In 2009, Amy Puzey was working as a nutritionist when she began researching micronutrient deficiency in impoverished populations. Her passion for and desire to cure HIV/AIDS led her to find and develop the EMPATH immunity theory.
EMPATH stands for Enzyme Modification of Phyate to Assist in the Treatment of HIV/AIDS.
Her hypothesis is that phytate, through micronutrient depletion, could be largely responsible for the backslide in the immune system and may play a key role in the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as other diseases where populations are solely dependant on foods high in phytate (whole grains, pulses, seeds, beans, lentils etc). Further, she proposed that a study be done to see if a phytase supplement could boost CD4 count, which is how we measure AIDS progression, and protect the CD4 count from dropping. Could humans live with the HIV virus in them, but keep CD4 high enough to stay healthy?
New research is focused on zinc being key to the immune system and the problem of zinc deficiency worldwide. Phytate is one of the primary reasons for zinc deficiency. Because phytate affects the endogenous pool of zinc, you literally cannot absorb zinc from food if phytate is present in your gut. However, by simply treating food with the phytase enzyme, or taking it in capsule or any other form, we are able to degrade phytate to a point where it cannot harm us. The theory postulates that the phytase enzyme, or any method that removes phytate, could lead to an almost impenetrable immune system.
Not only will acute malnutrition be affected, but many other diseases would have difficulty taking hold in our bodies.
This theory means that the fields of nutrition and medicine have to talk and collaborate, something not commonly done. Amy challenges anyone out there, to test her theory and to try to disprove it. She is particularly interested in how phytase could help with HIV/AIDS, iron deficiency and anemia, TB, malaria and other diseases endemic in the developing world.
Without the ability to run clinical trials, Access Nutrients was developed to educate immunologists, researchers, doctors, clinicians and NGOs. Amy’s dream is that nutrition and medicine will finally talk to each other, and that by using phytase to deplete phytate, our immune system might actually stand a chance at fighting off some of the diseases of modern civilization.
Almost all Food Aid given to impoverished communities and refugee camps is made up of foods that are extremely high in phytate (such as corn soy blends). Despite efforts to fortify these foods with micronutrients, when phytate is present, many of the nutrients are not able to be absorbed. Acute malnutrition and hidden hunger are serious issues, affecting over 2 billion people on the planet. These foods (mainly corn/soy blends), could also be pre-treated with the phytase enzyme before being fed to humans. It is an inexpensive and simple way to ensure that anyone eating the food is able to access the nutrients in those foods. It could be revolutionary for preventing disease outbreaks in these populations.