Phosphates can make processed cheese spreadable, prevent coffee from clumping and help preserve many meat products. They are a common additive in industrially produced foodstuffs.
Natural foods also contain phosphates, but modern eating habits mean that people are increasing our intake of them.
Increased eating of processed foodstuffs has strongly increased phosphate intake in recent years, which now often exceeds the daily intake of 700 mg recommended in the US.
In a recent study led by the University of Basel, researchers found if more phosphates are consumed with food, blood pressure and pulse rate could increase in healthy people.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology. The lead author is Professor Reto Krapf from the University of Basel.
In this study, the team tested this connection between phosphates intake and blood pressure health in 20 healthy people.
Over 11 weeks, half of the participants received an additional dose of sodium phosphate in tablet form alongside their normal diet.
This increased the phosphate content in their blood to an above-average level, albeit one that is widespread in the population.
The second group took a phosphate binder that inhibits the substance’s intake in the body. They also received salt as sodium chloride to equal the first group’s sodium intake.
After six weeks, the doctors examined the effects of the different diets on various cardiovascular indicators such as blood pressure and pulse.
A comparison of the two groups showed that the increased phosphate intake strongly increased the systolic and diastolic blood pressure of healthy adults — by 4.1 and 3.2 mmHg, respectively.
At the same time, the pulse rate increased by an average of four beats per minute.
The researchers found that increased phosphate intake, more specifically an increased serum phosphate level, activates the sympathetic nervous system, which accelerates cardiac activity and increases blood pressure.
The findings demonstrated the effect to be reversible: two months after the end of the study, the participants’ levels had returned to normal.
The results provide an important explanation for the association of dietary phosphate intake with increased heart disease risk in the general population.
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