Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences

Phytanic acid--an overlooked bioactive fatty acid in dairy fat?

PMID 20388135


Phytanic acid is a multibranched fatty acid with reported retinoid X receptor (RXR) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-alpha (PPAR-alpha) agonist activity, which have been suggested to have preventive effects on metabolic dysfunctions. Serum level in man is strongly correlated to the intake of red meat and dairy products and the concentration in these products is strongly correlated to the chlorophyll content in the feed of the cattle. Available data suggest that phytanic acid is a natural agonist for RXR at physiological concentrations, while it is more likely that it is the metabolite pristanic acid, rather than phytanic acid itself, that acts as PPAR-alpha agonist. Animal studies show increased expression of genes involved in fatty acid oxidation, after intake of phytol, the metabolic precursor of phytanic acid, but it is at present not possible to deduce whether phytanic acid is useful in the prevention of ectopic lipid deposition. Phytanic acid is an efficient inducer of the expression of uncoupler protein 1 (UCP1). UCP1 is expressed in human skeletal muscles, were it might be important for the total energy balance. Therefore, phytanic acid may be able to stimulate energy dissipation in skeletal muscles. Phytanic acid levels in serum are associated with an increased risk of developing prostate cancer, but the available data do not support a general causal link between circulating phytanic acid and prostate cancer risk. However, certain individuals, with specific single-nucleotide polymorphisms in the gene for the enzyme alpha-methylacyl-CoA racemase, might be susceptible to raised phytanic acid levels.

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Phytanic acid, ≥96%, mixture of isomers