Phytic acid, also known as phytate or IP6, is a substance that is produced by plants to protect themselves against diseases and pests. It naturally occurs in grains, beans, nuts, seeds and leafy vegetables.


For many years, the effects of phytic acid on health have been subject to debate. Below we discuss the positive and negative effects of this substance.


Phytic acid is often labeled as an anti-nutrient, because it binds to minerals such as iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium and prevents the body from fully absorbing them. Studies from the University of Ceylon and the University of Cape Town have shown that a daily intake of 1000 to 2000 mg of phytic acid has no effect on the mineral bioavailability when a balanced diet is consumed. However, problems can arise when a high amount of this substance is ingested along with diets with an insufficient mineral content.

Products that contain large quantities of phytic acid are commercial whole wheat bread, brown rice, coffee, raw cocoa and nuts (especially Brazil nuts). If you eat a lot of foods with phytic acid it is possible to remove a portion of this substance by the methods described below.

  • Soak your nuts, seeds, beans and grains in water overnight. However, a critical comment should be made about this. A study published in Food Chemistry investigated the effects of soaking whole grains (maize, millet, sorghum and rice) and legumes (mung bean, cowpea and soy bean) on iron, zinc and phytic acid. The researchers soaked the foods in water for 24 hours. They concluded that phytic acid was reduced in: maize (21%), millet (28%), rice (17%), sorghum (4%), mung bean (8%) and soy bean (23%). Unfortunately, the bioavailability of iron was not improved and that of zinc only slightly, because iron and to a lesser extent zinc were leached in the soaking medium. Given the fact that the researchers found no phytic acid in the soaking medium, the water can be used for cooking and thereby it is possible to partially recover the leached minerals.
  • Buy sourdough bread instead of commercial whole whole wheat bread. A study published in Food Science and Biotechnology has shown that the use of sourdough causes phytic acid to decrease and the bioavailability of zinc to increase. Spelt bread is also an option. Researchers of the Catholic University of Leuven have found that spelt contains 40% less phytic acid than wheat.
  • Cooking also reduces the phytic acid content.

You can reduce the negative effects of phytic acid on iron by adding vitamin C rich foods to your meal. This is revealed in a study conducted by the University of Goteborg in Sweden.


It is often forgotten that phytic acid also has positive effects. It not only binds minerals, but also substances that are harmful to us. It acts as an antioxidant protecting cells from oxidation. There are indications that phytic acid inhibits the growth of cancer cells and can help regulate blood glucose and cholesterol levels.

Initially, it was thought that phytic acid causes osteoporosis, since it has the ability to bind to calcium. However, human studies have shown that this substance contributes to bone health. Two studies have demonstrated that people who consume a lot of phytic acid have higher bone mineral density. Another study, has revealed that women with high urinary concentrations of phytic acid have less bone loss. The results of these studies can be found in Frontiers in Bioscience, Journal of Medicinal Food and the European Journal of Nutrition. According to scientists from the University of the Balearic Islands phytic acid may be an effective treatment for osteoporosis, because it prevents the formation of bone-eating cells.


As each food has its advantages and disadvantages, phytic acid also has positive and negative effects. In well balanced diets it will not cause mineral deficiencies. In my opinion the consumption of a small amount of phytic acid will even contribute to good health.


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