The truth about Phosphate!

Pearl Pugh
Pearl Pugh, Paediatric Renal Dietitian, UK
As a paediatric renal dietitian and general foodie, my interest at this time of the year for all things food and health related, is heightened. ‘Why now?’ you might ask.

Well, after returning home from a day’s work, dropping off and picking up the kids from their clubs, and the general mayhem of the day, I like to try to get out on my bike or nip down to the local swimming pool to do some lengths.

Returning home ravenous, I reach for a mug of camomile, and a bite to eat. Much to my children’s dismay, I am always scrutinising food labels. Trying to find something tasty, that’s not loaded with ‘rubbish’. More than ever, our fast-paced lives have created a surge in the amount of alluring processed food.

The impact of inorganic dietary phosphate on the progression of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD)
"Currently, as a PhD student at the University of Nottingham I am exploring experts views regarding early dietary phosphate management in children"

My current research journey was sparked by a series of conversations a few years back with parents.

Faced with their child’s chronic renal disease, and the need to trust others with the medical management of their child; on their quest to take back some control, I was frequently asked ‘Is there anything that my child should or should not be eating, that might slow down the progression of the illness?’

This led me in pursuit of an answer. Access my paper on dietary self-management to delay disease progression here. Currently, as a PhD student at the University of Nottingham, I am exploring experts views regarding early dietary phosphate management in children.

Much of the so-called ‘healthy’ food that kids love to eat is loaded with phosphates. Breakfast cereals, bagels, pancakes, ham, cheese…I could fill the page!

"The ubiquitous addition of ‘un-natural’ inorganic phosphates to much of the food piled high in our supermarket shelves may be causing more harm than good"
Natural phosphates are vital for life, indeed they are essential for childhood growth and the release of energy from growing cells. However, the ubiquitous addition of ‘un-natural’ inorganic phosphates to much of the food piled high in our supermarket shelves may be causing more harm than good.

Manufacturers tell us these phosphate preservatives and additives are needed to stop meat from discolouring, add that golden sheen to bagels and ward off microbial contamination, for example. However, for children with renal failure, they are proving to be a major problem.
Bioavailability of phosphorus
"Alarmingly, almost 100% of the inorganic unnatural phosphates are retained by the body"
The bioavailability – ability of our body’s to use - organic and inorganic phosphates varies considerably. On average 50% of the naturally occurring phosphate is taken up and used effectively by the body, with the remainder passed out in our urine.

Alarmingly, almost 100% of the inorganic unnatural phosphates are retained by the body. ‘Isn’t more, better?’ you might ask. Well not when you have chronic kidney disease. Any excess cannot be excreted by the struggling kidneys, so it remains in the body, building up over time, with the potential to cause havoc to the growing bones and heart.

Surely as a parent I should be able to make an informed choice about the food I feed my children. This is true. However, much of the unnatural added phosphates pumped into our food are not listed on food labels.

So, whether we have a child with a devastating diagnosis like chronic kidney disease, or just want to make good choices for ourselves and our children, given the pace at which information orbits our being, is it too much to ask that we know the truth about phosphate?
Woman looking at food labels | The Truth About Phosphate Blog - VIA