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  • Phosphates in Processed Foods Equals Inflammation in GI Tract

    Betty Wedman-St Louis, PhD, RD
    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.   eNewsletter: Get our eNewsletter

      Journal of Gluten Sensitivity Summer 2016 Issue

    Celiac.com 07/18/2016 - Dietary phosphorus occurs naturally in dairy foods, animal meats, and legumes but according to the Institute of Medicine, high levels of phosphorus can be a contributor to cardiovascular, kidney and osteoporosis disorders.

    While phosphorus is considered an essential nutrient, the increased amounts found in processed foods via additives like anti-caking agents, stabilizers and leavening agents or acidifiers does not have to be stated on the nutrition label. Individuals following a gluten-free diet need to consider the health implications of phosphates found in processed foods eaten regularly in their diet. Reducing carbonated beverages is the best way to reduce phosphorus levels in the diet. Extra attention needs to be paid to the ingredient statement on foods.

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    Ingredient statements may include these declarations: tri-calcium phosphate, tri-magnesium phosphate, disodium phosphate, di-potassium phosphate. Just because the label states "natural" or "organic" does not mean it is a healthy food for daily consumption. Fresh is best!

    Here is a guide to where phosphates can be found in gluten-free processed foods:

    • Baked goods- cake mixes, donuts, refrigerated dough (pyrophosphates are used for leavening and as a dough "improver")
    • Beverages- phosphoric acid in colas (acidulant), pyrophosphate in chocolate milk to suspend cocoa, pyrophosphate in buttermilk for protein dispersion, tri-calcium phosphate in orange juice for fortification, tetra-sodium phosphate in strawberry flavored milk to bind iron to pink color
    • Cereals- phosphate in dry cereals to aid flow through extruder, fortification of vitamins
    • 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 anti-caking agent for dry powders
    • Egg Products- phosphate for stability and color + foam improvement
    • Ice Cream- pyrophosphate to prevent gritty texture
    • Meat Products- tri-phosphate for injections into ham, corned beef, sausage, franks, bologna, roast beef for moisture
    • Nutrition Bars & Meal Replacement Drinks- phosphates for fortification and microbiological stability
    • Potatoes- phosphate in baked potato chips to create bubbles on the surface, pyrophosphate in French fries, hash browns, potato flakes to inhibit iron induced blackening
    • Poultry- tri-phosphate for moisture and removal of salmonella and campylobacter pathogens
    • Pudding & Cheesecakes- phosphate to develop thickened texture
    • Seafood- tri-phosphate in shrimp for mechanical peeling, pyrophosphate in canned tuna and crab to stabilize color and crystals, surimi (crab/sea sticks) tri-phosphate and pyrophosphate as cryoprotectant to protein {surimi contains gluten and is not recommended for gluten-free diets]

    Hyperphosphate levels can contribute to muscle aches, calcification of coronary arteries and skeletal issues. Many food companies do not provide phosphorus analysis information because it is not required on the label but here is a representative sample of phosphorus levels in some commonly consumed on a gluten-free diet.

    Peanuts (1 ounce) 150 mg
    Yogurt (1 cup) 300 mg
    M&M Peanuts (1.74 oz pkg) 93 mg
    Rice Krispies Cereal (1 cup) 200 mg

    Dietary recommendations for an adult for Phosphorus is 800 to 1000 mg.


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    While I'd really like to know more about the phosphate relationship and a gluten free diet, this was not a well written article or it was edited too much for easy comprehension. The connection with too much phosphorous wasn't clear until the end of the article.

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    While I'd really like to know more about the phosphate relationship and a gluten free diet, this was not a well written article or it was edited too much for easy comprehension. The connection with too much phosphorous wasn't clear until the end of the article.

    Ok, so the article does make it clear, but just does so at the end? Ok....

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    I think this article is a life saver. I've added the phosphates listed in this article to my "do not eat" list as some of these foods also listed in this article I eat regularly and have recently had major digestive issues despite my strict gluten-free diet and lifestyle. Hopefully by eliminating these phosphates I will see improvement in my digestive health.

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  • About Me

    Betty Wedman-St Louis, PhD, RD is Assistant Professor, NY Chiropractic College, MS Clinical Nutrition Program Nutrition Assessment Course & Food Science Course.  She is author of the following books:

    • Fast and Simple Diabetes Menus, McGraw Hill Companies
    • Diabetes Meals on the Run, Contemporary Books
    • Living With Food Allergies, Contemporary Books
    • Diabetic Desserts, Contemporary Books
    • Quick & Easy Diabetes Menus Cookbook, Contemporary Books
    • American Diabetes Association Holiday Cookbook and Parties & Special Celebrations Cookbook, Prentice Hall Books


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