According to researchers at the University of Texas’ Southwestern Medical Centre, the preservative, commonly found in processed foods such as soda and processed meat, could be partly the reason that statistics show less than five per cent of the country’s adult population exercise for 30 minutes each day.
The findings, published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, are the result of research conducted on animals and humans to uncover the reason behind low-activity levels.
During the first set of studies, researchers fed two groups of mice similar diets – with one group consuming three times more the amount of phosphate.
The result after 12 weeks was mice who spent less time on the treadmill, consumed less overall oxygen, and had an impaired fat-burning metabolism compared to those who did not consume the additive.
The second experiment tested the findings on 1,603 human participants, who used a fitness tracker over seven days to see what increased consumption of phosphate had on activity levels.
The group that consumed more of the additive was found to have spent less time engaging in “moderate to vigorous physical activity levels” and was more sedentary overall compared to the group that ate a clean diet.
Phosphate, which is used as an additive to keep food fresher longer, is commonly found in the Western diet – in foods such as canned fish, sausages, and baked goods.
In general, up to 25 per cent of adults in the US consume three to four times the recommended amount of phosphate on a regular basis, the study states.
The findings correlate with data from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which states more than 80 per cent of adults do not follow the recommended guidelines for exercise, and only one in three adults exercise the recommended amount each week.
Following the study’s findings, researchers hope it prompts changes in how the food industry labels food.
“I think it might be about time for us to push the food industry to put this on labels so that we can see how much phosphate goes into our food,” lead researcher Dr Wanpen Vongpatanasin said, according to Medical News Daily. “But this is just the beginning.”
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