Phosphorus accounts for about 1% of body weight, or one-fourth of the total mineral elements in the body. About 85% of phosphorus is in combination with calcium in bones and teeth. Soft tissues contain much higher amounts of phosphorus than of calcium and most of it is in organic form.
Phosphorus is one mineral which performs widely differing functions. These are:
- It combines with calcium to form insoluble compound, calcium phosphate, which gives strength and rigidity to bones.
- The Phosphorus containing lipoproteins facilitate the transport of fats in the circulation.
- Phosphorus is a constituent of nucleoproteins, the basics genetic material.
- Phospholipids are constituents of cell membranes, thus regulating the transport of solutes into and out of the cell.
- Phosphorylation is the key reaction in many metabolic processes.
- Phosphorus captures and store vital energy in the cells of many tissues by forming a high energy compound. Muscle tissue is a prominent example where phosphorus helps in energy store and thus fuel muscle contraction.
- Inorganic phosphorus in the body fluids constitutes an important buffer system in the regulation of body neutrality.
Phosphorus is widely distributed in foods; the milk and meat groups being important contributors. Whole grain cereals and flours contain much more phosphorus than refined cereals and flours. Vegetables and fruits contain only small amount of phosphorus.
A deficiency of phosphorus is generally not seen in human beings because diets having cereals as major food are seldom inadequate in phosphorus