What Does Phosphorus Do for the Body? - Deficiency, Benefits & Function

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

Phosphorus is the second most common mineral in the human body. We will learn why phosphorus is so important in our bodies, what roles it plays, and what happens when we don't get enough.

Phosphorus Abundance

What do you need for strong bones? Calcium! This is the answer that we've been taught ever since we were young children. But there is another essential nutrient necessary for strong bones - phosphorus. So why don't we ever hear about ensuring that we get more phosphorus for strong bones? Typically, the nutrients that are pushed strongly for us to eat are ones that the typical consumer is low in. Most Americans have a diet low in calcium but high in phosphorus. So, getting enough phosphorus isn't as much of a concern as calcium is, but phosphorus is still important for our body to properly function.

Phosphorus, pictured here, is the second most common mineral in our body

Phosphorus is the second most common mineral in the body (calcium is the most common). We will find about 85% of our phosphorus in bones and teeth. The rest of the phosphorus is in blood, cells, and tissues throughout the body.

The Role Phosphorus Plays

As we have already mentioned, phosphorus plays an important role in ensuring we have strong bones and teeth. It also helps the kidneys filter out waste and works with the body in storing energy and metabolizing nutrients for energy. When we are working out, phosphorus helps to quickly heal the muscles so that we aren't in as much pain. Phosphorus is needed for proper growth, so we actually need greater amounts of it when we are children than in adulthood. We need 1250 mg of phosphorus per day as children but only 700 mg per day as adults (except for pregnant and breastfeeding women; then it is 1250 mg again).

85 percent of the phosphorus in our body is found in our bones and teeth.

Phosphorus is interesting because it actually plays an important role in balancing other nutrients and minerals in the body. If we get too much phosphorus, our body starts using calcium from the bones. It also helps balance vitamin D, iodine, zinc, and magnesium.

Doctors may also prescribe phosphorus in order to treat hypercalcemia (high blood calcium levels) and calcium-based kidney stones. Both of these uses are based on the fact that phosphorus helps balance out the minerals in the body.

Phosphorus Deficiency

Our bodies are really good at absorbing phosphorus. If we happen to get less phosphorus in our diet, then renal absorption increases. In other words, a human body can increase its ability to absorb phosphorus. As a result, a phosphorus deficiency is really rare. In addition, phosphorous is found in a variety of foods, from fruits and vegetables to meats and grains.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account