History and Characteristics

Phosphorus is very important to the body. It is found in every cell and in nearly every chemical reaction and is the second most abundant mineral in the body. Since phosphorus is concerned with the skeleton, genetic traits, proper tooth development, functions of the kidneys and the nerves, the body will not grow properly unless enough of the mineral is present. Furthermore, without the help of phosphorus carbohydrates, fats and protein falter in their work of growth, maintenance and general repair of cells for energy. And two vitamins of the B complex—niacin and riboflavin—cannot be digested without the proper amount of phosphorus in the digestive system.

Phosphorus is also the unsung hero of the calcium-phosphorus duo: for every 2.5 parts of calcium there must be 1 part of phosphorus. Any change in the ratio will do damage to the body in some way, usually of a chronic variety. As well as serving in various other functions of the body, these minerals help with nerve transmission: calcium maintains normalized signals in the nervous system, and phosphorus creates a component of an energy enzyme known as ATP.

In addition, phosphorus is necessary for the production of lecithin, a nutrient that keeps us mentally sharp, prevents brain fatigue and benefits all the nerves, some of which are responsible for the normal functions of the heart as it contracts. A nutrient made in the liver, lecithin is a phospholipid concerned with the breaking down of fats and fatty acids. Widely distributed in the tissue and liquids of the body, it has much to do with respiration and the nutrition of the nervous system. The gray matter of the brain, for instance, has 17 percent lecithin within its tissue.

Phosphorus also plays a part in the acid-alkaline balance in the blood and tissue. Because Americans are generally heavy meat-eaters, and meat is high in acid, many people suffer from acidosis. The right amount of calcium and phosphorus will equalize this imbalance.

Although Adelle Davis believes that Americans generally have too much phosphorus, new evidence is indicating that we do not. Phosphorus is only found in soil and water and is not manufactured in any human or animal body. Water is necessary to break down the nearly insoluble mineral in the soil so that plants may take it up into their root systems. But soils have been depleted over the years, and, if farmers don't continue their efforts to replace the phosphorus (usually through bone meal fertilizer), we can become deficient in this most abundant mineral.

Although there has been some disagreement, most scientists agree that phosphorus is rapidly and easily assimilated in the duodenum and small intestine. More than Vi of the mineral that is digested is absorbed, but only if vitamin D and calcium are available in the right quantities. There must also be enough hydrochloric acid in the stomach during the digestion phase because phosphorus needs an acidic medium to be absorbed.

Excess phosphorus is excreted through the kidneys and urine. Most of the mineral is stored in the bones and teeth along with calcium.

Allies: Phosphorus's primary allies are calcium and vitamin D, Vitamin C is also indispensable to phosphorus: without enough vitamin C, the mineral is depleted from the body. And phosphorus is more effective when taken with vitamins A and F, iron, manganese and protein.

Antagonists; Excess white sugar is probably the biggest threat to the phosphorus balance in the body. One doctor believes that ailments such as arthritis, pyorrhea and tooth decay are brought about by a calcium-phosphorus imbalance from high sugar intake.

Other substances that deplete phosphorus are excessive amounts of iron, aluminum and magnesium. Anti-acid tablets containing aluminum and/or magnesium hydroxide will interfere greatly with the phosphorus balance: anyone buying such over-the-counter products for digestive upset or ulcer conditions should check the labels carefully.

Aspirin, thyroid or cortisone medication and many other drugs will also leave the body deficient in both calcium and phosphorus.

Recommended Dietary Allowance: Infants 0-1/6 yrs. 200 mg„ 1/6-l/i yrs. 400 rag., 'A-l yrs. 500 mg., 1-2 yrs. 700 mg., 2-6 yrs. 800 mg., 6-8 yrs. 900 mg., 8-10 yrs. 1000 mg. Men 10-12 yrs 1200 mg,, 12-18 yrs. 1400 mg., 18 + 1800 mg.

Women 10-12 yrs. 1,200 mg. 12-18 yrs. 1,300 mg. 18 + yrs. 1,800 mg.

Pregnant Women 2,200+ mg. Lactating Women 2,300+ mg.

Therapeutic Dose: For adults 1,800 or more milligrams are recommended.

Megadose: Anyone wishing to take megadoses of phosphorus should exercise caution. Any megadoses should be administered under a physician's care, and a proportionate amount of calcium should be ingested to insure that the metabolism will not become imbalanced.


There is no known toxicity with this mineral, but a person taking an excessive amount of phosphorus without a proportionate amount of calcium may begin to exhibit a deficiency of calcium.

Deficiency Symptoms

Without adequate phosphorus, vitamin D and calcium, stunted growth, poor tooth development and bone deformation will develop. And if the calcium-phosphorus metabolism is unbalanced, ailments such as arthritis, rickets, cavities of the teeth and pyorrhea of the gums may manifest.

Some of the less obvious symptoms of a moderate deficiency of phosphorus are loss of appetite, irregular weight gain or loss for no reason, irregular breath and mental or physical fatigue. Vague nervous disorders may also occur, such as being frightened of the next day, dislike of the opposite sex or of a job and fear of the unknown. Moreover, there may be a loss of muscle tone or a numbness of the arms and legs. And a deficiency of phosphorus may also induce repeated attacks of bronchitis or jaundice.

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