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Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral in the body, after calcium. About 85% of phosphorus in the body exists in bone.


Phosphorus’ functions include:

  • Forming bones and teeth
  • Growing, maintaining, and repairing of cells and tissues
  • Synthesizing and activating proteins, such as enzymes and hormones
  • Maintaining acid-base balance
  • Producing, regulating, and transferring energy in the body
  • Converting carbohydrates, protein, and fat into energy
  • Important cell membrane component
  • Important in hemoglobin’s oxygen delivery function

Recommended Intake

Age Group Recommended Dietary Allowance (mg/day)
0-6 months No RDA; Adequate Intake (AI) = 100
7-12 months No RDA; AI = 275
1-3 years 460
4-8 years 500
9-18 years 1,250
19 years and older 700
Pregnancy and lactation, 18 years and younger 1,250
Pregnancy and lactation, 19 years and older 700

Phosphorus Deficiency

Phosphorus deficiency is called hypophosphatemia. Since phosphorus is present in such a large variety of foods, dietary phosphorus deficiency is rare.

Symptoms of hypophosphatemia may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Anemia
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bone pain
  • Rickets and osteomalacia, which is a softening of the bones
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Prickling, tingling, or creeping of the skin in the arm, hands, legs, or feet
  • Loss of muscular coordination

Phosphorus Toxicity

Phosphorus toxicity is rare in people with normal kidney function. However, those with kidney problems may experience hyperphosphatemia, or elevated levels of phosphorus in the blood. Hyperphosphatemia can result in decreased levels of calcium in the blood and overproduction of parathyroid hormone, which can lead to bone loss.

The following table shows the upper intake levels for phosphorus. But, it's important to note that these levels are not created for people with kidney disease. If you have problems with your kidneys and are concerned about your phosphorus intake, talk to your doctor.

Age Group Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) (mg/day)
0-12 months This amount has not been established.
1-8 years 3,000
9-70 years 4,000
70 years and older 3,000
Pregnancy and lactation 3,500 and 4,000

Major Food Sources

Are you looking to add more phosphorus to your diet? Here are some good food sources:

Food Serving Size Phosphorus Content (mg)
Skim milk 8 ounces (227 grams) 247
Plain, nonfat yogurt 8 ounces (227 grams) 385
Part-skim mozzarella cheese 1 ounce (28 grams) 131
Egg 1 large 104
Beef 3 ounces (85 grams) 173
Chicken 3 ounces (85 grams) 155
Turkey 3 ounces (85 grams) 173
Fish (halibut) 3 ounces (85 grams) 242
Fish (salmon) 3 ounces (85 grams) 252
Almonds 1 ounce (28 grams) 134
Peanuts 1 ounce (28 grams) 107
Lentils 4 ounces (113 grams) 178




  • Block GA, Port FK. Re-evaluation of risks associated with hyperphosphatemia and hyperparathyroidism in dialysis patients: Recommendations for a change in management. Am J Kidney Dis. 2000;3596:1226-1237.
  • Cannata-Andia JB, Rodriguez-Garcia M. Hyperphosphataemia as a cardiovascular risk factor-how to manage the problem. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2002; 11:16-19.
  • Phosphorus. Oregon State University, Linus Pauling Institute website. Available at: Updated August 2007. Accessed April 5, 2013.
  • Phosphorus. Vita Guide website. Available at: Accessed April 5, 2013.

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