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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
  • Being an important cell membrane component
  • Being important to hemoglobin’s oxygen delivery function
Recommended Intake
Age Group Recommended Dietary Allowance
0-6 monthsNo RDA; Adequate Intake (AI) = 100
7-12 monthsNo RDA; AI = 275
1-3 years460
4-8 years500
9-18 years1,250
19 years and older700
Pregnancy and lactation, 18 years and younger1,250
Pregnancy and lactation, 19 years and older700
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
  • General weakness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Bone pain
  • Increased susceptibility to infection
  • Prickling, tingling, or numbness 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)
0-12 monthsThis amount has not been established.
1-8 years3,000
9-70 years4,000
70 years and older3,000
Pregnancy and lactation3,500 and 4,000
Major Food Sources

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

FoodServing Size Phosphorus Content
Skim milk8 ounces (227 grams)247
Plain, nonfat yogurt8 ounces (227 grams)306
Part-skim mozzarella cheese1 ounce (28 grams)131
Egg 1 large86
Beef3 ounces (85 grams)179
Chicken 3 ounces (85 grams)135-196
Turkey3 ounces (85 grams)217
Fish (halibut)3 ounces (85 grams)244
Fish (salmon)3 ounces (85 grams)315
Almonds1 ounce (28 grams)136
Peanuts1 ounce (28 grams)108
Lentils4 ounces (113 grams)178


Choose My Plate—US Department of Agriculture

Eat Right—Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


Dietitians of Canada

Health Canada


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;35(6):1226-1237.

Hyperphosphatemia—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated February 2, 2017. Accessed March 10, 2017.

Hypophosphatemia—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: Updated February 2, 2017. Accessed March 10, 2017.

Phosphorus. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute website. Available at: Updated June 2014. Accessed March 3, 2017.

The benefits of phosphorus. Vitamins-Nutrition website. Available at: Updated March 10, 2017. Accessed March 10, 2017.

Last reviewed March 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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