Fresh-Meat Additives May Be Dangerous for Kidney Patients

THURSDAY July 23, 2009 -- Additives used to "enhance" uncooked meat and poultry can pose serious health risks for people with kidney disease, researchers say.

Many fresh meat and poultry products are injected with water, sodium, potassium salts, antioxidants and flavorings that are not required to be listed on food labels, according to a report published online July 23 in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

But dialysis patients must limit their intake of dietary phosphate, which can boost levels in the blood and cause premature death. Kidney disease patients also need to limit the potassium they consume, because high levels in the blood can cause sudden death, the study authors note in a news release from the American Society of Nephrology.

Many meat and poultry items contain elevated levels of these minerals.

The critical regulation of the body's salt, potassium and acid content is performed by the kidneys, where waste products and excess fluid from the body are removed through the urine. The production of urine helps maintain a stable balance of body chemicals. According to the National Kidney Foundation, 26 million American adults have chronic kidney disease and millions of others are at increased risk.

In the new study, Dr. Richard Sherman and Dr. Ojas Mehta from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, looked at the potassium and phosphate content in "enhanced" and additive-free meats and poultry from area supermarkets.

The "enhanced" products have an average of 28 percent more phosphates than additive-free products, the researchers reported. The potassium levels varied, they found. Additive-free products all had less than 387 milligrams of potassium per 100 grams of protein; five of the 25 products with additives had 692 milligrams or more of potassium per 100 grams of protein.

Most foods that had phosphate and potassium additives reported them on the labels, but eight of the 25 "enhanced" products didn't, according to the report.

"The burden imposed on those seeking to limit dietary phosphorous and potassium could be ameliorated by more complete food labeling by manufacturers," the authors wrote.

More information

The National Kidney Foundation has more information on kidney disease here.

Posted: July 2009


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