Phosphorus
 

Phosphorus Introduction

Phosphorus is a macro-mineral that provides for numerous biochemical processes. In actuality, calcium is the only other mineral that is found in greater amounts in our bodies. It is estimated that this mineral defines nearly 1 percent of our overall body mass. [1] The majority of phosphorus supplements are classified as inorganic phosphate salts and include:

  • Dibasic potassium phosphate
  • Dibasic sodium phosphate
  • Monobasic sodium phosphate
  • Pentavalent phosphate
  • Tribasic phosphate

Of these inorganic phosphates, pentavalent phosphate is the most readily available form for use in our bodies, playing vital roles in bone structure and mineralization. Calcium and phosphorus work in conjunction to compose and harden (strengthen) our many tooth and bone structures. [2] The majority of phosphorus, some 85 percent, is found in tooth and bone structures. The remaining concentrations are located in the bloodstream (10%), and various cell and tissue structures (5%); the structure of cell-membranes are created by a particular form of phosphorus called phospholipids.

Phosphorus is also extremely important in the production of DNA and RNA, which constitutes our individual genetic coding. Other processes of this mineral include; proper growth, formation, maintenance, and repair of all cells and tissues.

Phosphorus Food Sources

Animal sources provide the best food sources for meeting the daily requirements of phosphorus. Because of the abundance of the mineral in protein rich foods, only selected plant sources are listed below:

Food ItemSize 4 oz = 113 gmsPhosphorus mg (approx.)
ALFALFA -SPROUTS 4 oz 79
APPLE-RAW -W/SKIN 4 oz 8
BROCCOLI - RAW 4 oz 75
CABBAGE - RAW 4 oz 26
CANTALOPE 4 oz 19
CARROTS-BABY 4 oz 43
CHARD - SWISS 4 oz 52
CHICORY 4 oz 53
COLLARDS - RAW 4 oz 11
CORN - SWEET 4 oz 100
FIGS 4 oz 15
GRAPE LEAVES 4 oz 103
GRAPES-AMERICAN 4 oz 11
GRAPES-EUROPEAN 4 oz 15
KELP 4 oz 47
LAMBSQUARTERS 4 oz 81
LETTUCE-ICEBERG 4 oz 23
LETTUCE-LOOSELEAF 4 oz 28
LETTUCE-ROMAINE 4 oz 51
MANGO 4 oz 12
MUSTARD-GREENS 4 oz 48
PRICKLY PEAR-FRUIT 4 oz 27
PUMPKIN 4 oz 50
PUMPKIN LEAVES 4 oz 118
PUMPKIN FLOWERS 4 oz 55
SPINACH 4 oz 55
SPINACH; NEW ZEALAND 4 oz 32
STRAWBERRIES 4 oz 21
TOMATO-RIPE 4 oz 27
TURNIP GREENS 4 oz 47
YAM 4 oz 62
WATERCRESS 4 oz 68
ZUCCHINI 4 oz 36

We absorb approximately 55 - 70 percent of the phosphorus consumed via diet. [1]

Phosphorus Uses

Mineral replacement therapy using enteral, oral, or parental phosphorus has been studied in clinical research. [3] Persons suffering from diabetes, alcoholism, or inadequate diets may benefit from this type of phosphorus supplementation. Therapies have also been implemented with the combination of calcium for the healing of bone fractures and vitamin D deficiency induced disorders (i.e. osteomalacia, rickets).

Enhanced athletic performance is another area of interest regarding additional intakes of phosphorus. Phosphate supplements have been studied before and after exercise (physically induced stress), to determine whether it reduces the stressors of exercise; especially muscle soreness, pain, and fatigue. [4] In one particular trial, increased maximal oxygen uptakes (VO2) and ventilatory anaerobic threshold levels increased with 1,000 milligrams of supplemented sodium phosphate over (nearly) a week period. [5] Tribasic sodium phosphate has also been used in the ‘loading’ phases of endurance competitors (e.g. cyclists), and in other athletes with specific dietary restrictions before competitions with varying success. [6]

Phosphorus Dosages

The table below defines both the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) and Dietary Reference Intakes for this mineral: [7]

Life StageMenWomenPregnancyLactation
14-18 years 1,250 mg/day 1,250 mg/day
19-50 years 700 mg/day 700 mg/day
19 years and greater 700 mg/day 700 mg/day

Phosphorus Toxicities and Deficiencies

Phosphorus Deficiencies

A deficiency of phosphorus is rare, but can occur in individuals consuming excess amounts of aluminum-containing agents, such as antacids taken for heart burn. Conditions that hinder absorption rates can also spark a deficiency. Symptoms of a deficiency are often seen in alcoholics, persons suffering from diabetes, and those with issues of anorexia and bulimia. Classical signs of a phosphorus deficiency include; bone pain, anxiety, loss of appetite, weakness, irritability, and weight change. Improper growth and development is the most common characteristic of phosphorus deficiency in children.

Phosphorus Toxicities

There are no current reports associated with excessive intakes of phosphorus. It is suggested that an overdose will result in diarrhea and a lowering of calcium levels in the blood. [1] Those with kidney disease and/or calcium deficiencies should be cautious when taking higher doses of phosphorus.

References

1. Herbert, Victor. “Vitamins and Minerals Plus Antioxidant Supplements” Total Nutrition Ed. Victor Herbert, M.D., Genell J. Subak-Sharpe, M.S. New York: Saint Martin’s Griffin, 1995. 94-118.

2. Anderson JJB. Calcium, phosphorus, and human bone development. J Nutr. 1996; 126: 1153S-

3. Knochel JP. Phosphorus. In: Shils ME, Olson JA, Shike M, Ross AC, eds. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 9th ed. Baltimore, MD: Williams and Wilkins; 199: 157-167.

4. Bredle DL, Stager JM, Brechue WF, Farber MO. Phosphate supplementation, cardiovascular function, and exercise performance in humans. J Appl Physiol. 1988; 65: 1821-1826.

5. Kreider RB, Miller GW, Williams MH, et al. Effects of phosphate loading on oxygen uptake, ventilatory anaerobic threshold, and run performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1990; 22: 250-256.

6. Stewart I, McNaughton L, Davies P, Tristram S. Phosphate loading and the effects on VO2 max in trained cyclists. Res Q Exerc Sport. 1990; 61: 80-84.

7. Yates AA, Schlicker SA, Suitor CW. Dietary reference intakes: the new basis for recommendations for calcium and related nutrients, B vitamins, and choline. J Am Dietetic Assn. 1998; 98(6): 699-706.