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.
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.
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.
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