Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body and is found in every cell. It often functions along with calcium, and the healthy body maintains a specific calcium-phosphorus balance in the bones of 2.5 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus, although phos¬phorus is in higher ratio in the soft tissues. This bal¬ance of calcium and phosphorus is needed for these minerals to be effectively used by the body.
Phosphorus plays a part in almost every chemical reaction within the body because it is present in every cell. It is important in the utilization of carbohydrates, fats, and protein for the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and for the production of energy. It stimulates muscle contractions, including the regular
contractions of the heart muscle. Niacin and riboflavin cannot be digested unless phosphorus is present. Phosphorus is an essential part of nucleoproteins, which are responsible for cell division and reproduction and the transference of hereditary traits from parents to offspring. It is also necessary for proper skeletal growth, tooth development, kidney functioning, and transference of nerve impulses..
Unlike calcium, which is poorly absorbed, most dietary phosporus is absorbed from the bloodstream. About 70 percent of the posphorus ingested in foods is absorbed . About 88 percent of the absorbed phosphorus is stored in the bones and teeth, along with calcium, although antacids can de¬plete the storage. There is relatively little control over the rate of absorption, so the body content is regulated by urinary excretion.
Phosphorus absorption depends on the presence of vitamin D and calcium. Absorption can be interfered with by excessive amounts of iron, aluminum, and magnesium, which tend to form insoluble phosphates. The calcium-phosphorus balance is disturbed in the presence of white sugar. High fat diets or digestive conditions that prevent the absorption of fat increase the absorption of phosphorus in the intestine, but such conditions are not healthful because they also decrease the amount of calcium absorbed and upset the calcium-phosphorus balance.
The National Research Council recommends a daily dietary intake of 800 milligrams of phosphorus for men and women. During pregnancy and lactation the amount increases to 1200 milligrams. This is equal to the daily requirement for calcium. If the phospho¬rus content of the body is high, additional calcium should be taken to maintain a proper balance. There is no known toxicity of phosphorus.
Deficiency Effects and Symptoms
An insufficient supply of phosphorus, calcium, or vita¬min D may result in stunted growth, poor quality of bones and teeth, or other bone disorders. A deficiency in the calcium-phosphorus balance may result in dis¬eases such as arthritis, pyorrhea, rickets, and tooth decay.
A phosphorus deficiency can cause lack of appetite and weight loss or, conversely, overweight. Irregular breathing, mental and physical fatigue, and nervous disorders may occur.
Beneficial Effect on Ailments
Dietary phosphate has speeded up the healing process in bone fractures and has reduced the expected loss of calcium in such patients. It has been used successfully in the treatment of osteomalacia and osteoporosis. It also helps to prevent or cure rickets and to prevent stunted growth in children.
Mental stress can cause an upset in the body chemis¬try and bring on strong arthritic symptoms such as aching joints. The calcium-phosphorus balance can help treat the stressful condition and can also help alleviate the arthritis.
Recent research has shown that phosphorus may be important in cancer prevention. Investigators have discovered that phosphorus is more easily lost from cancerous cells than from normal cells. Phosphorus is essential in treating disorders of the teeth and gums.