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Phosphorus in Drinks

By Sandi Busch

Phosphorus is an essential mineral that's obtained from many dietary sources, such as milk, grains and foods high in protein. It’s also added to some soft drinks. This has raised concern about the over-consumption of soft drinks possibly causing an imbalance of phosphorus in the body, so it's beneficial to be aware of health risks related to consuming too much phosphorus.


Phosphorus combines with calcium to build strong bones. It's an element in DNA and RNA, which carry the genetic instructions for all cell growth. Phosphorus is needed to produce cellular energy and in the chemical reaction that allows hemoglobin to release oxygen in the blood. To ensure healthy functioning, the body must monitor and maintain a strict acid-base balance. This is accomplished system-wide by the kidneys and lungs, but to prevent rapid changes, phosphorus is able to interact with different molecules as it circulates in the body to increase or decrease acidity and quickly restore the balance.

Drinks Containing Phosphorus

Milk and fruit juices naturally contain phosphorus, and it’s added to some soft drinks in the form of phosphoric acid, which creates a tangy or sour taste. A 1-cup serving of chocolate milk has 378 mg of phosphorus; the same serving of nonfat milk has 247 mg, according to the USDA Nutrient Database. Orange and tomato juice contain about 42 mg to 44 mg. Carbonated drinks contain less phosphorus. A 12-oz. serving of cola has 37 mg, and an orange carbonated beverage has just 4 mg. Some carbonated soft drinks, including ginger ale, root beer and grape soda, contain no phosphorus.

Nutrient Interactions

Too much phosphorus reduces the amount of active vitamin D in the body, which in turn lowers the amount of calcium in the blood because vitamin D is needed for calcium to be absorbed. This problem is not likely to develop if you obtain phosphorus through milk because it is also rich in calcium and vitamin D. According to New York University, research as of July 2011 has not substantiated claims that replacing milk with soft drinks increases the risk of osteoporosis. However, the more phosphorus you eat, the more calcium you need, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, so it's important to consume a balanced diet that includes sufficient amounts of all nutrients.

Phosphorus Toxicity

It is possible for phosphorus levels in your body to become toxic. The recommended tolerable upper intake is 4 g, or 4,000 mg, a day, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. The kidneys are responsible for maintaining blood levels of phosphorus, so toxicity most often results when the kidneys don't function properly due to disease or damage and fail to remove excess amounts.

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