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The Function of Phosphate

By Janet Renee, MS, RD

Second only to calcium, phosphorus is one of the most abundant minerals found in your body. Nearly all the phosphorus in your body is in the form of phosphate, and it has a number of crucial functions in human health, some of which may come as a surprise. Because it's abundant in the diet, deficiency is rare outside of cases of inherited disorders and severe starvation.

Phosphorus in Food

Phosphorus is a mineral essential to human health. For adults, the recommended dietary allowance of phosphorus is 700 milligrams per day, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. You can easily get this through your diet since most foods contain at least some phosphorus. Rich sources of phosphorus include salmon, yogurt, milk, halibut, turkey, chicken, beef, lentils and almonds.

Formation of Bones and Teeth

Calcium is most commonly known for its role in bone health. However, your body needs both calcium and phosphate to build and keep your bones strong. The primary function of phosphate is in the formation of your bones and teeth. Most of the phosphate in your body -- roughly 85 percent -- is found incorporated in your bones and teeth, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Calcium phosphate is the form incorporated into your bones.

Energy Production

Your body relies on phosphate as a component to produce energy. In fact, all energy production and storage depends on compounds derived from phosphate, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. It plays a critical role in the production of adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, a high-energy molecule that you need for energy. Phosphate is a major component of creatine phosphate as well. Creatine phosphate is another high-energy compound. It's stored in your muscles and is used to convert the nucleoside adenosine diphosphate to ATP.

Other Functions

Your body uses a number of compounds derived from phosphate to activate various hormones, enzymes and cell-signaling molecules. Phosphorus also helps your body maintain the proper pH balance and regulate vitamin D levels. It helps your kidneys filter waste products and is needed for proper growth and maintenance, tissue repair and to produce DNA and RNA, which store and transmit genetic information. In addition, phosphorus helps reduce soreness after a strenuous workout, according to the UMMC.

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