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sodium polyphosphate, also known as pentasodium triphosphate FCC and E number E451, is an inorganic salt with the chemical formula Na5P3O10 and as the hexahydrate H12Na5P3O16P3. Sodium tripolyphosphate can be found in many industrial applications such as food processing, water treatment, and detergents as a “builder” and sequestering agent.
Often found in processed foods and in canned fish and seafood, sodium tripolyphosphate acts as an emulsifier that prevents meat, poultry, or fish from becoming greasy or falling apart during cooking. It is also commonly added to cheese to help bind calcium and moisture and increase its viscosity and mouth feel.
Polyphosphates are used in mineral sequestration by municipal and local authority water systems throughout the world to control hard water issues including iron and calcium in drinking water. Polyphosphates can also be used in agriculture to improve the uptake of phosphorus fertilizer by plants and reduce environmental stress caused by nutrient runoff from farmland.
Some athletes take sodium phosphate supplements as a way to enhance athletic performance, but a recent study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that it does not enhance athletic ability. When ingested in large quantities, sodium phosphate can cause kidney problems, especially in those with preexisting kidney disease or high blood pressure. For that reason, those with kidney disease or high blood pressure should avoid foods containing sodium tripolyphosphate or other phosphate additives. In addition, those with high blood sugar should be cautious of consuming foods with this ingredient as it can lead to weight gain and diabetic complications.