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Phytates for the Treatment of Cancer

Do the anti-cancer effects of phytates in a petri dish translate out into clinical studies on cancer prevention and treatment?

March 28, 2014 |
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Supplementary Info

Can't view the video above? Try it on Vimeo!
View Phytates for the Treatment of Cancer on Vimeo

Sources Cited

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I. Vucenik, A. M. Shamsuddin. Protection against cancer by dietary IP6 and inositol. Nutr Cancer 2006 55(2):109 - 125.

R. P. Singh, R. Agarwal. Prostate cancer and inositol hexaphosphate: Efficacy and mechanisms. Anticancer Res. 2005 25(4):2891 - 2903.

G. L. Deliliers, F. Servida, N. S. Fracchiolla, C. Ricci, C. Borsotti, G. Colombo, D. Soligo. Effect of inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) on human normal and leukaemic haematopoietic cells. British journal of haematology 2002 117(3):577 - 587.

E. Graf, J. W. Eaton. Dietary suppression of colonic cancer fiber or phytate? Cancer 1985 56(4):717 - 718.

O. Manousos, N. E. Day, D. Trichopoulos, F. Gerovassilis, A. Tzonou, A. Polychronopoulou. Diet and colorectal cancer: A case-control study in Greece. International Journal of Cancer 1983 32(1):1 - 5.

I. Vucenik, A. Passaniti, M. I. Vitolo, K. Tantivejkul, P. Eggleton, A. M. Shamsuddin. Anti-angiogenic activity of inositol hexaphosphate (IP6). Carcinogenesis 2004 25(11):2115 - 2123.

A. K. M. Shamsuddin, I. Vucenik. IP6 & inositol in cancer prevention and therapy. Current Cancer Therapy Reviews 2005 1(3):259 - 269.

M. Kapral, J. Wawszczyk, M. Jurzak, A. Hollek, L. Węglarz. The effect of inositol hexaphosphate on the expression of selected metalloproteinases and their tissue inhibitors in IL-1B-stimulated colon cancer cells. Int J Colorectal Dis 2012 27(11):1419 - 1428.

E. Lanza, T. J. Hartman, P. S. Albert, R. Shields, M. Slattery, B. Caan, E. Paskett, F. Iber, J. W. Kikendall, P. Lance, others. High dry bean intake and reduced risk of advanced colorectal adenoma recurrence among participants in the polyp prevention trial. The J. Nutr. 2006 136(7):1896 - 1903.

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S. D. Siah, I. Konczak, S. Agboola, J. A. Wood, C. L. Blanchard. In vitro investigations of the potential health benefits of Australian-grown faba beans (Vicia faba L.): Chemopreventative capacity and inhibitory effects on the angiotensin-converting enzyme, a-glucosidase and lipase. Br. J. Nutr. 2012 108 - Suppl - 1:S123 - 34.

A. M. Shamsuddin, I. Vucenik, K. E. Cole. IP6: A novel anti-cancer agent. Life Sci. 1997 61(4):343 - 354.

B. E. Stodolak, A. Starzy'nska, M. Czyszczo'n, K. Z. yla. The effect of phytic acid on oxidative stability of raw and cooked meat. Food Chem. 2007 101(3):1041 - 1045.

U. Schlemmer, W. Frolich, R. M. Prieto, F. Grases. Phytate in foods and significance for humans: Food sources, intake, processing, bioavailability, protective role and analysis. Mol Nutr Food Res 2009 53 - Suppl - 2:S330 - 75.

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H. P. Lee, L. Gourley, S. W. Duffy, J. Est`eve, J. Lee, N. E. Day. Colorectal cancer and diet in an Asian population--a case-control study among Singapore Chinese. Int. J. Cancer 1989 43(6):1007 - 1016.

B Harland. Phytate: a good or a bad food component? Nutr Res 1995 15(5):733-754.

I. Baci'c, N. Druzijani'c, R. Karlo, I. Skifi'c, S. Jagi'c. Efficacy of IP6 + inositol in the treatment of breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy: Prospective, randomized, pilot clinical study. J. Exp. Clin. Cancer Res. 2010 29:12.

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K. Tantivejkul, I. Vucenik, A. M. Shamsuddin. Inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) inhibits key events of cancer metastasis: II. Effects on integrins and focal adhesions. Anticancer Res. 2003 23(5A):3681 - 3689.

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K Sakamoto, Y Suzuki. IP6 plus inositol treatment after surger and post-operative radiotherapy. Report of a case: Breast cancer. Anticancer Res 2004 24:3671-3618.

Acknowledgements

Images thanks to scribbletaylorTipsTimes and megapixel13 via Flickr.

Transcript

So if the phytates in beans are so successful in preventing cancer, and re-educating cancer cells, let’s put them to the test.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and it arises from neoplastic adenomatous polyps, meaning colon cancer starts out as a benign little bump called a polyp that then grows into cancer that can eventually spread to other organs and kill us. So the National Cancer Institute funded the Polyp Prevention Trial to determine the effects of a high-fiber, high fruit and vegetable, low-fat diet.

They found no significant associations between polyp formation and overall change in fruit and vegetable consumption; however, those with the greatest increase in bean intake only had about a third of the odds of advanced polyps popping up. Yes, it could have been the fiber in the beans, but there’s lots of fiber in fruits and vegetables too. So maybe it was the phytate.

If the tumors do grow, though, they still need to spread. Tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis are multistep processes that include not just cell proliferation, but digestion through the surrounding tissue, and migration through basement membranes to reach the bloodstream before the tumor can establish new proliferating colonies of cancer cells. The first step is to tunnel through the surrounding matrix, considered a critical event in tumor cell invasion. To do this the cancer cells use a set of enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases, which is where phytates may come in. We know phytates inhibit cancer cell migration in vitro, and now we know why. They help block the ability of cancer cells to produce the tumor invasion enzyme in the first place, in both human colon cancer cells, and human breast cancer. Thus, phytates could be used not only in the early promotion state of cancer but also in all stages of cancer progression.

So what happens if you give phytates to breast cancer patients? Although few case studies in which phytates were given in combination with chemotherapy clearly showed encouraging data. Organized, controlled, randomized clinical studies were never done, until now. Fourteen women with invasive breast cancer divided into two randomized groups. One group got extra phytates, the other got placebo. At the end of six months, the phytate group had a better quality of life, significantly more functionality, and fewer symptoms from the chemo, not getting the drop in immune cells and platelets one normally experiences.

And what are the potential side effects of phytates? Less heart disease, less diabetes, and fewer kidney stones. Because cancer development is such an extended process—can take decades to grow, you need cancer preventive agents that you can take long-term, and phytates, naturally occurring in beans, grains, nuts, and seeds fit the bill. Although in the past concerns have been expressed regarding intake of foods high in phytates reducing the bioavailability of dietary minerals, recent studies demonstrate that this co-called “anti-nutrient” can be manifested only when large quantities of phytates are consumed in combination with a nutrient poor diet.

For example there used to be a concern that phytate consumption might lead to calcium deficiency, but in fact researchers discovered the opposite to be true, phytates protecting against osteoporosis. In essence, phytate has many characteristics of a vitamin, contrary to the established and, unfortunately, still existing dogma among nutritionists about its “anti-nutrient” role.

Given the numerous health benefits, its participation in important intracellular biochemical pathways, normal physiological presence in our cells, tissues, plasma, urine, etc., the levels of which fluctuate with intake, epidemiological correlates of phytate deficiency with disease and reversal of those conditions by adequate intake, and safety – all strongly suggest for phytates inclusion as an essential nutrient, perhaps a vitamin. Meanwhile, inclusion of phytates in our strategies for prevention and therapy of various ailments, cancer in particular is warranted. They’re talking about trying out supplements, but of course, eating a healthy diet rich in phytates would always be a prudent thing too.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Ariel Levitsky.

To help out on the site please email volunteer@nutritionfacts.org.

Dr. Michael Greger

Doctor's Note

I talked about the role of fiber versus phytate in colon cancer in my video Phytates for the Prevention of Cancer, the first in this 3-part video series. See also my last video Phytates for Rehabilitating Cancer Cells.

I covered the potential bone protecting properties of phytates in my video Phytates for the Prevention of Osteoporosis.

More on preventing tumor invasion and metastasis in:

Other foods that can help stop the progression of precancerous lesions (like the adenomatous polyps) are profiled in Strawberries versus Esophageal Cancer and Black Raspberries versus Oral Cancer.

There’s a substance in mushrooms that’s also another “essential” nutrient candidate. See Ergothioneine: A New Vitamin?

If you haven't yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

  • Dave

    I’m glad this clears things up about “anti-nutrients”…

    The paleo broscience community has their sheeple convinced that grains & beans are EVIL because phytates will block ALL nutrient absorption, when that’s clearly not the case.

    What they fail to say is that people who eat a balanced diet that’s high in nutrients actually benefit from phytates in their diets.

    But they won’t tell you that, because you can get all your nutritional needs from their paleo primal super duper shakes that auto-ships to your home for only $100 a month.

    What a world.

    • http://macsmiley.tumblr.com/ MacSmiley

      Paleo’s encourage nuts and seed consumption. Don’t they contain phytates, as well?

      • b00mer

        From what I can gather, paleo can be pretty much whatever a person wants it to be, aside from eschewing beans and grains, which seems to be pretty constant across the board. Some eat dairy, some don’t. Some eat tubers, some don’t. Some eat nuts and/or seeds, some don’t.

        What I find kind of hilarious are the “paleo” recipes like breads or pies made out of coconut oil or grassfed butter, coconut flour, almond flour, etc. Just enormously concentrated and entirely “unnatural” foods, but hey if it doesn’t have grains or beans in it, it must be healthy right?

        • Annoyed by Paleofraud

          They evidently make it up as they go along

      • Annoyed by Paleofraud

        Some paleos like the Jaminet Perfect Health Diet assert all seeds are trying to kill us, so they also discourage those. And the presence of the allegedly antinutrient phytate is one of the reasons given.

        • b00mer

          “all seeds are trying to kill us” gave me an amusing little image in my mind :D

        • hawgdawger

          Annoyed, are you kidding? Come on. We have a natural and God given ability to think for ourselves. You can’t lay the onus of maintaining our personal health onto others.
          Take some additional time, do some research to test the truth and veracity of your informational resources by conducting your own comparative analysis. In so doing, you may just find that this particular site is among the most reliable you’ll ever find.
          Doc Greger isn’t responsible for your health anymore than a polar ice cap is. You should, however, come to the truthful resolve that the good doc’s site is objective and quite informative. But, then, before you noticed that you’d have to notice that he leaves the final analysis to those who are taking the time to visit his site. Ugh.

      • b00mer

        Okay, I’ve looked into this a bit and here’s what I’ve learned (via “Mark’s Daily Apple”):

        Nuts and seeds contain phytate, which is bad, and grains contain phytate, which is bad, but according to MDA, it would be easier to overeat phytate in the form of grains than it would be to overeat it from nuts and seeds. Thus, nuts/seeds = okay; grains = evil.

        He gives the example of a certain amount of phytate being found in 362 Cal of brown rice, while the same amount would require the consumption of 575 Cal of almonds. His claim is that you could eat all that brown rice and still easily go back for seconds, while it would be much harder to eat 570 Cal of almonds.

        My opinion: are you kidding me?!? How many people eat almost two cups of rice with their meal and go back for seconds?

        575 Cal of almonds would be about 80 almonds, or 3.5 one-ounce servings. Personally I could very easily see someone eating a few servings of nuts as opposed to only one. Many people consider eating only one serving of nuts to be a supreme exercise in self control.

        So it’s not the most sound logic. He explicitly advocates that it’s fine to consume a small handful of nuts (about 2 oz according to him) per day, which equates to 362 Cal, yet for some reason it’s absolutely forbidden to consume the phytic acid equivalent of 228 Cal of brown rice, which would be a generous, slightly greater than one cup serving. Gee, unsound logic from a paleo guru, what will we hear next. ;)

        Another, absolutely hilariously entertaining find in my paleo sleuthing, is that many paleos, get this, drumroll please…..

        take IP6 supplements! Seriously people, you can’t make this stuff up! :D For some reason it’s magically better because you can take it on an empty stomach, so it can enter the bloodstream, and bind up minerals (apparently the intentional chelation of iron in the paleo world is a real concern), whereas if you take it with food, it’ll bind up the minerals in the food, and for some completely unsubstantiated and baseless reason, this is much worse.

        • Thea

          b00mer: Such a fun read! I love how you put it all into perspective. Really nice.

          Thanks

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Broscience, LOL. +1 for making me smile!

    • Toxins

      Antinutrients are for the most part inactive with cooking. Not a study exists showing harmed health from bean consumption.

  • jacque

    I’ve seen IP-6 sold in health food stores. Is there any benefit it taking that, particularly for people who avoid eating beans?

    • b00mer

      Hi jacque, it does look like there are in vivo studies to support IP6 as a chemotherapeutive agent (I did just a very quick search), though there is definitely a precedent to postulate that getting a particular nutrient from the whole food source is often preferable.

      However, you say you don’t eat beans. Does that include all legumes, like lentils or peas? If you don’t eat those either, you could still obtain phytate from whole grains or nuts/seeds if you consume those. I personally wouldn’t worry about supplementing if you consume an otherwise varied and balanced whole foods plant based diet.

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Try seeds & nuts.

      Soy protein isolate seems to go well with sunflower seeds.
      Throw together with some veggies and blend. Good stuff!
      Maybe that sits better than beans in general.

      • Toxins

        Be weary of soy protein isolates, I don’t have the study on hand but soy protein isolates increase IGF-1 production twice as much as dairy.

        • Arjan den Hollander.

          I like being a big boy Toxins.

          • Toxins

            Eating whole plant foods as you suggest is definitely the route to go to build muscle and strength. The issue with IGF-1, in case you are not aware, is that it is a strong promoter of cancer growth.
            http://nutritionfacts.org/video/protein-intake-and-igf-1-production/

          • Arjan den Hollander.

            I’ll roll the dice on that one. As for now I keep suffering from stress and anxiety senstivities even though I’m on the mend.

            At 17 after passing 110 kg some kind of alpha male hormone state came over me and my friend.

            That state is extremely calming to the mind. It makes you utterly fearless. That is what I need for a while after 5 years of terror. It will hand me the tools to start EMDR and other therapies.

            Calmness vs stress and andrenergic reactions with its vasoconstriction is very bad for cancer too. I am in the process of trading one for the other I’m aware. But general health is spectacularly different. For now I’m better off.

            Might cancer be diagnosed or therapie done I’ll dose less. Reaching 100 kg I’ll go from 120 gr to 80 see what happens then to 40 gr I guess just for the reason you mentioned.

          • http://macsmiley.tumblr.com/ MacSmiley

            If soy is your preferred protein for a larger physique, why not go with tofu and tempeh, traditional sources?

          • Arjan den Hollander.

            I put myself on a 50 gr a day natto regime for now after finding out its bloodvessel clearing capabillities.

            The loss of sensation in extremities was a dead giveaway of plaque buildup during the first 10 days after stopping smoking.

            Goal number 1 by miles for the first year of food intervention is blood vessel support.

            Although I’m feeling better than I have in years (after 3 months with vegan days) its only an effect of less inflammation and better endothelial function. The disease is still there, and needs to be treated for another 8 months at the very least. (5 days vegan a week @1 kg+ of veggies + 50gr natto daily + daily exercise) I do not feel sick physically but I know I actually am, and very much so.

            As it is I cannot afford to get a food sensitivity towards soy, otherwise the natto is off the table.
            And I actually really like the earthy taste it add to my smoothies :) So whole soy bean intake I intend to keep limited.

            Maybe try lentils again in a month or so see if the reaction is milder, they are a great tasting bean.

          • Ben

            I’m guessing because those traditional sources do not raise IGF-1 as effectively as Isolate.

          • Veganrunner

            Arjan you are a big guy! How tall are you? 6’5″?

        • Jeri DeMoss

          Also be weary of GMO found in most soy products

          • http://www.DonForresterMD.com/ Don Forrester MD

            For more information on avoiding GMO foods you can go to the Institute for Responsible Technologies website,http://www.responsibletechnology.org/
            and look at their shopping guide.

  • mgibson

    Are beans in the category of foods we can make “unlimited” use of? Or is there a concern about possibly getting too much protein?

    Thank you so much.

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Your intestines can have a rough time with beans. Try upping dose slowly. You can get very ill if you take more than you can handle.
      When you start getting loads gas and such, lower intake a bit or prepare to get uncomfortable.

      • Toxins

        Antinutrients, such as lectins are inactive when cooked. Beans are one of the healthiest foods you can eat, no need to limit your amount.
        http://nutritionfacts.org/2014/03/11/why-you-should-eat-more-beans/

        • Arjan den Hollander.

          Great for you if you are not sensitive to them.
          I personally am. And not all is destroyed, all the time.

          I remember a greger vid where it was claimed to be responsible for 10% of all food poisonings.

          Seems clear to me beans need monitoring. And certainly not something to be advised can be consumed without limits to a novice bean eater.

          • mgibson

            Arjan,
            I also have allergies and food intolerances, and know that sometimes foods that are good for most people are not good for me. Tomatoes, for example; good for most, but they are not good for me. I need to check any food for how my body responds to it. I think the most I can do on a site like this is understand the general advantages and disadvantages of particular foods, and then see if the good foods agree with my body.

        • mgibson

          Thank you for your perspectives on eating legumes. Am even cooking a batch of lentils right now.

      • http://macsmiley.tumblr.com/ MacSmiley

        Slow increase is prudent advice for many. However…

        It’s not the lectins (paleo/broscience) that cause distress. It’s the lack of gut bacteria from a lifetime of not eating legumes which causes gaseous distress from a sudden large increase in bean consumption.

        Slow and steady wins the race.

    • Toxins

      Beans, although high in protein, are also very high in complex carbohydrates. I consider them part veggie, part “grain”. Eat in plenty, as no studies indicate elevated IGF-1 from bean consumption.

  • Zaz Zaz

    Does this mean that spouted beans have less healthful effects rather than more?

    • http://robertroose.info/ Robert Roose

      This question seems to be popping up a lot lately; it would be good to get Dr Greger’s input.

      Many people seem to have this belief that soaking or sprouting eliminates all phytates. It doesn’t, it simply reduces so-called anti-nutrients. Sprouting has the additional benefit of amplifying antioxidant properties. Seeing as you will still be consuming some amounts of phytates from cooked sprouted beans, I’d assume that there are still great benefits from sprouting – you’ll be getting benefits from sprouting as well as benefits from phytates. Additionally, on a whole foods plant based diet, phytates are abundant from a variety of food sources; likely a tablespoon of flax seeds or a Brazil nut will give sufficient amounts of phytates for a healthy body, not to mention the phytates present in grains. If you want to maximize phytates, then you’ll want to avoid soaking or sprouting, though I don’t think abstaining from sprouting is justified if one is already in the habit to do so. No recommendations have yet been established as to how much phytic acid one should consume in their diet.

  • guest

    I wonder if those women in the trial ever got any better with their cancer on the IP6 supplement? And whether or not it actually helped with the cancer, I wonder why the researchers didn’t just use natural sources of the compound?

  • VeganAlmostKilledMe

    Dr. Gerger, A general question regarding turning Vegan:
    I am a naturally skinny 55yrs old guy at 5’7″ 120lbs and generally healthy.
    After a month of being strictly vegan, my Ketones level shot up to 2 (from the normal below-0) and I lost 2lbs of my weight, as well as felt weak physically.
    Turns out that in spite of loading up on mountains of Vegan foods, pasta, breads, nuts, I was getting only 1200 calories per day and my body started digesting its own tissues to compensate.
    To save my ‘life’ – I immediately switched back to eating ‘everything’, meat, dairy, eggs, poultry, and within 3 days my Ketone levels normalized. My weight was back to normal (120) within 10 days and I felt stronger.
    Although I now eat much more in veggies and fruit, I am weary about going all vegan again unless I know it’s safe for me.
    What will I need to include in my vegan diet to make sure I don’t starve my body? (i.e. get the calories I need)

    • David

      Dr. Greger,

      Will you comment in a future blog about the recent paper that reports that saturated fat doesn’t contribute to cardiovascular disease? I understand that saturated fat from animals comes along with carnitine which we know is damaging to the vascular system. My second question is that I avoid coconut because of the saturated fat. If I can live with the calories that come along with the saturated fats is there still a reason to avoid coconut in light of this report from Harvard?

      Thanks,
      David

    • JacquieRN

      Hi there. I am wondering if you might want to look at vegan athlete eating plan/pattern. They are thriving and must eat a higher amount of daily calories. I don’t think loading up on pasta bread and nuts is best solution.

      For one consider: Brendan Brazier (http://www.brendanbrazier.com/). He has really well done site/program free – you can tailor to your needs/goals , has a section for athletes too: http://thriveforward.com/

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Vitamin B12
      Vitamin K2
      Fatty acids (flax,hemp,chia)
      Creatine (I take 3gr on non meat days)

      Might have been points where you are missing the boat.

      But I had exactly the same issues a total failure to thrive while dropping meat 100% for 2,5 weeks. I started feeling weaker and weaker, even though I was actually watching all but the K2 at that time.

      For now I’m sticking with 2 meat days out of 7 which for me seems to work. If I find new possible missing links I’ll give it another try.

    • Toxins

      Complex, whole starches are key. This includes brown rice, beans, potatoes, etc. I typically consume around 2300+ calories depending on my physical activity level and I do this through complex carbohydrate based meals.

  • http://blessedveganlife.blogspot.com BlessedMama

    Wonderful! So glad I like my beans.

    • Arjan den Hollander.

      Phew your kid holding the cat looks gravely ill, is she all right?
      Is she allowed to go to the hospital?

  • Stephanie Stuart

    I wrote an article about this a while back. Not all Paleo blogs doom beans for phytates. In fact, I happen to agree to some benefits of phytates. If you like beans and they don’t bother your gut, then that’s great.
    http://originaleating.com/paleo-101/real-reason-say-eat-legumes/