Phosphates are artificially added to a number of food products, including dairy and cereal products. These artificially added phosphates cause larger spikes in blood phosphorus levels than naturally occurring phosphates do, which can have a negative impact on kidney function.
While phosphate, an element, is essential for life, too much of it can have all sorts of negative health consequences – it can stiffen blood vessels and enlarge the heart, in addition to being bad for your bones.
But now a study published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition says that where you get your phosphates from matters as well as how much you get.
Too Much Phosphate…
The study drew on patient data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (or NHANES), a project of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention which combines lab data and survey results.
Researchers gathered patient data from the year 2003 to the year 2006 to determine not only what foods individuals were eating, but how those foods might be affecting blood phosphorus levels.
The researchers used the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics guidelines to rate foods and quantify phosphate content, and controlled for body-mass index (BMI), kidney function, gender, and race, as well as other factors.
The most significant spikes in blood phosphate levels that the researchers saw happened in people who ate dairy foods and cereal or grain-based foods containing artificially added phosphates.
Kidney function was also a major factor in determining phosphate levels in the body; when researchers removed kidney function as a control, they found that those with poorer kidney function seemed to have higher blood phosphate levels in general(1).
Recommendations For The FDA
The researchers did not shy away from making recommendations for the US Food and Drug Administration, calling for the FDA to take a more active role in encouraging food producers to distinguish between naturally occuring phosphates and artificially added phosphates on food labels – something that is not currently required of food manufacturers.
One 2012 study in the journal Deutsches Arzteblatt International notes that “Unlike naturally occuring phosphate in food, which mainly takes the form of phosphate esters, phosphate in food additives is almost completely resorbed in the gastrointestinal tract… Because of the potential damage to health from excessive phosphate consumption, a labelling requirement should be introduced for foods with added phosphate.”(2)
Certainly a labelling requirement would allow consumers to make a more educated choice when it comes to their consumption of artificially added phosphates – and an educated consumer is a healthier consumer, generally speaking. Whether the US Food and Drug Administration will be quick to jump on this issue remains to be seen, however.