Phosphorus plays a critical role in bone formation. Calcium and phosphorus crystallize to form hydroxyapatite crystals providing the hardness of bone. About 85% of the body’s phosphorus is stored in the bones and the rest is stored in soft tissues like muscles and organs. Phosphorus helps activate and deactivate enzymes, is a component of the genetic material in the nuclei of the cels and is a component of cell membranes and lipoproteins.
Phosphorus is widespread in many foods and is found in high amounts in foods that contain protein. Milk, meats, and eggs are good sources. Phosphorus is found in many processed foods as a food additive to enhance smoothness, binding, and moisture retention. In the form of phosphoric acid, it’s also a major component of soft drinks. Phosphoric acid is added to soft drinks to give them a sharper, or more tart, flavor and to slow the growth of molds and bacteria.
Nutrition and medical professionals have become increasingly concerned that the heavy consumption of soft drinks may be detrimental to bone health. Researchers have proposed 3 theories to explain why consuming soft drinks may be detrimental to bone health.
- Consuming soft drinks in place of calcium containing beverages leads to a deficient intake of calcium
- The acidic properties and high phosphorus content cause an increased loss of calcium because calcium is drawn from bone into the blood to neutralize the excess acid
- The caffeine found in many soft drinks causes increased calcium loss through the urine
People with kidney disease and those who take too many vitamin D supplements or too many phosphorus containing antacids can suffer from high blood phosphorus levels. Severely high levels of phosphorus can cause muscle spasms and convulsions. Phosphorus deficiencies are rare but can occur in people who abuse alcohol, in premature infants, and in elderly people with poor diets. People with vitamin D deficiency, hyperparathyroidism, and those who overuse antacids that bind with phosphorus may also have low blood phosphorus levels.
Source: Thompson, Janice, Melinda Manore, and Linda A. Vaughan. The Science of Nutrition. San Francisco, CA: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2011. Print.