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Phosphorus in diet

Phosphorus is a mineral that makes up 1% of a person's total body weight. It is present in every cell of the body. Most of the phosphorus in the body is found in the bones and teeth.

Alternative Names

Diet - phosphorus

Function

The main function of phosphorus is in the formation of bones and teeth.

It plays an important role in how the body uses carbohydrates and fats. It is also needed for the body to make protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues. Phosphorus also helps the body make ATP, a molecule the body uses to store energy.

Phosphorus works with the B vitamins. It also helps with the following:

  • Kidney function
  • Muscle contractions
  • Normal heartbeat
  • Nerve signaling

Food Sources

The main food sources are the protein food groups of meat and milk. A meal plan that provides adequate amounts of calcium and protein also provides an adequate amount of phosphorus.

Although whole-grain breads and cereals contain more phosphorus than cereals and breads made from refined flour, this is a storage form of phosphorus called phytin, which is not absorbed by humans.

Fruits and vegetables contain only small amounts of phosphorus.

Side Effects

There is generally no deficiency of phosphorus because it is so readily available in the food supply.

Excessively high levels of phosphorus in the blood, although rare, can combine with calcium to form deposits in soft tissues such as muscle. High levels of phosphorus in blood only occur in people with severe kidney disease or severe dysfunction of their calcium regulation.

Recommendations

According to Institute of Medicine recommendations, the recommended dietary intakes of phosphorus are as follows:

  • 0 to 6 months: 100 milligrams per day (mg/day)
  • 7 to 12 months: 275 mg/day
  • 1 to 3 years: 460 mg/day
  • 4 to 8 years: 500 mg/day
  • 9 to 18 years: 1,250 mg
  • Adults: 700 mg/day
  • Pregnant or lactating women:
    • Younger than 18: 1,250 mg/day
    • Older than 18: 700 mg/day

References

Mason JB. Vitamins, trace minerals, and othermicronutrients. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 225.

Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 1997.

Updated: 2/18/2013

Alison Evert, MS, RD, CDE, Nutritionist, University of Washington Medical Center Diabetes Care Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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