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High Phosphate Diet Linked to Atherosclerosis, Heart Disease


If you want to help avoid atherosclerosis and heart disease, you may want to limit your intake of soft drinks, dairy products, baked goods, and sausage. All these foods are high in phosphate, and new research has linked a high phosphate diet with atherosclerosis and heart disease.

High phosphate is linked to cholesterol buildup

Several earlier studies pointed out health risks associated with a high intake of phosphates. In December 2008, investigators reported that high phosphate intake may increase the risk for and proliferation of lung cancer. This finding was observed in a mouse model of lung cancer.

In another study, experts found that consuming high amounts of phosphates accelerated signs of aging. They also pointed out that elevated levels of phosphate may raise the prevalence and severity of complications associated with aging, such as cardiovascular calcification, chronic kidney disease, and severe skin and muscle atrophy.

Now for the first time, researchers have proven a relationship between consuming a high phosphate diet and atherosclerosis, a known cause of heart disease. In atherosclerosis, fatty substances adhere to the walls of the arteries, hardens (forms calcium deposits), and may block the arteries.

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In the study, researchers from the United Kingdom fed mice a high cholesterol diet with low (0.2%), standard (0.6%), or high (1.6%) phosphate content. As the amount of phosphates in the diet increased, so did serum phosphate and fibroblast growth factor 23 levels. Both blood pressure and the lipid profile were not affected, however.

After the three groups of mice had been on their respective diets for 20 weeks, those in the highest phosphate group had significantly more buildup of cholesterol at the aortic sinus than did mice in the other two groups. Mice in the low-phosphate group showed a fourfold increase in insulin resistance (when the body’s insulin becomes less effective at lowering blood sugar levels) and more fat tissue than the other two groups.

This study showed that while a high phosphate diet accelerated atherosclerosis, low intake induced insulin resistance. Therefore, controlling intake of phosphate may have an impact on the development of both atherosclerosis and insulin resistance and thus metabolic syndrome.

According to the study’s leader, Dr. Tim Chico from Sheffield University’s Department of Cardiovascular Science, “This is a very early, but exciting finding, as it suggests that by reducing the amount of phosphate in the blood we may have discovered a new approach to reducing heart disease.”

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