Study links phosphate additives in food to lower level of physical activity

Researchers are reporting that consuming high levels of inorganic phosphate, a preservative widely used in certain sodas, packaged meats, and other processed foods, is linked to reduced physical activity levels. Phosphate levels could represent a novel but promising target to help reduce high levels of physical inactivity associated with the Western diet, they suggest.  

In the study, the researchers examined the effect of inorganic phosphate on both mice and humans and found similar associations with reduced physical activity. In the mouse study, the researchers fed two groups of healthy mice similar diets, except one group was fed more than three times as much phosphate. After 12 weeks, mice on the high phosphate diet spent less time on the treadmill and took in less oxygen when they exercised compared to the mice on the lower phosphate diet. The mice on the high-phosphate diet also showed a reduced ability to burn fat and showed changes in thousands of genes that aid in processing fatty acids.

The researchers also analyzed data on 1,603 people whose activity was monitored with a fitness tracker for one week. The researchers found that those who had higher blood phosphate levels tended to spend less time on moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and more time being sedentary. 

The study, partly funded by NHLBI, was in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

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