Can Junk Food and Soft Drinks Lead to Premature Ageing?

Can junk food lead to premature ageing and poor bone density?

If you are a junk food addict, you need to pay close attention because your addiction to sodas and processed foods may be putting your health in jeopardy.

There is new research that suggests there several additional reasons to avoid junk foods such as processed foods and soft drinks (soda).

Scientists from the Department of Medicine, Infection and Immunity at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine have found that the high levels of phosphates often found in these foods accelerate signs of aging.

Researchers examined the effects of high phosphate levels in three groups of mice. The mice had been divided into the following groups:

  1. Mice that had levels of phosphate in their diet.
  2. Mice that had been altered to have high levels of phosphates in their bodies
  3. Mice that were able to regulate the amount of phosphate in their bodies.

They found that mice that were altered to have high levels of phosphates in their bodies, as well as mice that were fed a diet high in phosphates, had shorter lives than animals that were able to regulate the amount of phosphate in their bodies.

These mice not only showed external signs of premature ageing, they also suffered from muscular wastage, kidney problems, infertility and “a generalised atrophy of the skin, intestine, thymus [small organ in the immune system], and spleen” researchers wrote in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology’s FASEB Journal.

The study’s authors reported that they believed the side-effects of a high phosphate diet would be replicated throughout all mammals, including humans.

Researchers say the findings suggest that “consistently high levels of phosphate has toxic effects in mice”, and may have a similar effect in other mammals, including humans.

“Humans need a healthy diet and keeping the balance of phosphate in the diet may be important for a healthy life and longevity,” said lead researcher M. Shawkat Razzaque, M.D., Ph.D.

This research suggests that our phosphorous balance influences the ageing process, so don’t tip it,” Dr Weissmann said

While Phosphorus is an essential mineral that is required by every cell in the body for normal function. The majority of the phosphorus in the body is found as phosphate (PO4). Approximately 85% of the body’s phosphorus is found in bone.

However high blood phosphate levels reduce the formation of the active form of vitamin D (calcitriol) in the kidneys. Vitamin D is an important nutrient affecting calcium absorption into bone and strengthens our immune systems. A high level of phosphate in our blood also reduces blood calcium and leads to increased PTH release by the parathyroid glands.

This can theoretically adversely affect bone mineral content, but this effect has only been observed in humans on diets that were high in phosphorus and low in calcium.

“Soda (soft drink) is the caffeine delivery vehicle of choice for millions of people worldwide, but comes with phosphorous as a passenger,” said Dr Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal.

The habit of substituting phosphate-containing soft drinks and snack foods for milk and other calcium rich foods does represent a serious risk to bone health.

So to reduce your risk of premature aging, osteoporosis, chronic kidney damage to name a few  take a look at the amount of soft drink and processed foods that you consume on a regular basis.