A new study links phosphates in foods to increased sedentary time

New US research has found that consuming high levels of inorganic phosphate – a food preservative commonly found in soda, packaged meat and processed foods – is linked with lower levels of physical activity.

Carried out by a team at UT Southwestern Medical Center, the new research includes both animal and human studies to look at the effect of phosphate on activity level and sedentary time.

In the first of a series of studies, the researchers fed two groups of healthy mice similar diets, except one group was fed more than three times as much phosphate as the other.

The findings, published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation, showed that after 12 weeks the mice on the high phosphate diet spent less time on the treadmill compared to the mice in the control group. They also consumed less oxygen, suggesting a lower level of fitness, and had a reduced ability to burn fat.

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In a study which looked at humans, the researchers measured the activity levels of 1,603 healthy participants over seven days using a fitness tracker. They found a similar association between high phosphate levels and reduced physical activity, with participants who had a higher level of phosphate in the blood also spending less time doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and more time being sedentary.

The findings now suggest that inorganic phosphate may be one of the reasons why the US population isn't as physically active as it used to be, with the researchers adding that food labels indicating phosphate content would be useful for consumers to monitor their intake.

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Phosphate occurs naturally in some foods, including nuts, eggs and dairy products, and is needed by the body to build healthy teeth and bones. However, inorganic phosphate is added to certain foods to enhance appearance, flavour or increase its shelf life, with the researchers noting that around 40 to 70 per cent of popular items such as cola drinks, frozen meals, dry food mixes, packaged meat and bakery products contain phosphate additives.

This means up to 25 per cent of US adults consume threefold to fourfold the recommended daily allowance of phosphate on a regular basis.


Image: Shutterstock 

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