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Topic summary contributed by volunteer(s): Mimi

Phytate, or phytic acid, is a naturally occurring compound found in all plant foods like beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. In the past, there were concerns that foods high in phytates might reduce the absorption of minerals. However, recent studies have shown that this so-called “anti-nutrient” effect occurs only when large amounts of phytates are consumed with a diet that is poor in nutrition. In fact, legumes have been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and help treat blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.

Vegetarians, whose daily intake tends to be high in phytates, can benefit from eating mineral-absorbing enhancers, such as garlic and onions, to increase the bioavailablity of iron and zinc in plant foods.

Phytates’ Role in Preventing and Treating Cancer

One of the most important beneficial functions of phytates is their anticancer activity, which inhibits the growth of cancer cells. They also improve immune functions by enhancing the natural killer cells that hunt down and dispose of cancer cells without affecting normal cells. They starve tumors by preventing new blood vessels that may feed tumors from forming and by cutting off existing supplies. Not only is cancer cell growth reduced, but cancer cells go back to acting like normal cells.

Phytates’ Role in Osteoporosis Protection

Recent studies have shown that phytates protect against osteoporosis. Studies concluded that women with the highest phytate levels had the lowest levels of bone loss in the spine and hips, similar to the outcomes of anti-osteoporosis drugs, but without the drugs’ side effects.

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