The mineral phosphorus is a major component of bones and teeth, second only to calcium. Phosphorus helps to maintain a normal pH (acid-base balance) in the body and generates and utilizes energy.
Almost all foods contain phosphorus. Particularly rich sources include dairy products (milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese), meat, poultry, fish, tofu and eggs. Food additives added during food processing can also contribute to phosphorus intake, such as the phosphoric acid found in soft drinks.
Phosphorus deficiency is quite rare in healthy individuals. Dietary phosphorus deficiency is usually only seen in those near total starvation, chronic users of aluminum-containing antacids, alcoholics and diabetics recovering from ketoacidosis (a condition in which the blood becomes acidic). Deficiency results in low blood levels of phosphorus, which is characterized by anorexia, anemia, muscle weakness, bone pain, confusion, increased susceptibility to infection, difficulty walking and, in severe cases, death.
Consuming high doses of aluminum-containing antacids can result in abnormally low blood phosphate levels. The aluminum in these antacids can bind with phosphorus, making it unavailable to the body. Individuals consuming chronically high doses of aluminum-containing antacids should consult with a physician.
Excess phosphorus intake from any source results in elevated blood phosphate levels. This condition is rare in healthy individuals and is observed mainly in people with end-stage renal disease and hypervitaminosis D. The adverse effects of this condition include reduced calcium absorption and calcification of tissues, particularly the kidneys.
The following table lists the recommended intake for healthy people based on current scientific information.