Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mice, Phosphates, Aging – and More

If you were a mouse, you might have reason to worry. You might find reason to worry even if you’re not a mouse.

Here’s why . . .

In a word: Phosphates. New research published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology finds that high levels of phosphates create toxic effects and accelerate signs of aging—in mice. They may also increase the number and severity of aging-related complications such as cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and muscle and skin atrophy. And where do you find phosphates? Sodas, processed foods—and even diet soft drinks. In other words, what many of us consider our ‘daily staples.’

Now, it’s true that phosphorous is an essential mineral for human and animal life. It is fundamental to growth, maintenance, and repair of all body tissues and is necessary (along with calcium and magnesium) for proper growth and formation of bones. In addition, the body utilizes phosphorus in protein synthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, enzyme activation and as a component of nucleotides and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA). Maybe that’s “too much information,” but, too much phosphorous, such as the phosphates found in soda, can actually leech calcium from bone, leading to bone weakness and osteoporosis. And, yes, diet soda contains phosphates.

A 2008 study found a correlation between consuming diet soda and Metabolic Syndrome, a collection of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and diabetes that include abdominal obesity, high cholesterol and blood glucose levels, and elevated blood pressure. The risk for metabolic syndrome was 34 percent higher among those who drank one can of diet soda a day, compared with those who drank none. A 2005 study from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, presenting eight years of research data, found for each can of diet soft drink consumed a day, a person’s risk of obesity went up 41 percent.

As for foods high in added phosphates, a few of the more common culprits include: ice cream, skim milk powder (often added to processed foods), biscuits, cookies and cakes from the supermarket, ketchup, mayonnaise, frozen and breaded fish, processed cheese, frozen pizza, hot dogs, and processed or deli meats. And, toothpaste. And, this is not a comprehensive list. Look for foods that list mineral salts, emulsifiers and lecithin as ingredients—and avoid them.

Phosphates occur naturally in many healthy foods, such as nuts, whole grains, legumes, brown rice, milk, and some leafy greens. And, as we pointed out, our bodies need phosphates. But do we need all the added phosphates in processed foods? Do we need the diet soda and associated risks? It’s not like we don’t have choices . . . right?

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