Phosphorus is an essential mineral found in each cell of the body. It’s a highly abundant mineral and accounts for about 1% of a person’s total body weight. Phosphorus is among the 16 vital minerals that the body needs to function properly. While phosphorus’s main function is to build and maintain teeth and bone, it also plays a critical role in the formation of RNA and DNA (the body’s genetic building blocks). This helps make sure the tissues and cells are maintained properly, repaired, and replaced when they age.
Phosphorus plays a significant role in transmitting nerve signals, heart rhythm, muscle contraction, and metabolism (conversion of oxygen and calories to energy)[i]. Also, phosphorus is considered a micromineral (sulfur, potassium chloride, potassium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium. You can get phosphorus from food sources like seeds, oily fish, dairy, and meat.
Phosphate supplements are often used to prevent deficiency. However, phosphorus deficiency is pretty rare in the United States. According to research by Harvard Medical School, most of the groups affected by phosphorus deficiency include people with:
- Major trauma
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Chronic alcoholics
Besides the treatment and prevention of phosphorus deficiency, supplements might provide many health benefits, especially in older people and people susceptible to UTIs (Urinary Tract Infections).
About 85% of phosphorus in the body is usually stored in the bone. The rest freely circulates in the bloodstream to help with other biological functions. Calcium works with phosphorus to build healthy teeth and bone. The minerals are converted into calcium phosphate salts, which strengthen and stiffen bones.[iv]
Urinary Tract Infections
Phosphate supplements make the urine more acidic. Studies show that more acidic urine can help treat UTIs or prevent kidney stones from forming. However, some recent studies show this isn’t the case. According to a study published in the Journal of Biochemical Chemistry, less acidic urine exerted strong antimicrobial effects than more acidic urine.[v]
Nevertheless, urinary tract infections are more common among women with abnormally high calcium levels because increased urinary calcium promotes bacterial growth. Furthermore, phosphate supplements might help reverse the risk by binding with the free circulating calcium and then clearing the calcium in the stool.
In the same way, kidney stones containing calcium phosphate are known to form when the urine PH is more than 7.2, which means it’s alkaline. By reducing the PH, phosphate might be able to prevent kidney stones.
Phosphorus deficiency is known as hypophosphatemia, a condition where there are low phosphorus levels in the body. Some health conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, kidney disease, eating disorder, alcoholism, and diabetes, and certain drugs decrease the absorption of phosphorus and cause low phosphorus in the body.[ii]
Medications that might low phosphorus levels include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, insulin, heparins (blood thinners), diuretics, cyclosporine, corticosteroids, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, anti-seizure medications, and antacids. Symptoms and signs of low levels of phosphorus include:
- Weight change and loss of appetite
- Irritability, confusion, anxiety
- Electrolyte imbalance
- Breathing problems
- Tingling in limbs, numbness, weakness
- Stiff joints
- Fragile bones
- Bone pains
Health problems of too much phosphorus
The kidneys remove phosphorus that your body cannot use. If you have a condition such as acute kidney disease, you might have high phosphorus levels. This might cause calcium deposits to form in your lungs, heart, eyes, and blood vessels. Having too much phosphorus in the body for extended periods increases your chances of stroke or heart attack.
Also, you can get too much phosphorus, commonly known as hypophosphatemia, incase you take a lot of phosphorus supplements.[iii] Side effects include stomach cramps and diarrhea.
Possible Side Effects
Supplements are considered safe when taken as recommended. High doses might lead to vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, and headaches.
Allergic reactions to phosphate are very rare, but it’s necessary to consult a health physician if you experience rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, hives, rash, or swelling of the tongue, throat, or face after taking phosphate supplements. These might be symptoms of more life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis.[vi]
It’s also important to note that excessive intake of phosphate might interfere with your body’s ability to use zinc, magnesium, calcium, and iron. This is the main reason why phosphate is not commonly taken on its own, but instead as part of a mineral/multivitamin supplement.
Phosphate might also interact with other over-the-counter drugs and pharmaceutical medications. Some medicines might cause decreased phosphorus levels in blood, including:
- Diuretics like Lasix (furosemide) or Hydrodiuril (hydrochlorothiazide).
- Cholesterol-lowering medications such as Colestid (colestipol) or Questran (cholestyramine).
- Anticonvulsants such as Tegretol or phenobarbital
- Antacids containing magnesium, calcium, or aluminum
People having chronic kidney disease should avoid phosphate supplements. This is because their kidneys are not able to clear the phosphate from their bodies, and the mineral might accumulate and cause hypophosphatemia. Symptoms might include tingling in the mouth, joint or bone pain, spasms, muscle cramps, itching, and rash.
Dosage And Preparation
You’ll find phosphate supplements in capsule or tablet form under different brand names. Also, phosphate is included in different mineral/multivitamin supplements and other co-formulated supplements specifically designed for bone health. The doses range between 50 mg to 100 mg.
You can check our ‘Nutritional needs for men, and women’ above to learn more about the recommended dietary allowance of phosphorus which varies by age. Keep in mind that doses over 3,000 mg per day are considered excessive and might adversely affect the balance of trace and macro minerals in your blood.
Ways To Get Your Phosphorus
Since phosphorus is essential to nearly all-living things, including animals and plants, it is in almost everything you drink or and eat. Also, you can get phosphorus in phosphate supplements, which are available in capsule and tablet forms. Phosphorus from food sources is recommended because you also get to enjoy more benefits than just taking Phosphate supplements, which is just phosphorus.
Many people get adequate phosphorus in their daily diet, mainly if they consume foods containing calcium and protein. Many protein-rich foods are excellent sources of phosphorous.
- Canned tuna – 2.5 ounces contain 104 milligrams
- Eggs – 2 eggs contain 157 milligrams
- Chicken – 2.5 ounces contain 163 milligrams
- Beef – 2.5 ounces contain 180 milligrams
- Tofu – 2/4 cup serving contains 204 milligrams
- Pork – 2.5 ounces contain 221 milligrams
- Yogurt – ¾ cup serving contains 247 milligrams
- Canned salmon – 2.5 ounces contain 247 milligrams
- Cooked lentils – ¾ cup serving contain 264 milligrams
- Milk – 1 cup serving contain 272
- Hard cheese – 1.5-ounce serving contains 302 milligrams
- Canned sardines – 2.5 ounces contain 363 milligrams
- Sunflower seeds – 1.4 cup serving contain 343 milligrams
- Cottage cheese – 1 cup serving contains 358 milligrams
- Squash seeds or pumpkin – ¼ cup serving contains 676 milligrams
Dietary supplements aren’t properly regulated in the United States, and they aren’t subjected to rigorous research and testing like pharmaceutical medications. So, the quality might significantly vary.
To guarantee safety and quality, only purchase phosphate supplements that have been submitted for testing by certifying bodies like the NSF International, ConsumerLab, and the United States Pharmacopeia.
Phosphate supplements cannot withstand ultraviolet radiation, humidity, and extreme heat. It’s always best to store these supplements in the original light-resistant container, probably in a cool, dry place. Never use discolored or expired supplements.
What is the main benefit of phosphorus?
What food is high in phosphorus?
Is phosphorus good for you?
What are the symptoms of phosphorus deficiency?
What foods should you avoid if phosphorus is high?
Do bananas contain high levels of phosphorus?
How much phosphorus do you need?
- [i] Trautvetter, U.; Distcheid, B.; Jahreis, G. et al. Calcium and Phosphate Metabolism, Blood Lipids and Intestinal Sterols in Human Intervention Studies Using Different Sources of Phosphate as Supplements—Pooled Results and Literature Search. Nutrients. 2018;10(7):936. DOI: 10.3390/nu10070936.
- [ii] Brunelli, S. and Goldfarb, S. Hypophosphatemia: Clinical Consequences and Management. JASN. 2007;18(7):1999-2003; DOI: 10.1681/ASN.2007020143.
- [iii] Brunelli, S. and Goldfarb, S. Hypophosphatemia: Clinical Consequences and Management. JASN. 2007;18(7):1999-2003; DOI: 10.1681/ASN.2007020143.
- [iv] Lee, A. and Cho, S. Association between phosphorus intake and bone health in the NHANES population. Nutrition J. 2015;14:28. DOI: 10.1186/s12937-015-0017-0.
- [v] Shields-Cutler, R.; Crowley, J.; Hung, C. et al. Human Urinary Composition Controls Antibacterial Activity of Siderocalin. J Biol Chem. 2015;290:15949-60. DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M115.645812.
- [vi] Institute of Medicine (US) Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes. (1997) Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press (US). ISBN-10: 0-309-06350-7ISBN-10: 0-309-06403-1