By Marisa Moore
Next to calcium, phosphorus is the most abundant mineral in the body. While it doesn't get as much attention as calcium, phosphorus plays an important role. It's a building block for bones and teeth and is a key nutrient in helping the body use and store energy. Phosphorus also helps regulate kidney and nerve function, muscle contractions and heartbeat, and is a critical component for the normal function of every cell in the body.
Phosphorus deficiencies are not typically a concern as the mineral is readily found in our food supply. If your diet includes plenty of variety, you probably get enough phosphorus. Main food sources of phosphorus include meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Whole grains, beans and nuts are also good sources of phosphorus in the form of phytate, which is not as easily absorbed by the body. On average, we absorb just 50 percent of the phosphorus from these foods.
Calcium and phosphorus combine in a delicate balance to protect the bones from osteoporosis (brittle bones), prevent dental problems and to support normal cell function in the body. While phosphorus deficiencies are rare, but for people with kidney disease the opposite can be a concern. Normally the kidneys get rid of any excess phosphorus; however, in severe kidney disease, this process is disrupted and may lead to dangerously high levels of phosphorus in the blood.
Long term use of antacids that contain aluminum, calcium or magnesium can interfere with phosphorus absorption and cause low blood levels of the mineral in the body. Some blood pressure and cholesterol medications, excess potassium from supplements or salt substitutes, and several other drugs, may decrease phosphorus levels in the blood.
Phosphorus supplements are generally not recommended unless under the supervision of a health care provider. If you tend to use antacids regularly or take any of these medications, speak with your health care professional to understand how they may affect your phosphorus levels.
Reviewed November 2013