Familiarizing yourself with the ingredient list on food labels is now more important than ever. While some additives are fairly benign, too many of them can cause significant health problems. Take “inorganic phosphates,” for example, which are used to improve food texture and water retention in processed foods (including meats, cheeses, and baked goods).

It has already been shown that the phosphates in soft drinks and snack chips cause calcium to leach from the bones, linking them to osteoporosis and kidney stones. Now we can add cancer to that list.

Research conducted at Seoul National University has determined that inorganic phosphates have been associated with both the development and growth of lung cancer in laboratory rats. These effects were found at levels that mimicked our intake on a typical American/Westernized diet.

In a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, researchers observed lung cancer tumors in mice fed with either a 0.5 percent or 1.0 percent phosphate diet. At the end of four weeks, the mice on the higher-phosphate diet had an increase in the formation of new lung tumors as well as an increase in the size of existing tumors. The researchers think it may be due to the role phosphates have in biochemical signaling pathways.

Although naturally occurring phosphates are necessary for human nutrition, the researchers noted that the consumption of phosphates in processed foods has more than doubled since the 1990s. Our hectic American lifestyle – which leaves little time or energy for home cooking – often forces us to rely on convenient pre-packaged foods and restaurant meals full of health-harming substances.

While food industry experts have downplayed this study, I would strongly recommend limiting your intake of inorganic phosphates. Doing so will help protect your bones, and could even lower your risk of lung cancer.

Stick to foods in their most natural state. Especially limit high-carb processed foods laden with cancer-causing phosphates. If you want to save on prep time for meals, choose precut veggies and salads and frozen vegetables. But always read the labels to make sure they have no additives.

[Ed. Note: Making wise choices when it comes to diet and lifestyle can have a dramatic effect on your health. James B. LaValle, RPh, ND, CCN – founder of the LaValle Metabolic Institute and a nationally recognized expert on natural therapies – can give you easy-to-understand directions for living the healthy life you’ve always wanted. Learn more here.]

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