Additives may subtract health

Food additives commonly found in a slew of processed foods might speed the growth and risk of lung cancer, new research suggests.

Dr. Myung-Hain Cho and his colleagues at Seoul National University compared the effects that a diet of either 0.5 or 1 percent—an amount relative to that found in humans—inorganic phosphate had on the lung tissue of mice with lung cancer over four weeks.

“Our results clearly demonstrated that the diet higher in inorganic phosphates caused an increase in the size of the tumors and stimulated growth of the tumors,” Dr. Cho was quoted as saying in a press release from the American Thoracic Society. He also said it suggests that “dietary regulation of inorganic phosphates may be critical for lung cancer treatment as well as prevention.”

Inorganic phosphates are often added to foods such as processed meats, cheeses, baked goods and drinks to increase water retention and improve texture.

The most common form of lung cancer is the non-small cell variety. The study showed that high levels of inorganic phosphates can stimulate the same pathways found to be activated in 90 percent of non-small cell lung cancers.

“This study demonstrates that high intake of inorganic phosphates may strongly stimulate lung cancer development by altering those [signaling] pathways,” Cho said.

Haley C. Stevens, scientific affairs specialist for the International Food Additives Council, criticized the study as being inadequate.

The complete findings are reported in the first January issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, which is published by the American Thoracic Society.