Dietary Sources of Phosphorus

Animal products, including meats, fish, poultry, eggs, milk, cheese, and yogurt, are especially rich in phosphorus, as phosphates, but good amounts of phosphorus can be obtained from cereal grains and many vegetables, including legumes. Because of the abundance of phosphorus in the food supply, deficiency is highly unlikely except perhaps late in life when some elderly individuals consume little food. An extremely rare deficiency disease, phosphate rickets, in infants has been reported to result from inadequate phosphorus intake.

In the United States, mean phosphorus intakes approximate 1200-1500 mg per day in adult males and 900-1200 in adult females. In addition, phosphate additives used in food processing and cola beverages are also consumed, but the quantities are not required by food labeling laws to be given on the label so that the actual additional amounts consumed can only be estimated. Phosphate additives used by the food industry may be found in baked goods, meats, cheeses, and other dairy products.

Phosphorus mg/serving Calcium mg/serving Ca:P ratio (wt:wt)

Table 1 Calcium and phosphorus composition of common foods

Food category

Milk, eggs, and dairy

Cheddar cheese, 1 oz. 145

Mozzarella cheese-part skim, 1 oz. 131

Vanilla ice milk, 1 cup 161

Lowfat yogurt, 1 cup 353

Skim milk, 8 oz. 247

Skim milk-Lactose reduced, 8 oz. 247

Vanilla ice cream, 1 cup 139

Vanilla soft-serve ice cream, 1 cup 199

Egg substitute, frozen, 1/4 cup 43

Chocolate pudding, 5 oz. 114

Processed American cheese, 1 oz. 211

Lowfat cottage cheese, 1 cup 300

Processed cheese spread, 1 oz. 257

Instant chocolate pudding, 5 oz. 340

A conservative estimate is that most adults in the United States consume an extra 200-350 mg of phosphorus each day from these sources and cola beverages. Therefore, the total phosphorus intakes for men and women are increased accordingly. Because the typical daily calcium intake of males is 600-800 mg and that of females is 500-650 mg, the Ca:P ratios decrease from approximately 0.5-0.6 to less than 0.5 when the additive phosphates are included. As shown later, a chronically low Ca:P dietary ratio may contribute to a modest nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism, which is considered less important in humans than in cats. Table 1 provides representative values of calcium and phosphorus in selected foods and the calculated Ca:P ratios. Only dairy foods (except eggs), a few fruits, and a few vegetables have Ca:P ratios that exceed 1.0.

Recommended intakes of phosphorus have been set for adults in the United States at 900 mg per day for men and 700 mg per day for women.

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