Study reveals how dietary phosphate can increase heart disease risk

A new study has found that high phosphate levels can cause a stress signal inside the cells that line blood vessels, leading to the release of microparticles that promote the formation of blood clots.

Inorganic phosphate is a nutrient in nearly all diets. Because patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD) lose the ability to excrete excess phosphate in their urine, the nutrient accumulates in their blood and cells. Known as “hyperphosphatemia”, this is thought to be an important contributor to CKD patients’ increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

To investigate this link, a team led by Dr Alan Bevington and PhD student Nima Abbasian, BSc, MSc examined the effects of hyperphosphatemia on the cells that form the lining of blood vessels.

The researchers’ experiments revealed a mechanism by which an excess of inorganic phosphate—similar to levels found in the blood of CKD patients—causes a stress signal inside these cells. In cells that are stressed in this way, fragments known as microparticles break off from the cells and can promote the formation of blood clots.

The study, entitled “Hyperphosphatemia, Phosphoprotein Phosphatases, and Microparticle Release in Vascular Endothelial Cells' appeared in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).