Phosphorus and Magnesium

Phosphorus is a mineral found throughout the body (but mostly in bone) that helps all body cells function optimally. It works with calcium and vitamin D to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It also helps create energy from food, maintain acid/base balance, and deliver oxygen to various body tissues. Phosphorus is also a key component of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), ribonucleic acid (RNA), and phospholipids, which have important functions in the body.

Phosphorus is abundant in both animal-derived and plant foods. However, phosphorus from nuts, seeds, and grains is only about half as absorbable by the body as phosphorus from other food sources.

Deficiencies and Excesses

Although phosphorus deficiency is uncommon, it can develop in those who don’t consume enough calories because of alcoholism, eating disorders, or other causes. Some drugs can also reduce phosphorus absorption in the body. Deficiency symptoms can include weak bones and muscles, fatigue, appetite loss, bone pain, and increased risk for infection.

Too much dietary phosphorus, especially from vitamins supplements, can cause diarrhea and upset stomach; over time, it can even damage the kidneys. Consuming a lot of high-phosphorus foods or beverages (including sodas made with phosphoric acid or processed foods made with phosphates) and too few calcium-rich foods can weaken bones.

Some studies suggest that too much dietary fructose (from high-fructose corn syrup and other sources) can lead to greater excretion of phosphorus and lower levels in the body, especially if magnesium intake is also low.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a nucleic acid that carries genetic information; certain part s of DNA – genes – act as a set of instructions for creating body proteins.

Ribonucleic acid (RNA) is a nucleic acid that plays an important role in the creation of body proteins and in determining how genes (parts of DNA) are expressed in the body.

Phospholipids are substances that carry fats in the blood and bring nutrients in and out of body cells.


Magnesium is a major mineral involved in hundreds of important chemical reactions in the body. More than half of the body’s magnesium is stored in bones. It also helps create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the main source of fuel for cells to rely on to create molecules, contract muscles, and carry substances around the body. Magnesium can also help lower blood pressure.

Magnesium is found abundantly in whole grains and beans. Green vegetables, nuts and seeds, milk, and some fish also contain magnesium.

Deficiencies in magnesium can occur if you don’t consume enough magnesium-rich foods (and many Americans don’t) or foods high in potassium or phosphorus. Hypomagnesemia can be seen in those with kidney disease, those with alcoholism, or those who take certain diuretic medications. Prolonged diarrhea can also put someone at risk for a deficiency. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include weakness, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, muscle cramps, irritability, and confusion.

Too little dietary magnesium can also play a role in the development of diabetes and colon cancer. Too much dietary magnesium, especially from supplements (including laxatives and antacids that often contain magnesium) can cause diarrhea, nausea, muscle weakness, confusion, irregular heartbeat, and low blood pressure. Hypermagnesemia seldom occurs in those who don’t have kidney disease.

Hypomagnesemia is an abnormally low level of magnesium in the blood.

Hypermagnesemia is an abnormally high level of magnesium in the blood.

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