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Increased serum phosphate and adverse clinical outcomes: unraveling mechanisms of disease

Gutiérrez, Orlando M

Current Opinion in Nephrology and Hypertension: May 2011 - Volume 20 - Issue 3 - p 224–228
doi: 10.1097/MNH.0b013e328343ea70
Epidemiology and prevention: Edited by Chi-yuan Hsu

Purpose of review Higher serum phosphate levels are associated with adverse clinical outcomes across the spectrum of kidney function. Recent epidemiologic studies have focused on identifying potential mechanisms of these associations as well as risk factors for increased serum phosphate in the general population.

Recent findings Higher serum phosphate levels were independently associated with coronary artery calcification, vascular stiffness, left ventricular hypertrophy, and carotid artery disease, even among individuals with normal kidney function and serum phosphate levels within the normal range. Interestingly, effect modification was observed by gender in older populations, with the strength of these associations being weaker in women than in men. In addition, socioeconomic status, sex hormone levels, and common genetic variants were found to be independent predictors of serum phosphate levels, suggesting that common demographic and biological factors may predispose to higher serum phosphate in the general population.

Summary The association of increased serum phosphate with adverse outcomes may be mediated by a link between higher serum phosphate and subclinical vascular disease. Common environmental and biological factors may modulate these relationships, with potentially important implications for designing future interventional studies meant to assess the effect of lowering serum phosphate on long-term outcomes.

Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA

Correspondence to Orlando M. Gutiérrez, MD, MMSc, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Division of Nephrology, 614 ZRB, 1530 3rd Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35294-0007, USA Tel: +1 205 996 2736; fax: +1 205 996 2186; e-mail:

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.