In a new study, researchers observed that obese individuals taking phosphorus supplements for 12 weeks showed a greater reduction in body weight, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, and subjective appetite scores than those treated with placebo. The study, “Effect of phosphorus supplementation on weight gain and waist circumference of overweight/obese adults: a randomized clinical trial,” was published in the journal Nutrition and Diabetes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third (34.9%) of all adults in the U.S. are now obese, presenting a serious public health challenge. Obesity’s co-morbidities can include life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and metabolic syndrome disorders like diabetes.
Among the many causes associated with increasing rates of obesity, especially in developed countries, is the industrialization and globalization of food products, leading to mass consumption of foods with a low phosphorus content, such as oils, sugars, sweeteners, and refined cereals. The large consumption of such foods has led to a decrease of daily phosphorus intake to between 1–1.5 g/day — compared to the 2.5 g/day estimated intake of our ancestors, who ate largely raw and unprocessed foods.
Phosphorus is a mineral naturally present in foods, and its status is known to correlate inversely with body weight. To test the hypothesis that low phosphorus intake might be involved in the onset of obesity and metabolic disorders, researchers conducted a placebo-controlled clinical trial (NCT02329990) to evaluate the effect of phosphorus supplementation on measures such as body weight, BMI, waist circumference, and appetite in overweight and obese adults.
The 12-week trial enrolled 63 adults with a BMI of at least 25 kg/m², who were randomized to either a placebo group or a group taking 375 mg of phosphorus three times a day. Changes in body weight, lipid profiles, glucose and insulin levels, the primary outcomes of the study, were measured. Subjective appetite scores were also evaluated through questionnaires at baseline, and at six weeks and 12 weeks after treatment.
Results showed that participants in the phosphorus group lost a mean of 0.65 kg, while the placebo group gained a mean of 1.13 kg. BMI and waist circumference were also significantly lower in the group receiving phosphorus supplementation when compared to the placebo group, –0.24 kg/m² versus 0.42 kg/m² and –3.62 cm versus 0.38 cm, respectively. Questionnaire results indicated that appetite scores were reduced for participants in the phosphorus group, as well as the quantity of food needed to reach satiation.
Researchers concluded, “Our findings support a promising role of the mineral phosphorus in preventing obesity, especially abdominal adiposity. Therefore, after extensive investigations, phosphorus utilization could be considered for the future development of weight maintenance or reduction supplements or implementation of flour fortification. Additional research is warranted to examine the exact mechanisms of actions and longer-term effects of phosphorus.”