Phosphorus is an essential mineral that the body needs
Phosphorus is an essential mineral that the body needs

Hyperphosphatemia or high phosphorus levels in the body is generally caused by kidney disease or by consuming too much dietary phosphorus and not enough dietary calcium.

Normal working kidneys help remove excess phosphorus in the blood. When a person has chronic kidney disease (CKD), kidneys cannot eliminate phosphorus very well.

High phosphorus levels in the body can cause damage to the body and are more dangerous to a person’s health than low levels of phosphorus.

Higher levels of phosphorus can cause the following:

What is the role of phosphorus in the body?

Phosphorus plays an important role in maintaining the good health of kidneys, bones, blood vessels, muscles, and the cells in the body. Some of the health benefits of phosphorus include:

  • Keeps the bones and teeth strong
  • Production of ribonucleic acid (RNA) and deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA, genetic material)
  • Managing the body’s energy production and storage (energy packets in the cell called the adenosine triphosphate or ATP and adenosine diphosphate or ADP)
  • Helps muscle contraction
  • Reduces muscle pain after exercise
  • Regulates heartbeat
  • Maintains normal pH level in the blood
  • Filters and eliminates waste from the kidneys
  • Supports nerve conduction throughout the body
  • Helps in the growth, maintenance, and repair of cells and tissues

What happens if phosphorus is low in the body?

Hypophosphatemia is low levels of phosphorus in the body. Certain health conditions (such as diabetes, alcoholism, eating disorder, kidney disease, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease) and certain medications decrease the absorption and cause lower levels of phosphorus in the body.

Medications that may lower phosphorus levels include antacids, anti-seizure drugs, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (blood pressure medication), corticosteroids, cyclosporine (used to suppress the immune system), diuretics, heparins (blood thinners), Insulin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Ibuprofen.

Signs and symptoms of low phosphorus levels include:

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What are the dietary sources of phosphorus?

Many different types of foods contain phosphorus, mainly in the form of phosphates and phosphate esters.

Phosphorus (organic) is found naturally in protein-rich foods, such as

  • Dairy products
  • Egg
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Seafood
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains
  • Legumes, beans, and peas
  • Cocoa
  • Garlic
  • Potatoes

Phosphorus found in animal food products is more easily absorbed than phosphorus found in plant foods because human intestines lack the phytase enzyme. 

Phosphorus (inorganic) is also found in the form of additives or preservatives in fast foods, snacks, ready-to-eat meals, chocolate, aerated drinks, beer, and processed foods. Phosphorus in food additives is completely absorbed in the body.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/17/2021
References
Medline Plus. Phosphorus in Diet. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002424.htm

American Kidney Fund. High Phosphorus (Hyperphosphatemia). https://www.kidneyfund.org/kidney-disease/chronic-kidney-disease-ckd/complications/high-phosphorus/