Protein Implicated In Kidney and Heart Disease

Phosphate-rich foods such as processed cheese are known to increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Now scientists have found exactly why that’s so.

The culprit is the hormone FGF23 (Fibroblast Growth Factor 23). When the level of FGF23 is raised, putting strain on the cardiovascular system. FGF23 controls renal excretion of sodium, and that affects blood pressure.

The study, from researchers at Vetmeduni, Vienna, was published in the journal EMBO Molecular Medicine.

According to Vetmeduni, more than 500 million people around the world suffer from chronic kidney disease. Clinical studies have shown that these patients often develop cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and vascular calcification. Until now, the connection between renal disease and the accumulation of the hormone FGF23 has been unclear.

Reinhold Erben, the head of the Unit of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Biophysics, warns that “our phosphate consumption is relevant for our state of health.”

The researchers found that mice lacking FGF23 excrete higher amounts of sodium in their urine, resulting in low blood pressure. Animals with high FGF23 levels show high levels of sodium in their blood, and in turn, high blood pressure.

A high level of FGF23 also puts increased strain on the heart and leads to cardiovascular disease.

An earlier study by the same researchers showed that FGF23 also controls calcium levels. As with sodium, the calcium is filtered in the kidneys and reabsorbed back into the body.  If this reabsorption does not take place, the body loses calcium.

Olena Andrukhova, the leading author of both studies, said that “patients with chronic kidney disease often also suffer from cardiovascular disease. Raised FGF23 levels are partly responsible for this. Our results were for the first time were able to explain the connection."


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