Phosphorus is  a non-metallic element that is essential for life. It is a component of DNA and cell membranes, and forms part of the molecule used to transport cellular energy.  As the partner to calcium in calcium phosphate, phosphorus is also important for the health of bones and teeth.

Low blood phosphate (hypophosphatemia) can result from malnutrition, malabsorption and from metabolic conditions that increase its concentration in urine. Hypophosphatemia can result in muscle and neurological dysfunction.  Too much phosphate results in diarrhea, calcification of organs and soft tissue, and problems with the body’s ability to use other minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc; in extreme cases, it can lead to death.

The best food sources for phosphorus are foods that also contain protein and/or calcium, including milk, meat, fish and soy.  Black beans, kidney beans and pumpkin seeds are also good sources of phosphorus.  Because phosphorus is widely available in foods, dietary deficiencies are rare and occur primarily under conditions of starvation.

Healthy adolescents and adults need about 700 mg of phosphorus daily.  Children need less (according to age) and pregnant or lactating women need more.

Phosphorus can interact with the following conditions, nutrients and medications:

  • kidney failure, hypoparathyroidism – can lead to excessive phosphorus in the blood and other tissues
  • calcium, Vitamin D, aluminum, potassium – can interact with phosphorus.  Check with your MD, ND or pharmacist before taking these with phosphorus.
  • potassium-sparing diuretics (water pills) taken together with a phosphate (such as aluminum phosphate antacids) may result in high blood levels of potassium (hyperkalemia).  Check with your MD, ND or pharmacist before combining these.