is that almost all humans can produce bile but only about 20 percent produce phytase and only is small quantities so this does not 'eliminate' the need to ferment grains. Also, grains have other issues besides just phytic acid, including all kinds of toxins in the bran parts and stimulation of high levels of insulin. Only fermentation can really do a lot to break down the toxins. Fermentation also helps some with insulin rise as the bacteria feed on the sugars and lessen the amounts of them. I would also like to comment that of course phytase increases nutrient absorption. That is the whole point of phytase, to break down the phytic acid that binds to the minerals. Breaking it down releases the minerals. That woman makes it sound like she figured this out over some kind of opposition, but this is just basic knowledge and does not deserve the word 'actually' as if this was some great revelatoin.

Also, the logic here is weird. First she argues phytic acid is good for you. Then she argues that phytase in your gut breaks it down anyway so no need to ferment or soak. But if phytic acid is good, then how can our body breaking down the phytic acid and making the food more digestable also be good? And if phytic acid is so good, why would the body even want to break it down using phytase? Can't have it both ways. I'd need to see some evidence and research behind her arguments to really accept them. Yes, phytic acid binds to a lot of stuff and drags it out of your system. It probably does bind to heavy metals. But it does not descriminate. It also binds to many very important nutritive minerals. If your diet is very healthy otherwise and you do not overdo the consumption, this ALL BY ITSELF probably is not a big deal, but there are other issues to consider with grains than JUST phytic acid.

My argument is phytic acid is bad for you and that is why there has been some evolution in some humans groups towards the body learning to break it down. Unfortunately, not all humans can accomplish this, only some that came from more long term grain eating populations. However, I do think this is an argument that 'some' evolution has occured since the paleo era. It's just that there has been a huge surge in grain eating with a sudden shift away from fermentation just in the last 200 years or less, and that is just way too fast for sufficient evolution to occur to keep up.

Yes, nuts are actually seeds and they do contain some of the bad stuff that seeds have, including phytic acid. SOme argue that since they are big, our ancestors probably ate them and that we may (MAY) be better adapted to the toxins in nuts. HOwever, only certain nuts were available in certain regions and getting at a nut from off the tree entails breaking through numerous hulls and peelings so it's hard to say how much they were relied on globally. Often you need a hammer or a vise to get at the suckers! It's a slow process. SOme feel that because of the armour coating that nuts naturally have, they may have less toxins inside them as they may have less need for toxins, but of course, they still have the phytic acid. Some paleos advise not to eat too much nuts because of the phytic acid. Of course, if you are eating super nutrient dense other paleo foods for the rest of your diet, then there should not be a problem as you are already get tons of most of the vitamins (exception might be calcium if you are not gnawing on bones and cartilage).

Plus nuts are not addictive and do not send your insulin spiralling, thus making you more hungry to eat even more nuts, etc, like grains do. So they are not as bad as the smaller seeds, but they do have draw backs. My suggestion is to eat in moderation. I like to target mostly almonds because of their magnesium content which I tend lack in my diet. But I don't eat them every day and I don't eat platefuls of them like one might with pasta and bread. If I had allergy probs or intestinal probs, they would also be on my suspect list to avoid.

Edit: Forgot to add, you can soak raw unroasted nuts to stimulate phytase and let the phytase break down the phytic acid. Then they will have a much reduced phytic acid profile by the time you eat em. Just make sure that the particular nut contains enough natural phytase to break down its level of phytic acid and find out how long you need to soak it for before consumption. SOme paleos do soak their nuts (and not just the guys..).
-Eva

100fd85230060e754fc13394eee6d6f1

(18696)

on August 16, 2010
at 11:07 PM

I agree with most of your post. I would just quibble with "nuts are not addictive." Anecdotal evidence from low carbers indicates that nuts are addictive and moreover weight-loss stallers for a lot of people.

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