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Is Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate Bad For You?

Also Known As: sodium pyrophosphate, tetrasodium phosphate, TSPP



Short answer

Tetrasodium pyrophosphate is bad for you, like most additives. The additive has zero nutritional benefits and comes with many alarming side effects, especially when consumed in large quantities.



Long answer

Tetrasodium pyrophosphate is a chemical compound formed by the reaction of phosphoric acid with sodium carbonate to create disodium phosphate which is then further heated to obtain the final product.

Let’s think about phosphoric acid for a minute. Aside from its use in making food additives, it is otherwise mainly used to remove rust from metals. Really? That doesn’t seem safe at all to be eating; can you imagine what it would do to your insides?

In food, this additive is used as an emulsifier, thickener, dispersing agent, and as a pH buffering agent. It is typically found in highly processed foods like chicken nuggets, imitation crab, marshmallows, canned tuna, and soy-based meat alternatives – foods you shouldn’t eat much of anyway – if any at all. The purpose of this ingredient in these foods it to bind protein and water to keep all of the ground-up substances together. Yum!

Some major health concerns to be aware of regarding tetrasodium pyrophosphate includes its alkaline nature and relatively low lethal human dose. Studies have found that nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are not just possible after consumption but likely. Exposure can also cause skin rashes and visual disturbances.

Alkaline substances can occasionally offer great benefits to the body, like helping you to lose weight and stay hydrated. However, high amounts of alkalinity can lead to slow cell growth, so moderation and pH balance are important when considering food consumption.

The lethal dose can vary by a person’s size, but can be as low as 1 ounce for a 150-pound person. Studies performed with animals have also shown that high concentrations of this substance can lead to kidney damage and possible teratogenic effects (congenital deformities or spontaneous abortion).

Tetrasodium pyrophosphate is also used in commercial products like toothpaste and detergents. In toothpaste, it is used as a method of tartar control which works by removing calcium and magnesium from saliva to prevent binding to the teeth. Unfortunately, this same process may be occurring when you eat foods containing this additive and these minerals, and instead of absorbing the necessary minerals, they are being sequestered away to be expelled from the body. 

Possible short-term side effects

  • skin rash
  • visual disturbances
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • depletion of minerals

Possible long-term side effects

  • toxin build-up
  • kidney damage
  • teratogenic effects
  • lethal in high concentrations

Commonly found in

  • chicken nuggets
  • imitation meat and seafood
  • canned meat and seafood
  • marshmallows
  • soy-based meat substitutes
  • detergent
  • toothpaste

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Published on: 07-07-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

Thank you for your feedback!

Written by Kristin Brown, DC, MS
Published on: 07-07-2016
Last updated: 12-10-2016

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