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Dietary phosphate toxicity: an emerging global health concern

  • Erem, Sarah1
  • Razzaque, Mohammed S.1, 2, 3, 4
  • 1 Saba University School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Saba, Dutch Caribbean, The Netherlands , Saba (Netherlands)
  • 2 Harvard School of Dental Medicine, Department of Oral Health Policy and Epidemiology, Boston, MA, USA , Boston (United States)
  • 3 University of Rwanda College of Medicine & Health Sciences, Department of Preventive and Community Dentistry, School of Dentistry, Kigali, Rwanda , Kigali (Rwanda)
  • 4 Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Department of Pathology, 1858 West Grandview Boulevard, Room: B2-306, Erie, PA, 16509, USA , Erie (United States)
Published Article
Histochemistry and Cell Biology
Springer Berlin Heidelberg
Publication Date
Aug 25, 2018
DOI: 10.1007/s00418-018-1711-8
Springer Nature


Phosphate is a common ingredient in many healthy foods but, it is also present in foods containing additives and preservatives. When found in foods, phosphate is absorbed in the intestines and filtered from the blood by the kidneys. Generally, any excess is excreted in the urine. In renal pathologies, however, such as chronic kidney disease, a reduced renal ability to excrete phosphate can result in excess accumulation in the body. This accumulation can be a catalyst for widespread damage to the cellular components, bones, and cardiovascular structures. This in turn can reduce mortality. Because of an incomplete understanding of the mechanism for phosphate homeostasis, and the multiple organ systems that can modulate it, treatment strategies designed to minimize phosphate burden are limited. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for phosphorous is around 700 mg/day for adults, but the majority of healthy adult individuals consume far more phosphate (almost double) than the RDA. Studies suggest that low-income populations are particularly at risk for dietary phosphate overload because of the higher amounts of phosphate found in inexpensive, processed foods. Education in nutrition, as well as access to inexpensive healthy food options may reduce risks for excess consumption as well as a wide-range of disorders, ranging from cardiovascular diseases to kidney diseases to tumor formation. Pre-clinical and clinical studies suggest that dietary phosphate overload has toxic and prolonged adverse health effects. Improved regulations for reporting of phosphate concentrations on food labels are necessary so that people can make more informed choices about their diets and phosphate consumption. This is especially the case given the lack of treatments available to mitigate the short and long-term effects of dietary phosphate overload-related toxicity. Phosphate toxicity is quickly becoming a global health concern. Without measures in place to reduce dietary phosphate intake, the conditions associated with phosphate toxicity will likely to cause untold damage to the wellbeing of individuals around the world.

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