Phytic acid is polyphosphorylated carbohydrate, consisting of one inositol and 6 phosphate groups, of found in almost all plants. In addition, mammalian cells contain phytic acid and forms with fewer phosphate groups. Phytic acid has traditionally been considered as an anti-nutrient but recently more studies show that phytic acid may have health benefits. These studies have demonstrated that phytic acid reduces the risk of kidney stone formation and heart disease and can act as anticancer agent. Phytic acid works by reducing cell proliferation and increasing the differentiation of cancer cells. Ingested phytic acid is rapidly absorbed and metabolized into inositol phosphate, with lower numbers of phosphates.
Phytic acid acts as a broad-spectrum antineoplastic agent and is assimilated by different cells types, including tumor cells. The antiproliferative activity of phytic acid has been demonstrated in vitro studies using various cancer cells, including colon cancer, breast cancer, cervical cancer, prostate cancer and liver cancer. These studies have shown that phytic acid induces differentiation and maturation of cancer cells, often resulting in reversion to the normal phenotype. In vivo tests, which involved the oral intake of phytic acid, showed that phytic acid is an effective anticancer agent. Tests with rodents treated with carcinogens showed a significant reduction of tumor growth when they were fed with phytic acid. This effect was demonstrated in experimental models with pulmonary adenoma, lung cancer, colon cancer, mammary cancer and skin cancer.
The molecular mechanism by which phytic acid exerts its anticancer activity is still not clear. Phytic acid with fewer phosphates, mainly inositol-3-phosphate and inositol-4-phosphate, play an important role in cellular signal transduction, cell growth and cell differentiation. Another molecular mechanism could be through its antioxidant activity. Phytic acid can bind to iron atoms, thereby preventing the hydroxyl radical formation by iron.
Besides its direct action on tumor cells, phytic acid stimulates the immune system by increasing the activity of natural killer cells. Tumors stimulate the formation of endothelial cells resulting in the formation of blood vessels. These blood vessels provide the necessary supply of nutrients required for tumor growth. Studies have shown that phytic acid inhibits the formation of endothelial cells.
Traditionally, phytic acid has been linked to mineral deficiency because of its affinity with minerals, mainly iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium. However, recent studies show that phytic acid, even when dosed at normal levels, does not cause deficiencies or toxic effects. Phytic acid seems only to affect cancer cells and not normal cells. Phytic acid and inositol improves the effectiveness of chemotherapy. More studies are required to determine optimal dosage, effectiveness and safety of phytic acid.
Source: Vucenik I and Shamsuddin AM. Cancer inhibition by inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) and inositol: from laboratory to clinic.. Journal of Nutrition. 2003 November;133:3778S-3784S.