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Keywords:

  • phytanic acid in foods;
  • diet and Refsum's disease

One hundred and fifty-one foods were analysed for phytanic acid and 57 foods for free phytol. Foods analysed included examples from all major food groups, beverages and confectionery.

No significant amount of phytanic acid was found in any food of purely vegetable origin. The sources of phytanic acid in the UK diet were confirmed to be foods derived from ruminant animals and fish. They include beef, lamb and products containing the milk fats of cows, sheep and goats. All fish were found to contain phytanic acid roughly in proportion to their fat content. Domestic and commercial fat blends containing animal fats (chiefly hydrogenated fish oils) and baked goods made from these fats contained phytanic acid: pure vegetable fat blends and foods containing them did not.

Free phytol was found in small amounts in a variety of foods but not in sufficient quantity to warrant the exclusion of any one item from the diet of patients with Refsum's disease.