All About Minerals

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Why phosphorus is good for you

Phosphorus is an essential mineral that is required by every cell in the body for normal function. Phosphorus is found not just in the bones and teeth, but also in all cells of the body. Phosphorus is also part of DNA and RNA, so it is necessary for growth.

Phosphorus is very involved with bone and teeth formation as well as most metabolic actions in the body, including kidney functioning, cell growth and the contraction of the heart muscle.

The main inorganic component of bone is calcium phosphate salts while cell membranes are composed largely of phospholipids. While phosphorus assists the body in vitamin use (especially some B group vitamins), it is also involved in converting food to energy.


Important phosphorus facts


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Groups at risk of phosphorus deficiency

  • Alcoholics - alcohol blocks absorption less of most nutrients, including phosphorus and alcoholics generally eat poorly
  • Diabetics recovering from an episode of diabetic ketoacidosis - diabetics recovering from ketoacidosis will need supplementation of phosphorus.
  • Starving, malnourished or anorexic patients - may be on re-feeding regimens that are high in calories but too low in phosphorus

People in these groups at risk of deficiency should talk to a medical professional about phosphorus supplements BEFORE taking them.


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Symptoms of phosphorus deficiency

Since phosphorus is so widespread in most food, dietary phosphorus deficiency is usually seen only in cases of near total starvation.

Inadequate phosphorus intake results in abnormally low serum phosphate levels (hypophosphataemia). The effects of hypophosphatemia may include loss of appetite, anemia, muscle weakness, bone pain, rickets (in children), osteomalacia (in adults), increased susceptibility to infection, numbness and tingling of the extremities, and difficulty walking. Severe hypophosphatemia may result in death.

Deficiency of this element is unusual but may have symptoms varying from painful bones, irregular breathing, fatigue, anxiety, numbness, skin sensitivity and changes in body weight. A ratio of 2:1 in the diet between phosphorus and calcium can cause low blood calcium levels.

If calcium is in short supply relative to phosphorus there may be increased risks of high blood pressure and bowel cancer.


Phosphorus and health


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Phosphorus in food

FOOD AMOUNT phosphorus (mg)
Yogurt, plain nonfat 1 cup 383
Lentils, cooked ½ cup 356
Fish, salmon, cooked 85g 252
Milk, skim 1 cup 247
Fish, halibut, cooked 230g 242
Beef, cooked 85g 173
Turkey, cooked 85g 173
Chicken, cooked 85g 155
Almonds 30g 139
Cheese, mozzarella; part skim 30g 131
Egg, cooked 1 large 104
Peanuts 30g 101
Bread, whole wheat 1 slice 64
Carbonated cola drink 1 can (375ml) 44
Bread, enriched white 1 slice 24


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Phosphorus recommended daily intake (RDI)

RDA lifestage age amount
  INFANTS 0-6mths
  CHILDREN 1-3yrs
  CHILDREN 9-18yrs 1250mg
  ADULTS 19-50yrs 700mg
  SENIORS 51+yrs

  PREGNANT <18yrs
  LACTATING <18yrs
  INFANTS 0-6mths
  CHILDREN 1-8yrs 3000mg
  CHILDREN 9-18yrs 4000mg
  ADULTS 19-50yrs 4000mg
  SENIORS 51-70yrs
  PREGNANT all ages 3500mg
  LACTATING all ages 4000mg
Toxic Levels >5,000mg

The tolerable upper limits should only be taken for short periods and only under medical supervision.

* The tolerable upper limit for phosphorus for infants aged 0-12 months has not yet been determined due to a lack of data about the adverse effects in this age group. The only source of phosphorus intake should be from food (breast milk and/or baby formula).


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Phosphorus works best with




Overdosage, toxicity and cautions for phosphorus

Acute toxicity - Hyperphosphatemia, hypocalcaemia, hypomagnesaemia, laxative effect, tetany

Chronic toxicity - Bone re-absorption, calcification of heart and kidney, osteoporosis, hypocalcaemia, secondary parathyroidism and prevention of absorption of many minerals (ie calcium and chromium).


People who regularly use antacids that contain aluminium, should be very careful with phosphorus supplements - it is not advisable to take them together or at all.

Potassium supplements or potassium-sparing diuretics taken together with a phosphate may result in high blood levels of potassium (hyperkalemia). Hyperkalaemia can be a serious problem, resulting in life threatening heart rhythm abnormalities (arrhythmia). People on such a combination need to be sure their health care provider is aware of it, and have their blood potassium levels checked regularly.


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Last reviewed: 1 January 2010 || Last updated: 1 January 2010




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NOTE: Mega doses of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, or other supplements cannot cure illnesses and in fact can be very dangerous and produce toxic side effects and interfere with medicine you are taking. Always ensure you consult your doctor before taking any type of nutrient supplement.
Disclaimer: This guide is not intended to be used for diagnostic or prescriptive purposes. For any treatment or diagnosis of illness, please see your doctor.