A diet low in phytanic acid is used for long-term management of Refsum Disease. This diet includes the exclusion of foods that are high in phytanic acid such as dairy products, beef, lamb and some fish.
How does the Refsum’s Diet work?
The diet works in two ways:
It restricts the intake of foods which are rich in phytanic acid and the foods which the body can convert to phytanic acid to a level that the body can process.
It supports general metabolism so that the body does not release phytanic acid from body stores in amounts that are greater than the body can process.
Phytanic acid is a fatty acid that is found in small amounts in many foods. Dietary advice aims to avoid the foods which contain a large amount of phytanic acid.
Phytanic acid is present in larger amounts when phytol, which is part of the chlorophyll molecule, is fermented by bacteria. This occurs in the stomach of ruminant animals (cows, sheep) and when bacterial cultures are added to foods such as in the production of yoghurt or kimchi.
At present about 150 foods have been tested for their phytanic acid content. Research is being done to test more foods.
The Westminster Refsum’s Diet has been shown to be effective at lowering the amount of phytanic acid in the blood. The Westminster Refsum’s Diet includes these Refsum Diet Principles.
The Refsum Food Guide provides information on foods that are high in phytanic acid and should be avoided, foods with moderated phytanic acid that should be limited and foods that are low in phytanic acid and can be eaten.