Phosphorus is a mineral that naturally occurs in many foods and is also available as a supplement. It plays multiple roles in the body.
When you think about your bones and teeth and the nutrients required to keep them strong and healthy, the first nutrients that come to mind are calcium and vitamin D; however, phosphorus also plays an essential role in the development and maintenance of your bones and teeth. Phosphorus also forms an essential part of DNA and RNA and assists with other functions such as:
- Maintaining gene function
- Activating enzymes (proteins that speed up reactions in the body)
- Maintaining your body’s pH levels
- Maintaining your energy levels
Phosphorus can be found both naturally in a variety of foods and supplement form. Most high-protein foods are rich sources of phosphorus such as milk and milk products, meat, fish, eggs, legumes and nuts. Phosphorus is absorbed more efficiently from animal foods than plant foods.
Deficiency and Excess Intake
A phosphorus deficiency (hypophosphatemia) is extremely rare and is typically only caused by medical conditions such as kidney disorders, diabetic ketoacidosis and hyperparathyroidism. If individuals with these conditions do develop hypophosphatemia, then this may result in:
- Ataxia (degenerative nervous system disease)
- Bone pain
- Burning/ tingling in hands & feet
- Increased risk for infection
- Muscle weakness
- Osteomalacia (softening of bones)
- Poor appetite
It is possible to consume too much phosphorus (hyperphosphatemia) and therefore a tolerable upper limit (quantity beyond which phosphorus may cause harm) has been established. Specific hyperphosphatemia symptoms have yet to be determined, but studies have shown that too much phosphorus over time does increase your overall mortality risk.
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