Phytase is a phosphatase enzyme that catalyzes, or kickstarts, the hydrolysis of phytic acid, also known as phytate. Phytic acid is a form of indigestible phosphorus that’s present in plant-based foods such as cereal, wheat, and various grains. Roughly two-thirds of the phosphorus present in plant foods is bound in the form of phytic phosphate. Through the hydrolysis reaction, phytase liberates phosphorus so that the body can use it.
Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc are frequently bound (chelated) in the phytic acid molecule. Phytase cleaves and frees the bound phosphates from the phytic acid molecule. This process provides essential phosphorus needed for healthy nutrition. During the chemical reaction, phytase also frees calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and manganese, which makes these minerals available for the body to use.
Commonly found in plant material, phytase is one of the many enzymes necessary for the digestive process. It breaks down and increases the nutritional quality of grains, legumes, seeds, and corn. This enzyme can help reduce the need for calcium phosphate and increase digestive health.
The Health Benefits of Phytase
1. Boosts Mineral Absorption and Bioavailability
Enzymes in food act synergistically with the enzymes within the human body, significantly to the nutritional value of the food. Recent research shows that supplementing with phytase can significantly increase the body's ability to absorb and assimilate vital minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron.
2. Lowers Phytic Acid in the Body
Many of the plants that we eat, such as corn, grains, seeds, legumes, soybeans and most cereals, contain high amounts of this acid. Referred to as an "anti-nutritional factor," phytic acid can reduce our ability to absorb nutrients within cereal grains, creating insoluble complexes with minerals, as well as proteins. While dietary phytic acid in plant foods does have some positive effects, such as deterring kidney stones and preventing heart disease and diabetes, phytase is an enzyme that plays an important role by breaking down additional phytic acid and freeing up the phosphorus for use in the body.[2, 3]
3. May Reduce Mineral Deficiencies
A review by the Federal Research Centre for Nutrition and Food in Germany found that phytase supplementation could create strong increases in mineral uptake and reduce phytate content in cereals and legume-derived food products. This study concluded that phytase supplementation, while typically and traditionally used for the enhanced mineral content in animal feed, had a promising and wide variety of applications for human digestion, particularly for human intestinal alkaline phosphatase. It may also be a way to reduce mineral deficiency in vulnerable groups such as childbearing women, vegans, vegetarians and people in the developing world.
4. Helps Eliminate Toxic Build-up in the Digestive Tract
Because phytase can break down phytic acid, our digestive process is streamlined, and we have less chance of building up excess insoluble complexes in the digestive tract.
5. Frees Bound Phosphorus in the Body
Phytase breaks down bound, unusable forms of phosphorus so your body can use and absorb it. Phosphorus is an important nutrient, and the semi-permeable membrane around every human and animal cell contains a phospholipid bilayer, which contains lipids (fatty acid chains) and phosphate – a molecule that contains phosphorus, meaning that phosphorus is needed by literally every single cell in the body. Phosphorus also plays a role in the metabolism as a central part of the energy molecule ATP or adenosine triphosphate.
6. Boosts Bone Health
Phosphorus is an essential element for the growth and protection of bone density. An animal trial done at Auburn University found phytase not only increased the availability of phosphorus, but also led to better body weight, digestive efficiency, and overall bone strength in lab animals. It was also found that phytase could significantly increase performance in animals.
How to Read the Units of Measurement for Phytase
Phytase activity is measured in FTU or phytase units; the higher the number, the more active the enzyme is. Phytase units are an FCC measurement based on enzymatic hydrolysis of sodium phytate under controlled conditions. The FCC notation stands for Foods Chemical Codex, a division of United States Pharmacopeia (USP, which sets standards for supplements.
Where Can I Find the Best Source of Phytase?
VeganZyme® contains a 100% vegan form of phytase that’s produced by the natural fermentation process of Aspergillus niger. It’s non-GMO, kosher certified, gluten-free, and vegan.
VeganZyme is an advanced, full-spectrum enzyme supplement. The formula contains a blend of digestive enzymes, which help digest fats (lipids), sugars, proteins, carbohydrates, gluten, fruits and vegetables, and other food sources. Veganzyme also provides systemic enzymes to help break down mucus, fibrin, toxins, allergens, and excess clotting factors throughout your body.
Is phytase an enzyme that’s on your radar? Do you take an enzyme supplement that contains it? Leave a comment below and tell us a little about your story and what’s prompting your interest in this helpful enzyme.
- Prochaska LJ, Piekutowski WV. "On the synergistic effects of enzymes in food with enzymes in the human body." A literature survey and analytical report. Med Hypotheses. 1994;42(6),355-62.
- Greiner R, et al. "Phytate - an undesirable constituent of plant-based foods?" J Ernahrungsmedizin [J Nutr Med] 2006;8(3),18-2.
- Nadeem MK, et al. "An overview of anti-nutritional factors in cereal grains with special reference to wheat-A review." Pak J Food Sci. 2010;20(1-4),54-61.
- Greiner R, Konietzny U. "Phytase for food application." 2006;8(3),18-28.
- Simons PCM, et al. "Improvement of phosphorus availability by microbial phytase in broilers and pigs." Brit J Nutr. 1990;64(2),525-540.
- Sohail SS, Roland DA. "Fabulous Phytase: phytase enzyme proving helpful to poultry producers and environment." Highlights of Agricultural Research. 1999;46,1.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.