Glued to the couch: how a common food additive takes away the desire to exercise

Today you've swam your thirty long, you've scored a hundred abs and you've released your Russian weights of eight kilos, all after going around the neighborhood at a trot, twice. A normal day of exercise... in your dreams. The reality has been the same as always: you have come home exhausted from sitting all day at work, you have turned on the TV and you have not been able to get off the couch or to take out the trash. You're sedentary, but don't feel bad about it, blame it on the phosphates. According to a new scientific study, this common additive in processed foods may be responsible for losing any interest in physical exercise.

The new research has reached this conclusion after comparing the consumption of oxygen in mice fed with a diet rich in phosphates with that of others that were not exceeded in their consumption. rodents that atiborraban the additive "could not generate enough fatty acids to feed their muscles," concludes the study's principal investigator, Wanpen Vongpatanasin. According to the results of his experiments, the expression of many genes involved in muscle metabolism had changed after 12 weeks of a diet rich in phosphates.

But people are not mice, so they have nothing to worry about... or yes? The Vongpatanasin team has also analyzed the study data on the heart of Dallas, a work that began in the year 2000 and whose main objective is to improve the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of the diseases of the pump that pushes the fluid Vital to the whole body. After monitoring the physical activity of participants of different ethnicities, from 18 to 65 years, the data collected in this project indicate that the response to phosphate in humans is very similar to that of mice. The highest levels of the compound are also related to a reduction in the time people spend exercising, as well as an increase in sedentary periods.

So, we make war on phosphates?

No, phosphates are not the enemy. "They are compounds that are present in our organism in a natural way, that are part of our bones, teeth, of the lipids of the cell membranes... They stabilize the DNA and help produce ATP, a molecule that the body uses to store energy, "explains biologist and dietitian-nutritionist Carlos Galve. Phosphates control the enzymes involved in energy metabolism and the expression of genes as those related to the synthesis of fatty acids in the muscle, which are used as fuel during physical exercise.

It is therefore not surprising that the new study concludes that "a low expression of genes makes the muscle consume less oxygen, and can not oxidize fats to obtain energy," explains Galve. Or what is the same, each time it will cost more to take off the back of the couch if we spend with processed foods. We'll have the genes in low form.

And how does one avoid that the phosphates turn him into a sedentary being, oblivious to any interest in physical exercise? How much phosphate can you take before this happens? Unfortunately, these are the issues in which scientists can offer fewer responses, but more and more researchers are expressing concern about the amounts of phosphates in the form of food additives.

In sausages, coffee, pasta, biscuits, beverages...

These additives "are present in many processed foods, even in some that traditionally are not considered phosphate-rich foods because the raw material has a low content of this substance," explains the head of the nephrology service and Hypertension of the Jiménez Díaz Foundation Hospital and member of the research of the Spanish Society of Nephrology (SEN), Alberto Ortiz. Its function is to preserve and enhance the taste of products of animal origin such as meat, fish, molluscs, crustaceans, milk and derivatives. They are also used "for the preservation of drinks like tea, coffee, cereals, fruit juices, sauces, edible fats, canned fruits and vegetables, distilled liquors of graduation greater than 15 º, cider, breads and pasta... products elaborated with egg, with cocoa or chocolate, the purees and the salted crackers, "the biologist Carlos Galve lists.

The list is endless, and it seems difficult to eat something that does not hide sodium, potassium, calcium phosphate... Avoiding them is especially difficult because it is necessary to memorize many plates: one has to look at the food labelling and know that the most common phosphates correspond to the codes E338, E339, E340, E341, E343, E450, E451, E452. And neither does it have all the information necessary to make the best decision for health, since the current regulation does not oblige to indicate the quantity of the additive that contain the food, so the volume of phosphates is, in general, unknown.

This uncertainty is not alien to the scientific community. A review of available scientific studies on the relationship of high phosphate intake and mortality in patients with renal diseases associated high phosphate consumption as food additives to increased cardiovascular risk. The investigation led the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to launch a revision of the additive, in 2013, at the request of the European Commission.

But the design of the studies analyzed, which did not measure the effect of phosphates in a controlled environment, which allowed to know in great detail their influence on the organism, led the EFSA to conclude that the relationship between their excess and damage the kidney can not be taken for sure From a scientific perspective. But it has many visions to be plausible, taking into account that, "Currently, EFSA is discussing with the European Commission its scientific opinion on the revaluation of the safety of phosphates as a food additive", according to the European Agency has Declared to BUENAVIDA.

Some evaluations of the effects of phosphate on the diet carried out prior to the establishment of EFSA, such as those made by the joint FAO/WHO Expert committee on Food Additives, recommended not to exceed 700 milligrams per day, when a diet Western can include up to 3 grams. For their part, the researchers of the new study affirm in their conclusions that, "since inorganic phosphate is widely used in food supply, more studies are needed to better define the impact of this substance on health."

No convincing alternatives

In addition to making our muscles become lazy, scientists have observed other adverse effects associated with this additive. "Excess phosphate accelerates aging through several molecular pathways. For example, it is known that the main mechanism of the anti-aging effect of the protein Klotho is to protect us from excess phosphate from the diet, favoring its elimination in the urine, "continues the vocal research of SEN, Alberto Ortiz. On the other hand, 10% of adults in Spain have chronic renal disease, a percentage that rises to 60% among those older than 80 years. "And all these people have serious problems to remove excess phosphates from the diet," he says.

The specialist is aware that the best recommendation to prevent an excess of phosphates is as simple as it is difficult to implement in today's society, where the portions are too large and the processed foods are resorted to a frequency Excessive. And, since the inclusion of phosphates as additives is because they preserve and enhance the taste of food, finding a substitute that does not disappoint consumer expectations is not easy for the food industry.

However, as long as the safety of this additive continues under review, it is not too much to follow Ortiz's recommendations: "eat only cooked foods from raw ingredients, without resorting to the defendants, avoid everything that comes in glass jars, Cans or is obviously processed. " And drink water, especially if you are a man (you will need more liquid to keep you hydrated).