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Phosphates in Packaged Foods May Be Putting Your Health at Risk

Dr. Kristie Leong

There are lots of reasons not to eat a lot of processed or packaged foods and not to sip soft drinks. They're high in sugar and salt and they often contain unhealthy additives. One unhealthy additive you may not be aware of is dietary phosphates. Phosphates are added to packaged pastries, cookies, buns, energy drinks and soft drinks, and they're naturally found in some meat and dairy products, especially processed meats. Phosphates are used to thicken packaged foods and make them look and taste better. What's concerning is the effect they have on your health when you get too much.

Phosphates are the form in which phosphorus is found in the body. You need a certain amount of phosphorus for strong teeth and bones and for producing ATP, the form of energy the body uses to do work. Its also important for regulating the action of certain enzymes.

On the other hand, most people easily meet their requirement for dietary phosphate and phosphorus when they eat a healthy diet. When you get too many dietary phosphates from soft drinks and packaged foods it can increase your risk for health problems.

Why Is Too Much Dietary Phosphate a Problem?

When researchers fed groups of mice a diet containing differing amounts of phosphates, the mice that ate a high-phosphate diet had 40% more arterial inflammation and congestion than mice that ate a low-phosphate diet after 20 weeks. The mice on the high-phosphate diet also had more fat tissue and insulin resistance. These are all risk factors for heart disease.

A diet high in phosphates is also suspected to increase the risk of heart disease in humans, which is one reason why processed foods and soft drinks shouldn't be on the menu. Not only is a high phosphate diet bad for your heart, it may also trigger metabolic syndrome because of it increases insulin resistance. Not a good thing for your heart or your waistline.

Drink Cans

How to Lower the Amount of Phosphates in Your Diet

One of the easiest ways to reduce phosphates in your diet is to eliminate most processed and packaged foods from your diet. If you read the packages of these foods you'll find phosphates in the form of disodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, tricalcium phosphate, monosodium phosphates, pyrophosphate polyphosphates or phosphoric acid. Soft drinks are also loaded with phosphates.

Some foods are naturally high in phosphorus such as yogurt, pork, milk, cheese and organ meats, beans, mushrooms, and some starchy vegetables. You can find complete lists of foods high in phosphorus and phosphates online. Some of these foods such as yogurt, milk, beans and mushrooms contain other nutrients that still make them a healthy choice in moderation. The best way to lower the amount of dietary phosphate you take in is to eliminate processed foods and soft drinks since they have little nutritional value anyway.

The Bottom Line?

Now there's another reason to stay away from soft drinks and packaged foods. They contain too much dietary phosphate and other additives and too little nutritional value. Give your heart a break and eat more whole foods.

Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2011-2020. Dr. Kristie Leong is a family practice physician and medical writer. Published with permission.


"Dietary Phosphate Modulates Atherogenesis and Insulin Resistance in apolipoprotein E knockout mice - brief report." Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.

 Avoid This Common Food Chemical" Men's Health.
 "Low-Phosphorus Diet: Best for Kidney Disease?" Mayo Clinic.