Here's another reason to cut down on soda (soft drinks) and processed food. New research published online shows that high levels of phosphates, found in sodas and processed foods, accelerates signs of aging. Phosphates were also found to cause skin and muscles to wither, as well as damage the heart and kidneys, in tests carried out on mice.
Phosphorus is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and is vital to bone and tooth health and energy production. It is commonly added to carbonated drinks, especially colas, in the form of phosphoric acid, and gives many soft drinks their tangy taste. Phosphoric acid also acts as a preservative, keeping the contents of the can or bottle fresh.
Phosphates are also often used to bulk out processed meats, as a raising agent in baking and an emulsifying agent in cheese.
For the study, researchers looked at the effects of phosphate on three sets of mice. The first group was genetically engineered to have a gene called klotho, leading to them having higher than normal levels of phosphate.
They lived between 8 and 15 weeks, suffering a range of health problems linked to premature ageing.
The second group lacked klotho, with the result that their phosphate levels were closer to normal. They lived for 20 weeks.
The third was bred to be like the second group, except they were fed a high-phosphate diet. All of these mice died by 15 weeks, like those in the first group.
This, the scientists suggest, shows that the phosphate diet had toxic effects in mice and may have a similar effect in other mammals, including humans.
They warned that the mineral could age the skin and muscles and might trigger or exacerbate kidney and heart problems.
They said: "Humans need a healthy diet and keeping the balance of phosphate in the diet may be important for a healthy life and longevity. Avoid phosphate toxicity and enjoy a healthy life."
Although the experiments were carried out in mice, the researchers believe the results show the potential consequences of high doses of the mineral.
The study is not the first to raise concerns about the safety of carbonated drinks and juices.
Brittle bones, pancreatic cancer, muscle weakness and paralysis have been linked to soft drinks, with just two cans a week thought to be enough to raise the risk. Previous research has suggested that the phosphorus released from phosphoric acid in soft drinks causes calcium to be lost from the body, raising the risk of brittle bones. Another recent study found that two or more soft drinks a week were linked to almost doubling the chances of pancreatic cancer.
Research Paper Details:
M. Ohnishi, M. S. Razzaque. Dietary and genetic evidence for phosphate toxicity accelerating mammalian aging. The FASEB Journal, 2010.