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Supplements

phosphorous
What Is It?
Health Benefits
Dosage Information
Guidelines for Use
General Interaction
Possible Side Effects
Cautions


What Is It?

Because of its powerful contribution to bone health, phosphorous is often regarded as a twin nutrient to calcium. It is a major mineral and so abundant in the body that the average person normally retains about a pound and a half of it. Phosphorous is involved, either directly or indirectly, in nearly every biological or cellular function in the body.

Working in tandem with calcium, phosphorous builds and hardens bones and teeth. (The ratio of calcium to phosphorous in bones is two-to-one.) The body relies on phosphorous to create ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a compound that regulates the release of energy stored in cells. In this and other ways, phosphorous plays an important role in transforming proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into fuel.

Phosphorous is also needed to help maintain the blood's acid balance, or pH. It helps fats to enter the bloodstream by making them water soluble. It strengthens cells walls, and supports the transport of nutrients and various hormones throughout the body.

Health Benefits

More than adequate amounts of phosphorous are readily available in the average diet. However, people who regularly take large amounts of antacids that contain aluminum may be deficient in phosphorous. Rarely, complications of diabetes, gastrointestinal malabsorption, or kidney malfunction also cause a shortfall in phosphorous. And recent research has discovered that following a severe burn injury, there is significant loss of phosphorus. In these situations, extra phosphorous ingested through supplements may help.

Although rare, too little phosphorous can lead to fragile bones and teeth, weakness and fatigue, appetite loss, joint pain and stiffness, and extra susceptibility to infection. Small deficiencies can mildly deplete energy.

Because of health risks associated with too much of this mineral, phosphorous should never be taken without a doctor's recommendation and supervision. In fact, there's more risk involved with getting too much phosphorous than too little. (For more information, see Cautions, below.)

But in the rare cases in which deficiencies appear, extra phosphorous may help.

Specifically, phosphorus supplements may help to:

Offset a deficiency related to antacid use. The aluminum contained in many antacid products can bind with phosphorus, making it unavailable for use in the body. So if you take large quantities of antacids, talk with your doctor about whether you might need supplemental phosphorus.

Aid burn recovery. If you have suffered a major burn, your body may have lost a lot of phosphorus, bringing your levels below the minimum daily amount needed. Ask your doctor whether you might need phosphorus supplements while you are recovering.

Dosage Information

Special tips:
--The Recommended Daily Allowance for phosphorous is 700 mg daily. Most people get this amount or more--between 1,000 and 1,500 mg is average for the American adult--through their everyday diet. Daily multivitamin and mineral supplements often contain small amounts of this mineral as well.

In the presence of heavy antacid use, ask your doctor if you need to supplement with phosphorus.

For burn recovery, ask your doctor if you need to supplement with phosphorus.

Guidelines for Use

Most people get sufficient amounts of phosphorous from the foods they eat. Good sources include such high-protein staples as meat, fish, dairy products, and poultry. Even soft drinks (colas in particular) contain ready stores of this mineral.

General Interaction

Other than the decrease in phosphorus absorption caused by aluminum-containing antacids, there are no other known drug or nutrient interactions with phosphorous.

Possible Side Effects

Phosphorus supplements can cause diarrhea, although this is often a signal that there is no deficiency to start with. Other gastrointestinal side effects, including nausea, vomiting, and stomach pain may also occur.

Cautions

Never take phosphorus supplements without medical supervision.

Too much phosphorus can result in dangerous imbalances of other vital nutrients. In particular, it can alter levels of certain hormones in a way that results in the depleting of both calcium and phosphorous from the bones. Ironically, people who drink large quantities of carbonated soft drinks, which are high in phosphorous, tend to lack sufficient calcium, largely because they are usually drinking less milk or other calcium-rich beverages.

Don't take phosphorus if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.


Date Published: 04/19/2005
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