The chlorophyll metabolite phytanic acid is a natural rexinoid--potential for treatment and prevention of diabetes

Med Hypotheses. 2001 Feb;56(2):217-9. doi: 10.1054/mehy.2000.1153.


Synthetic ligands of the retinoid X receptor (RXR) have shown antidiabetic activity in mice, apparently owing to the fact that they stimulate the transcriptional activity of PPAR-gamma/RXR heterodimers, much like thiazolidinedione drugs. The chlorophyll metabolite phytanic acid has been shown to be a natural ligand for RXR, active in concentrations near its physiological levels. It is thus reasonable to suspect that phytanic acid may have utility for treatment and prevention of human type 2 diabetes. Phytanic acid may mimic or complement various effects of conjugated linoleic acids, which have been shown to activate PPAR-gamma/RXR and prevent rodent diabetes. Administration of hydrolyzed chlorophyll may represent the most cost-effective strategy for raising human tissue levels of phytanic acid.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorophyll / metabolism*
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acid / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Phytanic Acid / pharmacology
  • Phytanic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / drug effects
  • Transcription Factors / drug effects


  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Transcription Factors
  • Chlorophyll
  • Phytanic Acid
  • Linoleic Acid