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Can High Levels of Phosphate in Processed Foods Make You Tired?

We all have one of those days when dragging ourselves out of bed feels impossible. Many times it becomes challenging to motivate yourself to get off the couch and get some exercise. What if this lack of energy could be because of a common food additive that you are unknowingly consuming? Researchers have found that a common food additive that is found in a majority of the popular items at your nearby grocery store can leave you feeling fatigued and out of energy when consumed in a large amount.

This common food additive is inorganic phosphate, and it can leave you feeling tired and out of power. Read on to find out more about how high levels of phosphate in processed foods make you tired.

What are Phosphates?

Phosphate is the charged particle of the mineral phosphorus, which is needed by the body to help in the repairing and building of bones and teeth. They also assist in nerve function and muscle contraction. Phosphates are present in many foods such as fish, dairy, meat, fruits, and vegetables.

However, inorganic phosphate that is saturated in a wide variety of processed foods and drinks poses a health problem. Most consumers are unaware of this food additive and preservative and its effect on human health. Inorganic phosphate is added to foods for increasing the shelf life and for enhancing the flavor. It is an inexpensive ingredient due to which it is used in nearly every processed food item.

It is estimated that nearly 50 to 70 percent of the standard grocery items, such as prepared frozen foods and carbonated drinks contain inorganic phosphates.

The amount of phosphate present in the body gets regulated by the kidneys. This is why people with kidney malfunction or kidney disease can be at risk of developing irregularities in phosphate levels. This is why it is so important for people to be aware of how much inorganic phosphate they are consuming.(1)

Additionally, the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not have any set requirements about food labels needing to show precisely how much inorganic phosphates are contained in the food item.

A high phosphate diet can be highly dangerous in people with kidney failure. High levels of inorganic phosphate is also believed to have an effect on the heart, but more research is still required to establish the exact impact.(2)

Can High Levels of Phosphate in Processed Foods Make You Tired?

Can High Levels of Phosphate in Processed Foods Make You Tired?

Research published in the Circulation journal in March 2019 has discovered that inorganic phosphate that is used as a common food additive and preservative could have a direct effect on your health.(3) Phosphate can be found in nearly 70 percent of foods in the United States.

The animal study done on lab mice investigated the side effects of consuming too much phosphate in the daily diet. The mice were given a diet rich in phosphate, and the researchers measured their oxygen uptake during exercise. The study found that the mice had less capacity for movement, and they also experience an inability to manufacture sufficient fatty acids that were needed for supplying the muscles during exercise.

The mice were studied for a period of 12 weeks, during which the researching team drew many comparisons to humans. This was done by comparing the data of participants of the Dallas Heart Study.(4)

The participants of the Dallas Heart Study were between the ages of 18 to 65 years, were in overall good health with no history of heart or kidney problems, and were not on any medications. These participants were made to wear physical activity trackers for seven days, which was then linked to higher phosphate consumption in their diets to spending lesser time in doing moderate to strenuous exercises.

The results of this observation were also the same as the mice study – inactivity levels increased when the phosphate levels in their diet were higher.

The research was carried out by the UT Southwestern Medical Center, and it lends credibility to the theory that people with high levels of phosphate in their blood spend less time exercising and more time doing a sedentary activity.


If you are concerned about the latest research on phosphates and its effect on your health, then you should try to pay closer attention to the food labels to check what they contain. Try to avoid buying highly processed foods and frozen packaged foods as they are most likely to contain inorganic phosphate. Opt for purchasing fresh or non-packaged foods. When looking at the food label, look for any ingredient that contains added phosphate. You are likely to find it in any component that has the word ‘phos’ or ‘phosphate’ in it.

The researching team has cautioned consumers about eating too much of foods containing phosphate, especially if you are on an exercise regimen or you are an athlete. It is likely to hamper your progress and make it much more challenging to find the strength and motivation to exercise.

The rule of thumb to follow is that you should not consume more than 700 mg of inorganic phosphates in one day.


  1. Ritz, E., Hahn, K., Ketteler, M., Kuhlmann, M.K. and Mann, J., 2012. Phosphate additives in food—a health risk. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 109(4), p.49.
  2. Giachelli, C.M., Jono, S., Shioi, A., Nishizawa, Y., Mori, K. and Morii, H., 2001. Vascular calcification and inorganic phosphate. American journal of kidney diseases, 38(4), pp.S34-S37.
  3. Ahajournals.org. (2020). High-Phosphate Diet Induces Exercise Intolerance and Impairs Fatty Acid Metabolism in Mice | Circulation. [online] Available at: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.037550 [Accessed 16 Feb. 2020].
  4. Utsouthwestern.edu. (2020). Dallas Heart Study. [online] Available at: https://www.utsouthwestern.edu/research/translational-medicine/doing-research/dallas-heart/ [Accessed 16 Feb. 2020].

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Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 17, 2021

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