Betty Wedman-St Louis, PhD, RD, LD

Licensed Nutritionist & Environmental Health Specialist

Phosphates in Processed Foods = Chronic Disease Concerns

leave a comment

Dietary phosphorus occurs naturally in foods like dairy products, animal meats and legumes. The institute of Medicine recommended dietary allowance (RDA) is 700 mg/day while the NHANES data indicates that the typical American consumes more than twice that every day.

Phosphorus is considered an essential nutrient but it is increasingly being added to processed foods via additives (anti-caking agents to preserve moisture and color) or as a stabilizer, leavening agent or acidifier. Since it is not required to be listed on the label, it is difficult to know how much is being added and consumed. High levels of phosphorus is now being considered an independent predictive factor in mortality and morbidity from cardiovascular, kidney, and osteoporosis disorders.

People with numerous chronic diseases and those wanting to promote healthy eating habits, need to be considering how many processed foods they are consuming as food manufacturers continue to offer increasing numbers of  processed foods.

Phosphates in the form of food additives contribute to the increasing health implications when not consuming a fresh foods diet. Carbonated beverages are the best way to reduce phosphorus levels in the diet. Aside from that, those with osteoporosis, osteopenia, cardiovascular disease and kidney disease must pay attention to ingredient statements that may include these declarations: tricalcium phosphate, trimagnesium phosphate, disodium phosphate, dipotassium phosphate. According to current regulations, these ingredients are safe when used in good manufacturing processes but the more one consumes prepared foods, the more elevated the blood phosphorus levels can rise.

Yes, the food world offers a wider array of processed foods that ever before but just because it states “natural” or “organic” on the label does not mean it is a healthy food for every day consumption. Remember: Fresh is Best!

Here is a guide I use to help those choosing processed foods be a wiser consumer:


Baked Goods– cake mixes, donuts, refrigerated dough = pyrophosphates for leavening and dough “improver”.


Beverages– phosphoric acid in colas for acidulant, pyrophosphate in chocolate milk to suspend cocoa, pyrophosphate in buttermilk for protein dispersion, tricalcium phosphate in orange juice for fortification, tetrasodium phospahte in strawberry flavor milk to bind iron to pink color


Cereals– phosphate in dry cereals to aid flow through extruder and fortification


Cheese– phosphoric acid in cottage cheese to set acidification, phosphate in dips, sauces, cheese slices and baked chips for emulsifying action and surface agent


Imitation Dairy Products (non-dairy products)- phosphate as buffer for smooth mixing into coffee and as anticaking agent for dry powders


Egg Products – phosphate for stability and color/foam improvement


Ice Cream– pyrophosphate to prevent gritty texture


Meat Products– tripolyphosphate for injections into ham, corned beef, sausage, franks, bologna, roast beef for moisture and color development


Nutrition Bars & Meal Replacement Drinks– phosphates for fortification and microbiological stability


Potatoes– phosphate in baked potato chips to create bubbles on surface,  and pyrophosphate in French fries, hash browns, potato flakes to inhibit iron induced blackening


Poultry– tripolyphosphate for moisture and removal of Salmonella and Campylobacter bacterial pathogens


Puddings & Cheesecakes– phosphate to develop thickened texture


Seafood– tripolyphosphate in shrimp for mechanical peeling, pyrophosphate in canned tuna and crab to stabilize color and crystals, surimi (“crab/sea sticks”) triphosphate and pyrophosphate as cryoprotectant to protein


Hyperphosphatemia can lead to muscle tetany, calcification of coronary arteries and pulmonary calcification. The long-term effects of high phosphates in the diet are noted every day by individuals with kidney disease, blocked coronary arteries and skeletal issues. The decreased renal excretion of phosphates is to blame. In addition, untreated elevated phosphorus increases cellular catabolism and reduces energy production in the cell. Tumor reduction post chemotherapy can result in hyperphosphatemia and may be a significant contributor to the fatigue that follows the therapy.


For those not having food composition tables available, here is a comparison of common snack foods to show how phosphorus levels quickly can add up. Many food companies do not provide analysis information on phosphorus because it is not required for the nutrition label.


Hershey Bar with Almonds                                    116 mg

Cola Beverage (12 oz)                                      44 mg

M&M Peanuts (1.74 oz pkg)                                      93 mg

Yogurt (1 cup)                                                300 mg

Total Cereal (1 cup) General Mills                        200 mg

Peanuts (1 oz)                                                150 mg

Apple, raw (1 med)                                                  10 mg


For more information on Phosphorus and its effect on bone health and cardiovascular issues, visit my website


References available upon request.

Written by bwsl

January 7th, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Current Postings