A recent study from the Seoul National University in Korea suggests that phosphates artificially added to many processed food products could lead to the development of lung cancer. Further studies are planned to determine whether patients with specific types of lung cancer, including mesothelioma, had higher levels of daily phosphate intake before their cancer diagnosis. Researchers hope to determine whether determine whether or not high level of inorganic phosphates makes a person more susceptible to developing mesothelioma after asbestos exposure.
Leader of the study, Dr. Myung-Haing Cho, noted that inorganic phosphates often seen in processed foods such as cheeses and sodas could act on the genes to result in the development of lung cancer. By examining the genes of mice in the lab, the scientists saw an effect by phosphates on the gene known as Akt, which has a role in developing lung cancer.
Another gene known to slow the development of lung cancer appeared to have its activity suppressed by phosphates. While naturally occurring phosphates are required for healthy growth and development, artificial phosphates, as the study suggests, can cause problems. These inorganic phosphates are typically added to many processed food items in order to increase their palatability and boost the levels of calcium and iron. Sodas, processed cheeses, and packaged baked goods are all typically made with added inorganic phosphates. With so many convenience foods containing phosphates, the average American diet can have up to 1000 mg of inorganic phosphates per day. An equivalent to this amount was given to half of the mice in the study. The other half received only a “moderate” level. After four weeks of the mice living in an environment conducive to the development of lung cancer, the results were examined. It appeared that the mice getting higher doses of phosphates were more likely to get lung cancer. Dr. Cho iterated that the conclusions from the study on lab mice does not necessarily mean that the same will hold true for humans, but at the same time, it is recommended that all people reduce the amount of processed foods in their diets to preserve their health.