Phosphorus is best known for the role it plays in bone and teeth development; however, getting enough is also important for many other things. It plays a crucial role in the body’s utilization of protein, fat, and carbohydrates so they can be used for overall growth, maintenance, and repair of the body’s cells and tissues. This mineral also helps with the production of ATP, adenosine triphosphate, which is an important molecule the body uses to store energy.
Most phosphorus can be found in protein-rich foods like meat, milk, and eggs. If you consume a diet that is rich in calcium and protein, you’re probably getting enough. In fact, most Americans have no problem getting enough of this micronutrient. Additionally, breads and cereals are often fortified with it; however, the form of phosphorus found in these products is typically not as absorbable by the body.
According to the Institute of Medicine, the average adult needs 700 milligrams of phosphorus each day. Requirements are based on age and vary for each age group. Children between the ages of 0-12 months need 100 – 275 milligrams per day, 1-3 year olds require 460 milligrams per day, 4 – 8 year olds need 500 milligrams per day, and those between the ages of 9 and 18 require 1250 milligrams per day.
Although rare, when too little phosphorus is consumed, it can negatively impact an individual’s overall health status. Additionally, conditions such as alcoholism, diabetes, and starvation can cause blood levels to drop. When this happens, or if not enough phosphorus is consumed, a phosphorus deficiency can result. Symptoms often include loss of appetite, irritability, fatigue, anxiety, bone pain, fragile bones, stiff joints, numbness, weakness, and weight fluctuations. Poor bone and tooth development can also occur in children. On the other hand, when potassium levels get too high, it can combine with calcium and cause deposits to form on soft tissues. High levels of phosphorus in the blood typically only occur in individuals with severe kidney disease or severe dysfunction in their calcium regulation.
Despite the fact that most Americans get enough phosphorus, various nutrient and medication interactions do exist which complicate its absorption. In one small study, fructose appeared to cause phosphorus levels to drop for this very reason. Additionally, not getting enough calcium and vitamin D can cause phosphorus to be more excessively excreted from the kidneys, bringing phosphorus levels down. Drug interactions also exist. An individual taking an aluminum-containing antacid may notice that their phosphorus levels consequently decrease since the aluminum binds with the phosphorus and prevents it from being absorbed. Other medications, like calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, and potassium supplements or potassium-sparing diuretics when taken with phosphate, a medicinal form of phosphorus, can result in other medical complications.
Fun Phosphorus Facts:
- Phosphorus makes up 1% of a person’s total body weight.
- Approximately 85% of the body’s phosphorus is found in the bone.