Phosphorus is a key mineral in the body for the formation of bones and teeth, pH balancing in the blood, and cellular processes. Phosphorus works alongside calcium in the formation of bones and teeth, and about 85% of the body’s phosphorus can be found in the skeletal system. Phosphorus also aids the kidneys in excretion, aids in nerve impulse conduction, and aids in muscle recovery after exercise.
In the form of the ion phosphate, phosphorus maintains the pH balance of the blood. Blood ideally has a pH of 7.4, and a complex interplay between a number of phosphorus-containing ions aids in keeping the pH of blood normal. The improper amount of phosphate in the blood can lead to blood that is too acidic (acidosis) or too basic (alkalosis), which disrupts the homeostatic balance in the body.
Phosphate is also key to the body’s energy production and consumption. The reaction of phosphate-containing nucleic acids ADP and ATP store and release energy for cellular use, allowing the body to function. The metabolism of the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats that we consume allows ATP to form, and the cell’s normal reactions consume ATP. Phosphorus is key to the dance of anabolism and catabolism and thus the body’s functioning.
Phosphorus can be found in milk, grains, and protein-rich foods. Most people get enough phosphorus in their diets, but certain disorders of absorption (such as Crohn’s disease) may lead to a deficit of phosphorus. Too little phosphorus can lead to loss of appetite, anxiety, bone pain and fragility, stiff joints, fatigue, irregular breathing, irritability, numbness, weakness, and changes in weight. Magnesium and vitamin D have both been shown to increase the absorption of phosphorus.
More common than a deficit, however, is an excess of phosphorus. This is especially true for people who drink dark brown sodas (such as colas), which contain large amounts of phosphoric acid or people who have kidney problems. Excess phosphate consumption has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, because calcium and phosphorus work in tandem, too much phosphorus can interfere with the body’s use of calcium, and vice versa. An imbalance of calcium and phosphorus can lead to weakening of the bones (as seen in rickets) or development of kidney stones. As consumption of phosphorus increases, there needs to be a corresponding increase in calcium consumption. Similarly, increased calcium consumption requires an increase in phosphorus consumption.
Because of the interplay of phosphate and calcium, phosphates can be used to treat diseases associated with excess calcium, including the development of kidney stones. People suffering from edema, heart disease, Addison’s disease, thyroid problems, kidney disease, lung disease, or liver disease should use caution when consuming phosphate or taking a phosphate supplement. Always consult your doctor if you have any concerns.
Research done by Ms. Christina Perri
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