DC Comics’ Doctor Phosphorus clearly suffers from a damaging excess of his namesake mineral!
When he (as Dr. Alexander James Sartorius) was exposed to a nuclear reactor’s core material, his body was permeated with silicon molecules that each fused with an extra proton, turning them into incendiary phosphorus and making Dr. P a very angry Burning Man. Though the damage that excess phosphorous (phosphates) does to your body may be less sci-fi, the science behind it is very clear.
So, let’s look at how you might be overloading your body with phosphates, the harm they can do, and the very simple ways you can slash your excess intake.
WHAT IS PHOSPHATE?
Phosphate is a chemical compound made from the mineral phosphorus and oxygen. It’s an important part of everything from your DNA and RNA to your cell membranes and it’s in something called ATP (adenosine triphosphate) that provides energy to cells. About 85 percent of the phosphorus in your body is in your bones and teeth, and it’s the body’s second-most common mineral (calcium is No. 1).
Why do you end up with excess phosphate?
You can end up with too much phosphate in your body for a variety of reasons: excess dietary intake (that’s the culprit affecting ever-more Americans and the focus of this discussion); a deficiency in calcium or magnesium; problems with your thyroid, parathyroid gland or other hormones; and kidney disease or respiratory problems. The 31 million Americans with chronic kidney disease need to follow a phosphorous/phosphate-restricted diet and are especially at risk from hidden phosphate-containing additives.
NATURALLY OCCURRING PHOSPHATE VS. PHOSPHATE ADDITIVES
Phosphates occur naturally in foods such as fish, pork, tofu, milk, chicken, scallops, lentils, squash seeds, beef and whole grains. That’s terrific, because you need a daily supply to stay healthy. The recommended daily dietary allowance for males and females 9-18 is 1,250 milligrams a day; for males and females over 18, it’s 700 milligrams a day. Kids ages 1-3 need 460 milligrams a day and those ages 4-8 need 500 milligrams a day.
But the food industry has taken to adding phosphates to a wide range of foods to increase moisture retention, improve texture and enhance flavor. Baked goods, fast foods, deli and prepared or processed meats and colas are commonly filled with added phosphates.
One study of fast food looked at 15 major American fast-food chains and found that more than 80 percent of menu items contained added phosphates. In fact, out of 800 entrees they looked at, only 16 percent were free of phosphate-containing additives.
WHAT PHOSPHATE-CONTAINING ADDITIVES CAN DO TO YOU
A recent study in the journal Circulation reveals that the more excess phosphates you have in your diet, the more sedentary you are likely to become! This happens because a high-phosphate diet reduces maximal oxygen intake (it’s harder to move around!) and interferes with fat oxidation (you’ll gain weight!). It also interferes with your body producing cell-powering fatty acids. The result? It reduces treadmill duration and spontaneous activity and increases sedentary time. It also increases your risk of heart disease and premature death.
Another study, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reported consuming more than 1,400 milligrams a day of phosphorus was “associated with higher all-cause mortality.” Unfortunately, the average American male between ages 20 and 60 consumes between 1,650 and 1,754 mg a day!
In order to make sure that you don’t take in excess phosphates/phosphorus, follow these four steps:
1. Eliminate all red and prepared or processed meats from your diet.
2. Do not drink colas — sugar-free or sugar-added.
3. Avoid store-bought baked goods and foods with added sugars.
4. Read ingredient labels. Phosphorus shows up as dicalcium phosphate, disodium phosphate, monosodium phosphate, phosphoric acid, sodium hexameta-phosphate, trisodium phosphate, sodium tripolyphosphate and tetrasodium pyrophosphate.
Opt for prosperous instead of phosphorus!
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.