Phosphorus plays vital roles in human health and nutrition. In nature, phosphorus exists as phosphate, either inorganic or organic. The major form of phosphate in plant-derived diets is phytate that cannot be degraded by monogastric animal, as well as humans. Initially, this chapter reviews current research of phosphorus in human nutrition and health. Subsequently, problems of phytate degradation and phosphorus utilization in plant-derived diet are outlined. Next, as the main part, the enzymes of phytase, which catalyze the release of inorganic phosphorus from phytate, are compared, especially those produced by gut microbiota. Meanwhile, how probiotic bifidobacteria can be used for producing phytase and therefore enhance their beneficial effects are discussed. Phytase-producing bifidobacteria can be either isolated rarely in nature or constructed by genetic cloning of phytase genes from other well-characterized enzymes. The combination of bifidobacteria and highly active phytase may improve human health and nutrition especially as supplementary probiotic foods. Therefore, potential application is prospected. Finally, other considerations related to industrial production and usage of phosphorus-enriched additives are remarked. In conclusion, improving and maintaining the phosphorus balance in food by bifidobacteria may be promising for a healthier life.
Part of the book: Probiotics and Prebiotics in Human Nutrition and Health