If you do very much reading and research on wholistic nutrition, you will quickly discover that phytic acid and its mineral-bound form called phytates are vilified to such an extent that many people stop eating entire food groups that contain these compounds. I wrote about the problems with this approach in my five-part blog series entitled The Paleo Problem. These negative aspects are the “Mr. Hyde” of phytates.
My training as a natural healthcare practitioner emphasized the use of ancient food preparation practices such as soaking, souring, sprouting and fermentation of grains and legumes in order to eliminate these harmful compounds which block nutrient absorption and can contribute to digestive and endocrine imbalances. But recently while doing research on complementary therapies for cancer, I have been quite intrigued to find that phytates actually protect and restore our health in several unique ways. I should have realized this before, based on my biblically-based philosophy that the foods made by G-d for our consumption are complete packages of nutrition, and there is a purpose for every element contained therein. After all, the minute amounts of cyanide in apple seeds are cancer protective, so why wouldn’t phytates have a positive benefit as well? Indeed they do, and this is what I call the “Dr. Jekyll” of phytates.
Enter Inositol hexaphosphate (IP-6 or myo-inositol hexaphosphate), which contains six phosphate molecules. First identified in 1855, IP-6 is called “a naturally polyphosphorylated carbohydrate” in scientific literature, which is just a fancy way of saying that phosphate groups have become attached to a carbohydrate or sugar molecule. But this combination comes with a lot of potential power through activating enzymes and changing their function and activity. Phytin (acalcium-magnesium salt form of IP-6) is found in legumes, seeds that are high in oils such as sesame, the germ or bran portions of whole grains, as well as inother high fiber foods. In fact, IP-6 is a phytate! And the highest concentrations of this phytate are found in whole-kernel corn (non-GMO only, please!). By the way, phytates are only a problem for nutrient absorption when consumed with foods; however, consumed separate from meals, they provide some wonderful health benefits! University of Maryland School of medicine scientist Dr. Abulkalam Shamsuddin began his pioneer research of IP-6 in the late 1980's.He has found that in addition to fighting fungal and bacterial infections, IP-6 plus inositol acts against cancer in at least a dozen different ways:
- Anti-tumor-- prevents tumor growth , increases tumor suppressor P53 gene activity
- Enhances the immune system-- a strong immune system is able to both prevent, overcome and destroy cancer, natural killer (NK) cells are activated
- Inhibits inflammation-- inflammation activates cytokines which can trigger reactions for healthy cells to grow and repair or for cancer cells to grow. Remove the inflammation, and remove the potential for disease to take hold.
- Regulates cellular signal transduction resulting in cell cycle arrest-- this refers to apoptosis or programmed death of cancer cells
- Regulates cell proliferation-- prevents both progression and metastases, especially due to adhesions after surgery or biopsies when cancer cells can be dislodged
- Prevents angiogenesis-- inhibits cancer cells from setting up their own blood supplies
- Regulates cell differentiation-- enables the body to distinguish between healthy and malignant cells in the body
- Natural antioxidant properties-- significantly more potent than green tea, increases tumor cell destruction
- Increases effectiveness of chemotherapy for certain cancers-- especially estrogen receptor-negative and doxorubicin-resistant breast cancer
- Increases quality of life for chemotherapy patients-- including protection against lowered white and blood cell counts
- Normalizes cell physiology-- can actually repair and restore DNA to it’s original, undamaged state
- Regulates liver detoxification-- inhibits the activities of some liver enzymes while increasing glutathione S-transferase
And as if the anti-cancer properties are not enough, IP-6 also:
- Prevents pathological calcification and kidney stone formation
- Lowers elevated serum cholesterol
- Reduces pathological platelet activity
- Improves the quality of life
- Offers promise for treatment of diabetes-- aids in the metabolism of insulin
- Assists formation of bone and tissues-- aids in metabolism of calcium, prevents osteoporosis, enhances hair growth, bone marrow cell metabolism and eye membrane development
- Relieves depression
- Is a possible treatment for heart disease and HIV
So, how does this impact you? Eating a diet rich in fiber from grains, legumes and oil-rich seeds may mitigate your risk of cancer and counteract cancer as well as a variety of other negative health issues. The controversy over the pros and cons of grains can be mitigated by choosing grains that are organic, non-GMO and gluten-free (especially if you struggle with gluten sensitivity). And when consuming high amounts of grains or legumes, separate them from other foods to avoid malabsorption of nutrients. IP-6 may block the absorption of iron, which can be a negative for those who are anemia or a positive for those with hemachromatosis induced by frequent blood transfusions or inorganic iron toxicity.
Sesame seed oil is an excellent blood builder for propagation of red blood cells and platelets (especially for leukemia and other blood cancers or anemia). Incorporating tahini into your diet is also an excellent preventive measure against cancer as sesame seeds are high in Vitamin T (“T” is for thrombocyte), and IP-6 can be derived from sesame as well. Six tablespoons of tahini daily can substitute for three perles of Sesame Seed Oil supplements. Sesame seed products increase the clotting abilities of the blood, so if clotting is an issue, IP-6 can be used to counteract that effect. The key is to manage the Jekyll & Hyde of phytates in your diet! As I frequently repeat, it is all about balance!
Concerned about phytates inhibiting your absorption of nutrients? Hair Analysis is an easy to find out how your body is doing with incorporating the minerals you intake through diet and supplementation. And if you think that supplementation is enough, remember that you are what you absorb! Impaired digestion will inhibit absorption. Order your hair analysis today to find out how you can optimize your absorption! Meanwhile stay tuned for upcoming articles related to Preventing & Fighting Cancer Holistically.
L’chaim-- To Life!