• intestines;
  • morphology;
  • phytic acid;
  • rats;
  • sweet potato


Background and aim

Zinc deficiency due to low intake or unavailability by bioactive compounds may lead to morphological changes in the intestines resulting in disruptions in gut function. This study aims to assess effects of phytic acid on gut morphology of rats.


Diets supplemented with sweet potato phytate extract were fed to Wistar rats in zinc-deficient and zinc-sufficient states for 4 weeks. Similar test animals also had diets supplemented with the commercially available sodium phytate salt (IP6) for comparison. At the end of the feeding period, body weights, feed intake and markers of intestinal function were assessed.


Acute zinc deficiency adversely affected the glycocalyx, goblet and Paneth cells within the small intestine. This may eventually lead to compromisation of the gut's immune system and further reductions in its metabolic and absorptive capacity. This was further aggravated by sweet potato phytate extract consumption. IP6 supplementation on the other hand, increased surface amplification in the jejunum resulting in increased gut transit time and more efficient absorption of nutrients.


To minimize compromisation of the gut's immune, absorptive and metabolic functions, adequate zinc supplementation is necessary especially if foods rich in phytates are included in the diet. Supplementation of the diet with IP6 seems to offset some of these effects with maximum benefits observed if the diet is properly supplemented with essential minerals.