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Phosphate Food Additives: A Hidden Heart Health Hazard?

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Last Updated on December 23, 2023 by Max

Welcome to the Fourteenth Part of Our Food Safety Series

In this chapter of our series, we delve into the hidden heart health hazards of phosphate food additives. Widely used in various processed foods, these additives serve key roles but raise concerns about cardiovascular health, especially in individuals with kidney issues. We’ll explore the balance between their functional benefits in food processing and the potential health risks they pose.

Phosphates are naturally occurring compounds that are crucial to our bodies’ cellular functions. However, in the food industry, synthesized versions are frequently used as additives in processed foods. They can serve as leavening agents in baked goods, help retain moisture in meats, and act as emulsifiers in cheese and dairy products (Chang et al., 2014).

However, should we be concerned about these additives? Some research suggests we should be. Several studies have found an association between a high dietary intake of phosphate additives and an increased risk of heart disease, especially in individuals with kidney disease or impaired kidney function (Calvo & Uribarri, 2013).

This is because our kidneys are primarily responsible for maintaining a balance of phosphate in our bodies. When they are not functioning optimally, or when our intake of phosphate additives is too high, this balance can be disrupted, leading to the hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) and other heart health concerns (Foley et al., 2009).

In the EU, while phosphates are approved for use in food, there is a push for more transparent labeling to help consumers identify foods that contain these additives (European Food Safety Authority [EFSA], 2019). Meanwhile, in the U.S., the FDA considers phosphate additives to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), and there are currently no requirements for specific labeling of these additives (U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA], 2018).

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This issue again highlights the need for greater transparency in food labeling and the importance of a balanced diet. What are your thoughts on phosphate additives in food?

Conclusion

As we wrap up our discussion on phosphate food additives, it’s clear that their impact on health is a complex issue. The contrast in regulatory approaches between the EU and the U.S. underscores the importance of consumer awareness and dietary balance. How do these revelations about phosphates influence your food choices? We invite you to consider these factors in your approach to a healthier diet.

References

  • Chang, A.R., et al. (2014). High Dietary Phosphorus Intake is Associated with All-Cause Mortality: Results from NHANES III. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99(2), 320-327. 
  • Calvo, M.S., & Uribarri, J. (2013). Public Health Impact of Dietary Phosphorus Excess on Bone and Cardiovascular Health in the General Population. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 98(1), 6-15. 
  • Foley, R.N., et al. (2009). Clinical Epidemiology of Cardiovascular Disease in Chronic Kidney Disease. Journal of Renal Care, 35(Suppl 1), 4-8. 
  • European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2019). Re-Evaluation of Phosphoric Acid–Phosphates – Di-, Tri- and Polyphosphates (E 338–341, E 343, E 450–452) as Food Additives and the Safety of Proposed Extension of Use. EFSA Journal, 17(6), 5714. 
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2018). Food Additive Status List. Washington, D.C.: FDA.

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