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breadHelp Your Heart! Beware This 4-Letter Ingredient: “PHOS”

By Jennifer Rose Parker, RD, LD/N and Lead Dietitian for Fresenius Medical Care

Have you ever stopped to look at the side of the cereal box? Or even your sliced bread? For many of us, we might take a quick look at the food labels for things like sodium, fiber or fat, but how many of us take the time to read through the fine print of the ingredient list?

If you’re not taking the time to read the “fine print”, there’s a chance you’re increasing your risk for heart disease.

According to recent research, those that consume a diet that is high in phosphorus could be doing damage to their heart, with or without pre-existing kidney disease. Some studies show high amounts of phosphorus from the diet will increase the amount of phosphorus your body retains. Elevated levels of phosphorus in the body will trigger a series of hormonal changes that leads to a transfer of calcium from the bones to many soft tissues, such as your heart. This then leads to cardiovascular disease.1

So What is Phosphorus?
Phosphorus is a mineral that is found naturally in your body. It is needed to make strong bones and give the body energy. Phosphorus is also found naturally in foods and beverages or it can be added to foods by manufacturers for a variety of purposes. If we consume too much phosphorus from the foods we eat, we do damage to the bones, heart and eventually the kidneys. The most common type of added phosphorus is called “phosphate”. This is fast becoming a popular food additive and can be found in many of your favorite foods and beverages, even the organic or “all natural” choices.

Could I Be Consuming Too Much Phosphorus?
Did you know that the average American adult needs only 700mg of phosphorus per day but is consuming at least twice this amount based on current estimations?2

In addition to pre-prepared boxed and frozen foods, many sliced breads, cereals, meats, dairy products, flavored drinks and juices have added phosphates. This type of added phosphorus, as compared to what is found naturally in your foods, is almost 100% absorbed by your body—making it very easy to consume more than the body needs. Naturally occurring, plant-based phosphorus is typically 30-50% absorbed and is found in whole grains, dried beans, nuts and seeds.

How Can I Control My Phosphorus Intake?
The next time you’re in the aisles be sure to keep an eye out for “PHOS”. These four simple letters are the clue that your foods and beverages have added phosphates. The best advice is to eat fresh, unprocessed foods! By limiting your phosphorus intake (both added and natural sources) you can keep your heart healthy.

  1. AKA Framingham Offspring Study
  2. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute