After sodium and fat content, a new study suggests adding phosphates to the list of unhealthy ingredients to look out for on nutritional labels, after making a connection between high blood pressure, heart disease and phosphate consumption.
Widely used as a food preservative and stabilizer, phosphates can be found in foods like processed cheeses, Parmesan, colas, baking powder and cured meats.
But after looking at the relationship between kidney disease, heart disease and high blood pressure, scientists in Vienna found that large amounts of phosphates can kick-start the production of a hormone called FGF23 in the bones, which puts strain on the heart and can lead to high blood pressure.
In their study, researchers found that mice with low levels of FGF23 excrete higher amounts of sodium in their urine, resulting in low blood pressure.
By contrast, animals with high levels of FGF23 were unable to excrete excess sodium, resulting in high blood pressure.
The problem is particularly worrisome for patients who suffer from kidney disease, as levels of phosphates and FGF23 are chronically high, putting them at increased risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.
The latest findings, published in the May issue of EMBO Molecular Medicine, build on previous research carried out by the same group that found the same hormone also controls calcium levels. Excess levels of FGF23 were seen to lead to increased take-up of calcium by the kidneys, resulting in vascular calcification.
Foods high in inorganic phosphates that should be limited include processed meats like ham and sausages, canned fish, baked goods, cola and fellow sugary soft drinks.