Phosphorous is the second most abundant mineral found in the human body, after calcium. It is an inherent component of all living cells in the system and the majority, 85 per cent, is located in the tissues of the bones and teeth, while the remainder 15 per cent forms a part of blood and other soft tissues.
Its primary function is providing structural strength and integrity to bones and teeth, which is achieved by working together with calcium deposits in the blood. Also Read: Calcium: Functions, Food Sources, Supplements, Deficiencies And Toxicity
Phosphorous is also required for various biochemical processes at the cellular level, such as synthesis of the genetic material DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid, repair of tissues, energy production, maintaining optimal intracellular transport functions and controlling pH.
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The body obtains its daily phosphorous requirements through food and in a healthy individual, once the necessary amounts of the mineral are absorbed by the cells and tissues, the remaining is eliminated via the urine.
Besides consuming a wholesome diet that supplies sufficient amounts of phosphorous, it is also important to ensure ample intake of calcium and vitamin D, for they are involved in facilitating phosphorous assimilation in cells and tissues.
Chiefly, this mineral is present in the bodily tissues as phosphate ions, which is basically phosphorous combined with oxygen to result in an electrolyte.
Phosphorous is an integral component of ATP – adenosine triphosphate, the major energy-generating molecule in the system. It, therefore, plays a crucial role in preserving the metabolism of all macronutrients – carbs, proteins, fats and particularly assures processing of carbohydrates into simple sugars.
Other key functions performed by phosphorous in the body include:
Assisting in the contraction of muscles
Ridding the system of toxins, food wastes via the kidneys
Transmission of nerve signals between cells, tissues and organs
Improving muscle recovery and strength post intense physical workouts
Producing the main genetic components of all cells and tissues – DNA and RNA
Preserving normal heartbeat
Fortifying bones, teeth with increased mineral density
The daily requirement or RDA – Recommended Dietary Allowance of phosphorous, for a normal, healthy adult, is 700 mg per day, while growing adolescents and pregnant women require much more. This value is determined by the Food And Nutrition Board of the National Academy Of Sciences, USA.
In the majority of instances, the supply of phosphorous is guaranteed by means of diet and only very few individuals need to take supplements. Also Check Out: 5 Foods Plentiful In Phosphorus For Total Well-Being - Infographic
A plethora of food sources contain ample concentrations of phosphorous, which once ingested and digested completely, are also easily bioavailable, to be absorbed by the internal cells and tissues.
Many foods inherently high in proteins and calcium are also bestowed with phosphorous, besides other distinct phosphorous-enriched dietary sources. These include:
Dairy products like cheese, milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese
Vegetables and plant produce namely potato, tofu, garlic, soy
Nuts and seeds such as sunflower seeds, cashews, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, almonds
Whole grains and cereals consisting of wheat, oats, rice, quinoa
Lentils and beans comprising kidney beans, chickpeas, sprouts
Animal sources of poultry, seafood, eggs, meat
The most common consequence of low intake of phosphorous is hypophosphatemia, which implies a decline in phosphate levels in the blood.
This deficiency condition invariably leads to decreased energy levels, besides severe fatigue, lethargy, exhaustion, muscle injuries and weakness.
An individual with hypophosphatemia also finds it difficult to engage in routine exercises, due to abnormal ATP and energy-associated biochemical mechanisms in the system.
When phosphorous levels in the body drop well below normal, along with that of calcium and vitamin D, the health of bones, muscles and joints is vastly affected, causing pain and frequent injuries.
High levels of phosphorous in the body trigger an abnormality known as hyperphosphatemia. While in the initial stages, this condition only prompts aching in bones and muscles, advanced phases result in serious consequences.
Hyperphosphatemia in severe levels leads to malfunctioning of kidneys, heart complications such as cardiac arrest, irregular heartbeat and extreme fragility of bones. It is hence necessary to visit a doctor immediately if any such symptoms of elevated body phosphorous levels are observed, to guarantee timely treatment and optimal recovery.