If you compiled a list of nutrients the body could not live without, phosphorus could certanly be near the top. Although its main function is building strong bones and teeth, this mineral is needed by virtually every cell in the body. Fortunately, the chance of deficiency is very small.
What it is
Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body (after calcium), and up to 680 grams of it are found in the average person. Although 85% of this mineral is concentrated in the bones and teeth, the rest is distributed in the blood and various organs, including the heart, kidneys, brain and muscles.
Phosphorus interacts with a variety of other nutrients, but its most constant companion is calcium. In the bones, the ratio of calcium to phosphorus is around 2:1. In other tissues, however, the ratio of phosphorus is much higher.
What it does
There’s hardly a biological or cellular process that does not, directly or indirectly, involve phosphorus. In some instances, the mienral works to protect cells, strengthening the membranes that surround them. In other cases, it acts as a kind of biological escort, helping a variety of nutrients, hormones and chemicals to do their jobs.
There’s also evidence that phosphorus helps to activate the B-vitamins, enabling them to provide all their benefits.
One of the most important functions of phosphorus is to team up with calcium to build bones and help to maintain a healthy, strong skeleton. The phosphorous-calcium partnership is also crucial for strengthening the teeth and keeping them strong. In addition, phosphorus joins with fats in the blood to make compounds called phospholipids, which, in turn, play structural and metabolic roles in cell membranes throughout the body.
Furthermore, without phosphorus, the body could not convert the proteins, carbohydrates and fats from food into energy. the mineral is needed to create the molecule known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which acts like a tiny battery charger, supplying vital energy to every cell in the body.
Phosphorus serves as a cell-to-cell messenger. In this capacity, it contributes to the coordination of such body processes as muscle contraction, the transmission of nerve impulses from the brain to the body, and the secretion of hormones.
An adequate phosphorus supply may therefore enhance your physical performance and be effective in fighting fatigue. In addition, the mineral is necessary for maintaing the pH (the acid-base balance) of the blood and for manufacturing DNA and RNA, the basic components of our genetic make-up.
- Builds strong bones and maintains skeletal integrity.
- Helps to form tooth enamel and strengthens teeth.
How much you need
Because phosphorus is found in so many foods, supplements are very rarely needed. The RDI for phosphorus in men and women is the same: 1000 mg daily.
In the past, many nutritionists recommended that phosphorus and calcium be taken in a 1:1 ration, but most recently, experts have advised that this ratio has little practical benefit. Most people today consume more phosphorus that calcium in their diets.
If you get too little: Although rare, a deficiency of phosphorus can lead to fragile bones and teeth, fatigue, weakness, a loss of appetite, joint pain and stiffness, and an increased susuceptibility to infection. A mild deficiency may produce a modest decrease in energy.
If you get too much: There are no immediate adverse effects from getting too much phosphorus. However, some experts caution that over the long term, excessive phosphorus intake may inhibit calcium absorption, though it’s uncertain whether this can resul in a calcium deficiency that threatens bone health.
How to take it
Most people get ll the phosphorus they require in their daily diet. In addition, a small amount of phosphorus may be included in daily multivitamin and mineral supplements. If you have a medical condition that depletes this mineral, such as a bowel ailment or failing kidneys, your doctor will prescribe an appropriate dose.
Guidelines for use
Never take individual phosphorus supplements without a doctor’s supervision.
High-protein foods, such as meat, fish, poultry and dairy products, contain a lot of phosphorus. The mineal is also added to many processed foods. Soft drinks, particularly cola-based drinks, often contain large amounts. Phosphorus is present in grain products as well, though wholegrain breads and cereals may also include ingredients that reduce its absorption to some extent.
The greatest risk associated with phosphorus may be getting too much, which some experts caution may lead to a calcium deficiency. Never take phosphorus supplements without discussing it with your doctor.
In a rare event of a phosphorus deficiency – such as from kidney or digestive disease or severe burns – phosphorus supplementation must be medically supervised.
Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.