A recent study has reportedly linked “dietary and genetic evidence for phosphate toxicity” to premature aging in genetically engineered (GE) mice. Mutsuko Ohnishi and M. Shawkat Razzaque, “Dietary and genetic evidence for phosphate toxicity accelerating mammalian aging,” FASEB Journal, April 2010. Researchers first used “an in vivo genetic approach to determine the role of phosphate toxicity in mammalian aging,” engineering mice that lacked the gene responsible for regulating phosphate levels. These mice had a short life span and showed “numerous physical, biochemical and morphological features consistent with premature aging.”

The study authors then genetically reduced serum phosphate levels, which ameliorated the aging-like features in a second group of mice and led to prolonged survival. But when fed “a high-phosphate diet,” these GE animals again exhibited signs of accelerated aging. According to the abstract, these findings “clearly suggest[s] that phosphate toxicity is the main cause of premature aging” in mice. The study further claims to provide “in vivo evidence for phosphate toxicity accelerating the aging process and suggest a novel role for phosphate in mammalian aging.”

Meanwhile, FASEB Journal jumped on these results in an April 26, 2010, press release that associates dietary phosphate toxicity with the consumption of soft drinks. “Soda is the caffeine delivery vehicle of choice for millions of people worldwide, but comes with phosphorous as a passenger,” stated FASEB Editor-in-Chief Gerald Weissmann. “This research suggests that our phosphorous balance influences the aging process, so don’t tip it.”

The British Soft Drinks Association (BSDA), however, has publicly refuted this interpretation of the study, which relies on “mice with a specific genetic deformity, and does not in fact mention soft drinks at all.” According to one BSDA spokesperson, “Phosphoric acid is used in some soft drinks as a flavoring, but only 3 percent of phosphorous in the overall diet comes from soft drinks.” See FoodNavigator-USA. com, April 28, 2010.