WHAT IS PHOSPHORUS?
Phosphorus is an important macromineral that keeps your bones and teeth strong. It is the second most abundant macromineral in the human body, accounting for around 1% of an average adult’s bodyweight. In this article I am going to look at phosphorus in greater detail and explain why you should ensure it is part of your diet.
WHEN WAS PHOSPHORUS DISCOVERED?
Phosphorus was accidentally isolated in 1669 by German alchemist Hennig Brand. He was attempting to convert metals into gold and was convinced that urine was the key to doing this. In one of his experiments Brand heated and purified urine and unintentionally isolated the glow in the dark substance phosphorus. The discovery of phosphorus is notable because it is the first time someone had discovered an element that was unknown to ancient people.
Prior to Brand’s discovery there are many possible historical references to phosphorus with a number of ancient manuscripts referring to a material that glowed in the dark. However, Brand was the first person to record the process of isolating this element.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE PHOSPHORUS?
In an average person phosphorus makes up around 1% of the total bodyweight. The majority of phosphorus in the body (around 85%) can be found in the bones and teeth where it bonds with calcium to form calcium phosphate. The remaining 15% is found in the cells and bodily fluids where it is used to perform various functions.
The main function of phosphorus is to assist in the formation of strong bones and teeth. However, it does much more than just support healthy bones and teeth. Phosphorus is also responsible for:
– Activating the B complex vitamins.
– Assisting with almost every chemical reaction in the human body.
– Assisting with the metabolism of the macronutrients.
– Building healthy cell membranes.
– Creating adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which are both important for energy production.
– Creating deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) which both contain important genetic information.
– Contributing to the function of various enzymes.
– Enabling communication between cells.
– Helping the muscles contract.
– Maintaining regular heartbeats.
– Supporting proper kidney function.
HOW MUCH PHOSPHORUS DO YOU NEED?
Our need for phosphorus is greatest during our teenage years. According to this article from the New York Times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for phosphorus is as follows:
– Children aged 0-6 months:- 100mg.
– Children aged 7-12 months:- 275mg.
– Children aged 1-3 years:- 460mg.
– Children aged 4-8 years:- 500mg.
– Children aged 9-18 years:- 1250mg.
– Adults aged 19 years and over:- 700mg.
– Pregnant or lactating women aged 18 years or under:- 1250mg.
– Pregnant or lactating women aged 19 years or over:- 700mg.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN PHOSPHORUS?
The best sources of phosphorus are high protein foods such as meat, milk and nuts. The list below contains some of the richest sources of this micronutrient:
– Beef Fillet Steak:- 265mg per 100g.
– Brazil Nuts:- 590mg per 100g.
– Cheddar Cheese:- 520mg per 100g.
– Chicken:- 190mg per 100g.
– Milk:- 100mg per 100g.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GETTING TOO MUCH PHOSPHORUS?
Excessive phosphorus levels in the body are extremely rare and in most cases only occur in people with kidney disease. They can also be caused by consuming very high levels in supplement form (4g per day and over). When phosphorus levels do become too high it can lead to:
– Calcification of the soft tissues (which causes them to harden and prevents them from functioning properly).
– Reduced absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH PHOSPHORUS?
Phosphorus deficiencies are also uncommon because it can be found in a wide variety of foods. However, alcoholism, diabetes, liver disease and other medical conditions can inhibit your ability to absorb this nutrient which then causes a deficiency. This can lead to the following negative symptoms:
– Anemia (a low number of red blood cells in the body).
– Loss of energy.
– Increased susceptibility to infections.
– Osteomalacia (softening of the bones).
– Poor appetite.
Whilst calcium often gets the credit for building strong bones and teeth, phosphorus is just as important in this area. Fortunately, it can be found in a wide variety of foods so you should have no trouble getting the RDA.
Now I want to hear your thoughts. Were you aware of the impact phosphorus has on your bones and teeth? Did you know it had so many other roles in the body? Leave a comment and let me know.