Next to calcium, phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in the body. Calcium and phosphorus work together to keep bones and teeth strong. About 85 percent of the body’s phosphorus is stored in the bones and teeth. Phosphorus found in food or in body is usually in form of phosphate (PO4). Still, phosphorus and phosphate are used interchangeably. Similar to calcium, phosphate bears a strong charge; only in this case it is negative. Calcium and phosphate accordingly interact with each other in bone and teeth because of their strong, opposite charges. Approximately 85 percent of the phosphorus found in the body is in the skeleton and teeth and is found in every cell in the body serving a vital role in energy operations.
Smaller amounts of phosphorus may be found in all the cells and tissues throughout the body; it helps maintain, repair, and grow cells and tissues and in the production of the genetic building blocks DNA and RNA. The body needs phosphorus to use and store energy, and the kidneys use phosphorus to filter waste. Phosphorus is required to maintain a normal heartbeat and correct nerve signaling. Adequate amounts of phosphorus reduce the muscle pain that may follow a strenuous workout. In addition to all these functions, phosphorus plays a role in balancing the body’s levels of vitamin D, iodine, magnesium, and zinc.
Nutritional experts recommend consuming about the same amounts of dietary calcium and phosphorus. This may be problematic. A typical Western diet normally has two to four times more phosphorus than calcium. Meat, poultry, and many carbonated beverages contain higher amounts of phosphorus. When the body has more phosphorus than calcium, it tends to use calcium stored in bones, which may result in weakened bones and teeth problems.
What are the food sources which provide Phosphorus?
Only a small number of foods are excellent sources of phosphorus. These include cod, scallops, and crimini mushrooms. Many foods have very good amounts of phosphorous. These include turkey, tuna, chicken, pumpkin seeds, beef, lentils, tofu, yogurt, oats, broccoli, green peas, spinach, cow’s milk, asparagus, summer squash, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, bok choy, and cauliflower. There are also large numbers of foods with good amounts of phosphorus. These include navy, garbanzo, kidney, pinto, and black beans; sunflower seeds; cashews; sesame seeds; millet; rye; barley; brown rice; potatoes; peanuts; buckwheat; beets; onions; cucumbers; strawberries; sea vegetables; and corn. Most balanced diets should contain sufficient amounts of phosphorus.
While it is possible to purchase phosphorus as a single supplement, it is more often combined with other bone-supporting nutrients, such as calcium and magnesium. In the United States there is concern that people take in too much phosphorus. Phosphorus also has the potential to interact with some prescription and nonprescription medications. Unless recommended by a medical provider, it is generally advised to avoid phosphorus supplementation.
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What are the recommendations for Phosphorus intake?
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine has developed Dietary Reference Intakes for phosphorus for adults and children and adequate intake levels for infants. Males and females 19 years and older should take in 700 mg per day, while children and teens between the ages of 9 and 18 years should take in 1,250 mg per day. Children between the ages of four and eight years should take in 500 mg per day, while children between the ages of one and three years should take in 460 mg per day. Infants between the ages of six months and one year should take in 275 mg per day, while infants between birth and six months should take in 100 mg per day.
There are also tolerable upper intake levels for phosphorus. Lactating women should take in no more than 4,000 mg per day, while pregnant women should take in no more than 3,500 mg per day. People 70 years or older should take in no more than 3,000 mg per day, while people between the ages of 9 and 70 years should take in no more than 4,000 mg per day. Children between the ages of one and eight years should take in no more than 3,000 mg per day, while there is no upper limit for infants.
Health Benefits of Phosphorus
Phosphorus intake offers listed health benefits:
- Bone and Teeth
Phosphorus found in the body is in the skeleton and teeth as a component of hydroxyapatite [Ca10(PO4)6OH2] and calcium phosphate [Ca3(PO4)2]. These complexes function to make bone and teeth hard. Additionally, phosphate found in bone serves as a resource of phosphorus to maintain adequate amounts of phosphate in other tissues. It is required for maintaining optimum function as well as health. It is must for development of bones of babies and should be an integral part of mother’s diet. It also helps in preventing bone density loss, bone from fractures and bone damage.
- Energy System
Phosphate is crucial to the processes which allow cells to capture energy released in breakdown of carbohydrates, fat, protein, and alcohol. As mentioned several times, when energy is released from carbohydrates, protein, fat, and alcohol some of it is trapped in chemical bonds involving phosphate of special molecules such as ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Guanosine triphosphate (GTP) and creatine phosphate (CP) are other phosphate-containing energy molecules. It is crucial to keep in mind that when carbohydrates, fat, protein, and alcohol are endowed with energy, the body’s cells cannot directly use that energy. Thus, these substances are broken down as needed to produce ATP and GTP, which then can be used to power cell operations.
- Digestive health
It supports digestion of niacin and riboflavin which are derivatives of vitamins that assist body in repairing oxidative damage. These vitamins are needed for metabolic process or neurological response systems. Absorption of phosphorus through digestion is responsible for producing energy in the body. It clears up indigestion and provides relief from constipation.
- Draws out toxins
It maintains kidneys health, promote urination, eliminate toxins or accumulation of harmful chemicals or metals in kidneys. It balances uric acid in the body preventing serious inflammation. It assist in liver.
- Lowers fatigue
Phosphorus deficiency causes muscle soreness and fatigue. It is required for maintaining energy levels and lower joint inflammation, weakness and lower numbness. It helps to maintain phosphorus to keep functioning. Adults require 1200 mg per day to lower signs of weakness and fatigue.
- Osteoporosis and arthritis
Osteoporosis and arthritis are serious conditions resulting aging, deficiency of nutrients and menopause. Being a mineral, it builds bone strength lowering inflammation preventing several chronic illnesses. Supplements of phosphorus could be added to diet by those with burning sensation in joints and joint pain. For taking supplements, consult physician for correct dose.
- Brain activity
It promotes cell repair and tissue growth in body and brain. It is a crucial component of cells necessary for adequate brain function. It is useful to maintain healthy memory system as mind ages. Loss of vitamins and minerals provides long term effect on cognitive capabilities of brain. Phosphorus boost growth and development of body promoting brain cells development.
- Protein metabolism
Metabolism is a fundamental process for body to maintain organ functions. Metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins is where body derives its energy for performing cell regeneration, muscles and bone repair. It is a huge stimulator for protein metabolism that helps body to break down proteins or fats effectively for enhancing nutrient absorption without retaining bad cholesterol and fats.
- Repair cells
Bad eating habits and environmental damage has various functions on cellular health. Being a mineral, phosphorus helps body to repair itself on cellular level. It has required forms of protein for repairment of cells and lower free radical effects.
- Hormone balance
Phosphorus regulates hormones effectively associated to reproduction and eliminates dysfunctions both in females and males. It interacts with endocrine glands and prevents surplus release of hormones into bloodstream. Hormones are an essential part of control mechanism of body carried out by phosphorus. In our body, about 100 hormones play crucial role in health problems.
What happens with too little or too much intake of Phosphorus?
True phosphorus deficiency is believed to be rare in the United States. Most people take in too much rather than too little phosphorus. Still, there are people who are deficient in this nutrient. People with diabetes, alcoholism, or a gastrointestinal malabsorption problem are at increased risk for deficiency, as are those who are severely malnourished. Certain medications, such as some antacids and diuretics, may cause phosphorus levels to drop. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and medications to lower blood pressure may also reduce phosphorus levels. Alcohol may leach phosphorus from the bones. Symptoms of phosphorus deficiency include loss of appetite, anxiety, bone pain, stiff joints, weakening of bones, fatigue, irregular breathing, irritability, numbness, weakness, and weight change.
Excess amounts of phosphorus in the body are most often caused by kidney disease or consuming too much phosphorus. Processed foods, such as lunch meats, sausages, baking mixes, and frozen patties, nuggets, and strips tend to contain high amounts of phosphorus. Adding phosphorus to these foods enables them to be stored for longer periods of time. Excess phosphorus may be toxic. It may cause a number of symptoms such as diarrhea and the hardening (calcification) of organs and soft tissue. It may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Excess phosphorus may interfere with the body’s ability to use iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. Though the practice is strongly discouraged, athletes who take phosphorus supplementation before competitions or heavy workouts, must increase their intake of calcium.