Phosphorus (P), atomic number 15, exists in two major forms: the red phosphorus and white phosphorus.

White phosphorus, discovered in 1669, produces a faint glow when exposed to oxygen. It is a chief structural component of bone in the form of hydroxyapatite, a calcium phosphate.

Phospholipids such as phosphatidylcoline, are the cell membranes’ major structural components wherein every production and storage of energy are dependent on adenosine triphosphate (ATP), creatine phosphate, and other phosphorylated compounds. DNA and RNA, nucleic acids, are responsible for the transmission and storage of genetic information are long chains of molecules that contain phosphate.

Numerous cell-signaling molecules, hormones and enzymes are dependent on phosphorylation in order to be activated. Phosphorus aids in keeping pH or normal acid-base balance, by serving as one of the most important buffers in the body. The phosphorus-containing molecule 2,3-diphosphoglycerate (2,3-DPG) is linked to the hemoglobin found in red blood cells which affects the delivery of oxygen to the tissues in the body.

Phosphorus Mineral

Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in body next to calcium. Both of these essential nutrients work harmoniously in order to build and maintain healthy teeth and bones. Approximately 85% of the body’s phosphorus is located in teeth and bones but can also be found in cells and tissues in the body.

This vital mineral plays a vital role in the body’s usage and storage of energy and it also aids in filtering out waste materials in the kidneys.  Phosphorus helps in reducing muscle pain after exercising and is needed for growth, repair, and maintenance of all cells and tissues, as well as for the production of DNA and RNA.  It plays a significant role in using and keeping the balance of other vitamins and minerals in the body such as magnesium, zinc, iodine, and vitamin D.

Phosphorus Deficiency

Inadequate intake of phosphorus can lead to hypophosphatemia or having abnormally low serum phosphate levels. The side effects of hypophosphatemia include anemia; bone pain; loss of appetite; osteomalacia (in adults); rickets (in children); muscle weakness; difficulty walking; increased susceptibility to infection; and tingling and numbness of the extremities. Death can also result from severe hypophosphatemia.

Due to the fact that phosphorus is found in almost every food, phosphorus deficiency is usually only found in cases of near or total starvation. Individuals who are alcoholics, anorexic or starving patients on re-feeding regimens that have low phosphorus but high in calories diet, and diabetics who are recovering from an episode of diabetic ketoacidosis, are those who are more susceptible in developing hypophosphatemia.

Conversely, having excessively high amounts of phosphorus in the blood, although this is very rare, can combine with calcium in forming deposits in soft tissues such as muscle. This only happens to patients with severe dysfunction of calcium regulation and those with severe kidney disease.

Phosphorus RDA

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for phosphorus is:


FEMALES / Male (mg/day)

0 to 6 months 100 AI
7to 12 months 275 AI
1 to 3 years 460
4 to 7 years 500
9 to 13 years 1,250
14 to 18 years 1,250
19 years and older 700
Pregnant 18 years and younger 1,250
Pregnant 19 years and older 700
Lactating 18 years and younger 1,250
Lactating 19 years and older 700

 Phosphorus Rich Foods

Phosphorus is found in almost every food since it is one of the vital components of living organisms. Some of the typical sources of phosphorus are fish, meat, and dairy products.

It is also present in numerous food additives, and is a component of most soft drinks as phosphoric acid. Some excellent sources of phosphorus are skimmed milk, cheese, plain yogurt, salmon, halibut, lentils, almonds, peanuts, beef, egg, chicken, whole wheat bread, enriched white bread, and cereals.


LPI; UCAR; Swarthmore; UMM; NIH.