IMPORTANT: The information on this site should never be used to self medicate or to self diagnose. Always contact your health care provider before using any kind of supplementation or making any extreme change in your diet.
“Finally this fence is finished,” Ed said to himself as he turned around and knocked a whole box of nails onto the ground into the grass that hadn’t been cut for at least 2 weeks.
“Damn that’s going to be a pain to pick those up.”
Carter shook his head. “Good one Ed and you thought you were done for the day.”
Ed disappeared into the shed and a few moments later came out with a smile on his face.
Carter looked over at Ed holding up a large magnet. “Oh yah. That’s a bit of luck now isn’t it?”
Ed leaned over and waved the magnet over the area the nails had fallen onto. It didn’t take long before they had all attached themselves to it.
“Just like phosphorous atoms eh, Carter?”
Carter laughed, “ Ya Ed just like phosphorous atoms. Have to attach themselves to something.”
The two chemistry professors leaned back against the car and admired their handy work.
Phosphorus (P) is an element and has the atomic number 15. It is exceptionally reactive and attaches to other substances instantly so therefore is never found as a free agent. Phosphate is a salt of phosphoric acid and is an inorganic chemical. Phosphates are molecules that contain phosphorous atoms.
Because phosphorus in its phosphate form is a part of our DNA, RNA, ATP (Adenine Triphosphate which assists in the transfer of energy in our cells) and of the phospholipids that are the bases of all cell membranes it is essential to all living cells.
About 85% of the phosphorus we consume is transported to our bones.
WHAT DOES PHOSPHORUS DO FOR US?
1. PO4 (inorganic phosphate) is key to all known life forms. It is responsible for part of the structural framework of DNA and RNA molecules like cement used in buildings. These nucleic acids are made up of long chains of phosphate containing molecules which are used for the transmission and storage of genetic information.
2. In the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) phosphate transports energy. Practically every process in our cells that uses energy uses ATP.
3. Along with energy transport ATP is also used in a process called phosphorylation. Phosphorylation is the process whereby phosphorus groups are added to proteins and other organic molecules. This addition turns enzymes on or off and in doing so changes the molecule’s function and redirects cellular activity.
4. Cellular membranes use phospholipids as their main structural components sort of like two by fours holding up a house.
5. Bones use calcium phosphate salts called hydroxyapatite to assist in making bones stiff consequently phosphate plays a major role in keeping our bones healthy and strong.
6. Phospholipid matrices and proteins form a bilayer in our membranes. These matrices bond cellular structure a little like spokes hold a wheel in place.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DON’T GET ENOUGH PHOSPHORUS?
Low levels of phosphorus in the blood (hypophosphatemia) lead to loss of appetite initially then anemia, muscle and neurological problems, dysfunction of muscle and blood cells because of the lack of adenosine triphosphate, bone pain, rickets (in children) osteomalacia (in adults) problems with infections, difficulty in walking and worst case scenario death. Too little phosphate is the result of near total starvation or a persons inability to absorb phosphate due to diabetic ketoacidoses, alcoholism or anorexia.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE GET TOO MUCH PHOSPHORUS?
Too much phosphorus in our blood will initially lead to diarrhea and then to a condition called hyperphosphatemia which is the name applied to the calcification of non-skeletal tissue. The kidneys are most commonly affected by hyperphosphatemia. Getting too much dietary phosphorus is not possible under normal circumstances as our kidneys are extremely efficient at eliminating it from our bodies. Usually end stage kidney failure or low parathyroid function are the causes which lead to hyperphosphatemia. Sodium phosphate solutions taken orally can also lead to excessive amounts of phosphorus in the blood.
WHERE DO WE GET PHOSPHORUS?
A well fed adult takes in and excretes about 2 or 3 grams of phosphorus every day.
About 1% of the phosphate in our bodies circulates in the blood while most of it goes into our bones.
Large amounts of fructose interfere with the balance of phosphorus in our bodies.
Excess phosphorus is excreted through the kidneys.
Aluminum based antacids interfere with the absorption of phosphorus