What Is Potassium Phosphate Used For?

Potassium phosphate is used as a food additive and in medicine. It's safe in the amounts typically used in food for most people, but people with kidney disease who need to watch their phosphate levels may need to avoid foods containing this additive.Don't take potassium phosphate supplements without first checking with your doctor to make sure it would be safe for you.

Breakfast cereals may contain potassium phosphate. (Image: Teresa De Paul/Blend Images/Getty Images)

Use as a Supplement

Phosphorus in some form is found in many multivitamin and minerals supplements to help meet the recommended dietary allowance of 700 milligrams per day for adults.

Separate potassium phosphate supplements are typically only used for treating low phosphate levels, such as those that occur in certain hereditary disorders. These supplements should only be used under a doctor's supervision. Most adults shouldn't consume more than the tolerable upper intake level of 4,000 milligrams of phosphorus per day, which includes phosphorus from other supplements and foods. Underlying medical conditions might change your tolerance for phosphorus, so check with your doctor to ensure a safe intake.

Use as a Food Additive

Potassium phosphate helps stabilize, thicken and regulate the acidity and moisture in foods. It's often used in large amounts in soft drinks, canned fish, processed meats, sausages, ham and baked goods. Canned and dried vegetables, chewing gum, chocolate products, condensed milk, puddings, breakfast cereals, candies, crackers, alcoholic beverages, pasta, fruit juices, dairy products, salt substitutes and other seasonings, soups and tofu can also contain potassium phosphate. Overall, any kind of processed foods, including fast foods, may contain added phosphates such as potassium phosphates.

Medical Use

Potassium phosphate is sometimes used as a medicine. It can have a diuretic effect and act as a laxative when used in medicinal amounts. However, phosphorus can interact with some medications, including corticosteroids and potassium-sparing diuretics, increasing the risk for adverse effects; only use it when advised to do so by a doctor.

Potential Health Considerations

Phosphate additives in food, such as potassium phosphate, are more readily absorbed by the body than phosphates naturally found in foods, increasing the risk that people with kidney problems may unintentionally consume too much phosphorus. Getting too much phosphorus could increase the risk for heart disease and, even in people with normal kidney function, increase the risk of mortality from any cause, according to an article published in the German Medical Association's journal Deutsches Arzteblatt International in January 2012.

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