The brain may be thought of as command central but hormones control the human, too. Hormones are produced all through the body, from the head to the toes and even in the bones. One particular bone-derived hormone — fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23) — regulates kidney function and cardiovascular health. A diet high in phosphates causes production of FGF23 to go into overdrive, producing more than the kidneys can handle; cardiovascular disease can soon follow.
Almost all processed foods and beverages contain phosphates as preservatives and stabilizers that allow these products to sit on store shelves a long time. Processed foods are just about everything that comes in a can, box, bag, or other form of package, including processed cheeses and cola beverages.
FGF23 and Blood Pressure
Animal studies reveal how FGF23 affects blood pressure by its impact on the way the kidneys process sodium (salt), another additive that’s common in processed foods, including colas. When FGF23 levels are high, the body does not excrete excess sodium in the urine. It stores sodium in the bloodstream instead, where it causes high blood pressure (hypertension). Chronic (long-term) hypertension can damage the kidneys and the cardiovascular system.
FGF23 and Hardening of the Arteries
The kidneys filter calcium in much the same way they filter sodium. When FGF23 levels are high, excess calcium continues to circulate in the bloodstream. Over time, it sticks to the walls of the blood vessels and accumulates. Calcium is a mineral important for making bones strong and sturdy but when blood vessels become calcified (lined with a build-up of calcium), blood isn’t pumped as freely as it needs to be and heart disease develops. Blood vessels need to be soft and pliant, not hard and stiff.
FGF23 and Dietary Phosphates
The body is made to process and excrete a certain amount of phosphates but over-consumption of phosphate-rich foods creates an unhealthy cycle of excess — excess FGF23, excess sodium, excess calcium. If a diet high in phosphates is maintained over an extended period of time, blood pressure rises to dangerous levels. At the same time, the blood vessels begin to calcify, making circulation all the more difficult when combined with high blood pressure, so the workload of the heart is magnified.
The added pressure on the heart and circulatory system eventually damages the heart. The continuous need to process an abundance of sodium and calcium strains the kidneys until they, too, begin to fail.
It’s estimated that more than 500 million people around the world have chronic kidney disease. Many of them eventually develop cardiovascular diseases that include hypertension and vascular calcification but the connection between heart and kidney failures hasn’t been clearly understood. Two new studies, published in 2014, have identified cause and effect and the connection between heart health, phosphates in the diet, and FGF23.