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Food Nutr Bull. 2013 Jun;34(2 Suppl):S90-101.

Absorption studies show that phytase from Aspergillus niger significantly increases iron and zinc bioavailability from phytate-rich foods.

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DSM Nutritional Products Ltd, Wurmisweg 576, 4303 Kaiseraugst, Switzerland.



Iron and zinc deficiency are major public health problems affecting many parts of the world, including Southeast Asia. Infants, young children, and women of reproductive age are particularly vulnerable due to their high requirements. Even though iron and zinc are present in significant amounts in the plant-based diets typically consumed in developing countries, their bioavailability is low due to high levels of absorption inhibitors such as phytate. Phytase has been used in animal nutrition for decades to improve the bioavailability of certain minerals in feed.


To show the effect of phytase in human nutrition based on evidence from human studies. Phytase can be used either during processing or as an active food ingredient degrading dietary phytate during stomach transit time.


Evidence from human studies testing the effect of phytase on iron and zinc bioavailability using stable isotopes was reviewed.


Twelve studies tested the effect of phytase on iron and five tested its effect on zinc bioavailability. Most of these studies used a phytase derived from Aspergillus niger. They found a beneficial effect unless phytate concentrations were too low or levels of inhibitors or enhancers of iron absorption were too high. Twenty to 320 phytase units per 100 g of flour significantly improved iron absorption, even though higher levels might further increase iron bioavailability. For zinc, not enough information is available to determine optimal activities.


Phytase clearly has a beneficial effect on iron and zinc absorption from phytate-rich foods. It also has the potential to increase the absorption of magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus in areas such as Southeast Asia where mineral deficiencies are widespread.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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