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November 2013

High Phosphorus Intake Associated with Mortality

A recent study suggests that high dietary phosphorus intake may be linked to an increased risk of death.

Phosphorus is a mineral found in many foods, such as milk, cheese, grains, dried beans, peas, colas, nuts, and peanut butter. Phosphate is the most common form of phosphorus. In the body, phosphate is the most abundant intracellular anion. It is critical for energy storage and metabolism, the utilization of many B-complex vitamins, the buffering of body fluids, kidney excretion of hydrogen ions, proper muscle and nerve function, and maintaining calcium balance. Conversely, excess phosphate intake may lead to hyperphosphatemia (high blood phosphorus levels), which occurs particularly in people with impaired kidney function and may lead to potentially serious electrolyte imbalances, adverse effects or death.

In a recent study, researchers analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III on 9,686 adults 20-80 years-old who were not pregnant and did not have diabetes, cancer, kidney or heart disease. Data on dietary intake of phosphorus was collected through 24-hour dietary recall questionnaires. Data on cardiovascular-related death and death from any cause was collected through December 2006.

The researchers found that people who consumed more phosphorus-dense diets were older and led healthier lifestyles, factoring for physical activity, dietary patterns and smoking habits. The average daily intake of phosphorus was 1166 milligrams with an average phosphorus density of 0.58 milligram per kilocalorie. However, after adjusting data for various factors such as cardiovascular risk and kidney function, intake of over 1400 milligrams of phosphorus daily was associated with a significantly greater risk of death from any cause. A diet with a density lower than 0.35 milligram phosphorus per kilocalorie was associated with an increased risk of death from any cause.

The authors concluded that high dietary phosphorus intake may be linked to an increased risk of death from any cause. This study only suggests a potential association and does not prove a cause-and-effect relationship. Further research is warranted.

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  1. Chang AR, Lazo M, Appel LJ, et al. High dietary phosphorus intake is associated with all-cause mortality: results from NHANES III. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Nov 13. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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