The World of Pregnancy

What Is Phosphorus Used For In The Body?

Phosphorus is the only mineral in the body which is found in larger amounts than calcium.

An optimal intake of phosphorus has many beneficial effects for health, but the excess of deficiency of this particular mineral predispose to illness.

What Is Phosphorus Used For In The Body

Researchers and scientists are concerned especially by the high content of inorganic phosphorus (phosphates) found in the form of food additives largely used in the industry of food. Specialty studies confirm that these reasons of concern are justified.

Why Is Phosphorus Important?

Phosphorus represents an essential mineral, which is assimilated through foods under the form of phosphate. Together with calcium, this ensures teeth and bone resistance, forming cellular walls, playing an important role in energy production and as buffer in blood. Phosphorus has lots of functions in the human body, its importance being recognized even from the beginning of the 20th century. This mineral takes part mainly in mineralization of the bone substance. Additionally, as an integral part of the adenosine triphosphate energy support, it has a crucial function in generating and storing energy.

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Phosphorus is required for the formation of cell walls and is an integral part of nucleic acids in DNA, taking part in its structure. Another function is as a buffer in the acid-base blood balance, helping to regulate the pH value in the blood. The content of phosphorus in the human body is around 600 – 700 g; around 90% of this particular value is found in the bones. It`s mostly eliminated through the urine and less through the stool. When it comes to phosphorus deficiency, the parathyroid glands secrete the parathyroid hormone, which releases calcium from the bones, while our mineral is released.

Daily Recommended Dose of Phosphorus

Most adults of over 18 years need a daily dose of 700 mg of phosphorus in their diet. Infants of up to 6 months need to consume 100 mg daily, and up to 275 mg if they are 6 and 12 months. In the period of 1 to 3 years, the phosphorus intake needs to reach the value of 460 mg, and from 4 to 8 years, this value increases up to 500 mg.

Children and teenagers (between 9 and 18 years) need a daily dose of phosphorus of up to 1.250 mg. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers need to consume 700 mg per day, and even 1.250 mg, if they are younger than 18 years.

Sources of Phosphorus

The most essential sources of phosphorus are milk, eggs, meat and fish. This mineral can be found in nuts, whole grains or beans. For an efficient absorption of this mineral, it`s recommended enough vitamins A, D, calcium and iodine.

So, the daily recommended dose of phosphorus is of 700 mg. This daily dose can be found in the following foods:

  • 55 g wheat germ.
  • 120 g soya beans.
  • 120 g Gouda cheese (30% fat).
  • 160 g sardines in oil.
  • 170 g lentils.
  • 180 g beans.
  • 350 g whole bread.
  • 390 g pork.
  • 760 g yogurt.
  • 400 g gullies.

Our mineral can be found in almost all foods. Highly rich sources of phosphorus are the ones with protein content: hazelnuts, fruits and vegetables.

Dangers of Phosphorus Consumption

Normally, only persons who suffer of kidney issues need to carefully track their phosphorus intake, as the kidneys don`t manage to filter the mineral in the blood in a proper way. Recently, scientists have discovered a few reasons for which anyone should avoid the excess of phosphorus in their diet.

Lab studies performed on guinea pigs show that a high intake of this mineral might be associated with particular health issues, like bone loss, kidney failure or cardiovascular disorders.

Observational research that involves a human sample is no more encouraging as well. A study published a while ago in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition outlines that an intake of over 1.400 mg of phosphorus per day might increase the risk of mortality in healthy people without kidney illness.

A theory which may justify the harmful potential of phosphorus in excess say that this would increase the level of FGF-23 hormone, with a role in regulating the concentration of phosphorus in the organism and an exact indicator of the balance of this particular mineral. In high amounts, the FGF-23 may cause cardiovascular issues, rigidity of blood vessels as well as increased calcification.

Some researchers may speculate that phosphorus in excess might induce side effects in cellular function. As for bone health, some scientific data established a link between this mineral taken from food additives and susceptibility to osteoporosis.

More studies associate the consumption of cola-type drinks with increased predisposition to loss of bone density or fractures, especially if there aren`t enough dairy products in the diet. While phosphorus is required to maintain the health of the bone system, any additional amounts might interfere with hormonal regulation of vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus, and calcium absorption in the organism.

There are also scientists who promote the idea that phosphorus consumed in excess might contribute to various chronic illnesses, like obesity, some forms of cancer or type 2 diabetes.

Scientists speculate that particular dietary sources of this mineral might be more harmful than other sources. Phosphates from processed products as well as phosphorus from animal sources are much more easily absorbed by the organism, if we are to compare with phosphorus derived from vegetables sources, like beans or nuts. Calcium content in food also affects the degree of danger associated with the consumption of our mineral. Dairy products, which is rich in phosphorus and calcium, reduce blood pressure, so they shouldn`t miss from any diet.

On the other hand, phosphorus deficiency in the human organism might occur due to malnutrition, diabetic acidosis, poor nutrition, alcoholism or malabsorption syndrome.

Phosphorus deficiency could be manifested by:

  • Irritability.
  • Depression.
  • Decreased immune system.
  • Asthenia.
  • Anxiety.
  • Issues in the formation and mineralization of bones or teeth.
  • Liver dysfunction.
Image courtesy of slideshare.net
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