Phosphorus, an important mineral found in each and every cell of the body constitutes one percent of the total body weight of human beings. Next to calcium, it is the second most mineral found in large amounts in the body. It is found abundantly (about 85%) in our bones and teeth. Apart from its significance in the development of bones and teeth, phosphorus also plays a major role in other bodily functions such as synthesis of proteins, growth and maintenance of the body, repair of the tissues and cells, filtering wastes and proper utilization of the fats and carbohydrates by the body. It is also involved in muscle contractions, normal heartbeat, functioning of the kidneys and nerve signaling.
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How much Phosphorus do you need?
Most people get their daily requirement of phosphorus from the foods they eat. Only a few people need to take phosphorus supplements. Too much or too less of phosphorus levels can lead to many medical problems, such as joint pain, fatigue and heart disease. The amount of phosphorus that your body requires actually depends on your age. According to the Linus Pauling institute, the following are the recommended amounts of phosphorus intake daily:
- Infants (0 to 6 months) – 100 mg
- Infants (7 to 12 months) – 275 mg
- Children (1 to 3 years) – 460 mg
- Children (4 to 8 years) – 500 mg
- Children (9 to 18 years) – 1,250 mg
- Adults (19 years and older) – 700 mg
Important sources of Phosphorus
There are plenty of foods that contain phosphorus. As per the Linus Pauling Institute, phosphorus is available in most foods. Foods that are high in protein content such as meat, eggs, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, milk and other dairy products are rich sources of phosphorus. Many of the foods that are high in calcium content are also high in phosphorous. Non-protein food sources such as garlic, whole grains, potatoes, and dried fruit also contain good amounts of phosphorus. Another source of this mineral is carbonated drinks because phosphoric acid is used during the process of carbonation.
How is Phosphorus important for the body?
Your body requires phosphorus for performing many important functions. Read on to know more about the role of this mineral in maintaining your health:
Phosphorus is required for healthy bones and teeth
Phosphorus is essential for the growth and maintenance of strong and healthy bones and teeth. Along with calcium, this mineral helps in creating strong bones and ensuring the development of a strong skeletal structure. According to studies, calcium requires phosphorus to make the most of its bone-strengthening effects. It also helps in preventing bone disorders like bone loss, which leads to a condition known as osteoporosis. Phosphorus also helps in enhancing the health of your teeth and gums.
Phosphorus supports digestion
Another important of role of phosphorus is that it promotes proper digestion. Phosphorus does this by helping in the effective digestion of riboflavin and niacin, two B complex vitamins that are important for digestion. Phosphorous also helps in toning up the digestive system, thus promoting regular bowel movements and preventing digestive disorders like constipation, indigestion and diarrhea.
Phosphorus helps in proper brain functioning
Phosphorus can be considered as a nerve and brain tonic, which is vital for optimal health of the nervous system. It influences receptor function and helps the brain cells to communicate effectively. Phospholipids are required for the formation of myelin sheath, an insulating layer that covers the axons of the nerves. This sheath is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. The sensory seats in the brain, autonomic nervous system, nerves, ganglia and sensory nerves, all require phosphorus to function properly. Adequate amounts of phosphorous are needed for optimal brain functioning and ensuring proper cognitive growth and development. Studies reveal that a deficiency of phosphorus could lead to an increased risk of cognitive malfunction, and neurological conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Phosphorus maintains hormone balance
The various hormones in your body are highly important for maintaining proper health and bodily functions. Phosphorus has been found to be beneficial for regulating the balance of hormones in the human body. It makes sure that the levels of hormones are always in balanced amounts. Phosphorus ensures hormone balance by working together with the endocrine glands of the body and regulating the production and release of hormones.
Phosphorus helps in the production of energy
One of the most important roles of phosphorus is that it helps in producing energy. This mineral provides the phosphate in adenosine triphosphate or ATP, which is the high-energy carrier molecule involved in all the body’s primary metabolic cycles. ATP is used to fuel the various functions of your body. ATP is made up of an organic compound known as adenosine and three phosphate molecules. When bonding between one phosphate and adenosine breaks, energy is given out which results in cellular activity. It has been found that the energy released from ATP is used up instantly and so at any one time there will only be a small amount of it in the body. Phosphorus also helps in the utilization of carbohydrates and fats needed for energy production. Athletes often use phosphate supplements before event to help reduce muscle pain, fatigue and improve performance.
Phosphorus for cell repair
Phosphorus is also vital for the growth and repair of cells and tissues in the body. It is important for the cell membranes because phospholipids are needed to maintain the cell membranes. The cell membranes are responsible for keeping the important nutrients inside the cells and preventing the unwanted ones from entering the cells. Phosphorus compounds constitutes one of the elements that form the structures of the cell membrane needed for transferring the nutrients into the cells and for getting rid of the waste products.
Phosphorus and heart function
Phosphorus is involved in the production of energy, which makes it a crucial element for your heart because just like all the other organs in your body, your heart also needs energy for its normal functioning. Your heart also needs calcium for its proper function and phosphorus helps in regulating the levels of blood calcium. 2, 3-DPG is a compound that contains phosphorus and this compound help the red blood cells to deliver oxygen to your heart tissue as well as to all the other organs and tissues of your body. Your heart rate is affected by the blood acidity and phosphorus helps to maintain normal acid-base balance by acting as a buffer.
Phosphorus is needed for protein synthesis
Phosphorus is involved in the synthesis of both DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid ) and RNA (ribonucleic acid), which in turn, is needed for the production of proteins, hormones, enzymes, and many other chemicals needed to sustain life. Without the right amount of phosphorus, the manufacture of body protein becomes impaired, which in due course of time affects your overall health.
Phosphorus and kidney health
Phosphorus plays a vital role in maintaining the health of the kidneys by ensuring the removal of waste and toxic substances from kidneys by stimulating the process of urination and excretion. Phosphorus increases the frequency of urination, which helps in balancing the levels of water, excess salts, uric acid and even fat.
Phosphorus maintains pH balance
Even a minor deviation in the normal acid-base balance in the blood can affect the various organs of the body such as the brain, heart, arteries etc. So it is important to maintain a normal pH levels and phosphorus helps in achieving this balance by acting as a buffer.
Phosphorus deficiency – Causes and symptoms
Although most people get adequate amounts of phosphorus from their diets, certain health conditions such as starvation, diabetes, celiac disease, crohn’s disease and alcoholism or some medications, such as insulin, ACE inhibitors, corticosteroids, certain diuretics and antacids can cause the phosphorus in the body to drop to low levels. Eating a lot of junk food regularly could also make you susceptible to phosphorus deficiency. Not eating foods that contain phosphorus is another reason for phosphorus deficiency.
Cooking the foods high in phosphorus content in the wrong way is another reason that leads to inadequate supply of this mineral to the body. Avoid cooking vegetables at very high temperatures at it can reduce their nutritional content. Deep frying meat, fish, or poultry or cooking them in too much oil also diminishes the nutritional value of this mineral. The best way to get a good supply of phosphorus in the body is to eat fruits whole and fresh. Your body will not get enough phosphorus if you consume fruits as sweetened juice, dried pulp, or supplements.
The main symptom of phosphorus deficiency is weak bones or teeth. Just like calcium, Phosphorus is also involved in providing strength to bones. Therefore, a deficiency of phosphorus is likely to cause weakness, tooth decay, and other bone related problems. Low levels of this mineral may lead to loss of appetite, reduced body stamina, joint pain, stiffness, and constant fatigue. Numbness, tingling in the extremities, tremors, anxiety, weight loss and stunted growth are the other signs of phosphorus deficiency.
Problems with excess phosphorus
Some believe that excess phosphorus is more problematic than its deficiency. There could be various causes of excess phosphorus apart from just high intake of phosphorus. Calcium deficiency or kidney diseases may be few more reasons. It is also associated with cardiovascular diseases. Excess phosphorus gets deposited in body muscles and soft tissues cause them lose elasticity. It can also interfere with metabolism of other minerals. Our body maintains balance of calcium and phosphorus in body. Hence excess phosphorus may change this balance and should cause worries. Excess phosphorus increases risk of osteoporosis in calcium deficient diet.
Phosphorus is a wonderful mineral and a very important one too from the nutritional standpoint. From, the above mentioned health benefits of phosphorus, it is clear how significant this mineral is to the human body. Therefore, it is very important to make sure that you include the foods containing phosphorus in your regular diet.