Lack of phosphorus: Symptoms & treatments

[Article updated on 19/09/2023]

Phosphorus deficiency is observed in malnourished children and in a very few adults. It remains rather rare, but it is important to remain vigilant about its symptoms. These include loss of appetite, numbness or even fatigue. I suggest you discover the importance of mineral salt, foods rich in it and solutions in the event of a deficiency.

Before reading on

I’m not an expert in this field, but I am passionate about nutrition and health.

The articles you’ll find on my site are the result of in-depth research that I’d like to share with you. However, I would like to stress that I am not a health professional and that my advice should in no way replace that of a qualified physician. I’m here to guide you, but it’s important that you consult a professional for specific questions or medical concerns. Your well-being is important. So be sure to consult the appropriate experts and take the best possible care of yourself.

The importance of phosphorus

Description of phosphorus

Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral salt in the human body, after calcium. It has all its importance in the body, and particularly in cellular life. It is mainly located in teeth and bones.

Everything you need to know about phosphorus deficiency.
Phosphorus is the second most abundant mineral salt in the human body, after calcium.

Mineral salt is also found, in small quantities, in the brain and muscle tissues. The body is unable to synthesize phosphorus. It is therefore essential to obtain it in foods. Good news, many foods contain it.

Roles of phosphorus

Phosphorus plays an important role in human health, as I previously told you. Now, I will go into more detail citing its benefits on the body:

  • It ensures the smooth running of energy production: phosphorus participates in the assimilation of B vitamins, essential for producing energy. This mechanism is necessary to be in a good mood because it contributes to the formation of neurotransmitters in the brain.
  • It keeps teeth and bones healthy: correct absorption of phosphorus helps ensure bone structure, important for healthy teeth and bones. Combined with calcium, mineral salt fights better against bone fragility affecting the elderly.
  • It regulates acidity in the body: part of the phosphorus becomes phospholipids once in the body. They make up biological membranes, including nucleotides and nucleic acids. The mission of phospholipids is to regulate the acidity level in the body.
  • It improves the assimilation of nutrients: mineral salt plays a role in metabolism. It contributes to the assimilation, production and use of nutrients from food. Also, it participates in the synthesis of amino acids, essential in the production of energy.
  • It contributes to growth: a lack of phosphorus is harmful to the growth of children/adolescents, given its role in the absorption of nutrients. This situation is also dangerous in the production of generic material for pregnant women (DNA, RNA).
  • It is important for the cognitive system: phosphorus is a mineral salt allowing you to stay focused, learn and understand. A deficiency of mineral salt increases the chances of causing neurodegenerative problems, such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Recommended nutritional intake

The recommended dietary intake of phosphorus depends on the age of the consumer.

Here are some clues to help you understand your needs:

  • Children aged 1 to 3 years: it is recommended to take 360 ​​mg/day of phosphorus;
  • Child aged 4 to 6 years: 450 mg/day;
  • Child aged 7 to 9 years: 600 mg/day;
  • Adolescents aged 10 to 14: 830 mg/day;
  • Adolescents aged 15 to 18: 800 mg/day;
  • Adult men and/or women: 700 mg/day;
  • Pregnant women: 800 mg/day;
  • Breastfeeding women: 850 mg/day;
  • Seniors aged 75 and over: 800 mg/day.

Foods rich in phosphorus

Almost all foods contain phosphorus. I am going to give you a list of foods in which mineral salt is present in large quantities.

Note that each value of mineral salt corresponds to 100 g of the food:

  • White ham: 425 mg;
  • Brewer’s yeast: 1,300 mg;
  • Cooked zebu meat: 200 mg;
  • Wheat germ: 1,030 mg;
  • Cooked cod: 240 mg;
  • Cashews, almonds, pistachio, walnuts: between 385 to 460 mg;
  • Brown rice: 235 mg;
  • Plain yogurt, milk, cottage cheese: between 95 to 115 mg;
  • Sesame seed: 605 mg;
  • Beaufort, Emmental, Parmesan: between 625 to 810 mg;
  • Cooked pork, lamb or veal: between 220 to 235 mg;
  • Cooked crab, crab: 345 mg;
  • Goat cheese: 280 mg;
  • Dried fruit muesli: 315 mg;
  • Cooked egg: 200 mg;
  • Cooked lamb liver: 425 mg;
  • Cooked heifer liver: 485 mg;
  • Fourme d’Ambert: 1,040 mg;
  • Salmon or tuna meat: 270 mg.

The effects of phosphorus deficiency

Overview of Phosphorus Deficiency

Hypophosphatemia is the other term used for phosphorus deficiency. The latter occurs when the phosphorus level in the blood is:

  • In children: less than 1.5 and 2 mmol/L;
  • In adults: less than 0.8 to 1.5 mmol/L.


Lack of phosphorus can be caused by an unbalanced diet, but also by diseases preventing the storage and use of mineral salt.

Phosphorus deficiency
LAlcoholic people are more exposed to various nutritional deficiencies.

Here are some common reasons that may cause phosphorus deficiency:

  • Alcoholism: it can be the cause of malnutrition. It is noted that alcoholic people are subject to nutritional deficiencies, causing hypophosphatemia.
  • Malnutrition: an unbalanced diet can lack many mineral salts, in this case phosphorus. Vitamin D deficiency hinders the absorption of phosphorus and calcium.
  • Anorexia: Anorexia sufferers follow a diet to combat the problem. It is important to ensure that foods that are sources of phosphorus are included in the diet to avoid a deficiency of the mineral.
  • Genetics: genetic problems caused by high levels of phosphorus in urine affect phosphorus storage.


Here are the signs that indicate low phosphorus levels:

  • Fatigue ;
  • Breathing difficulties;
  • Fragility of the bone structure;
  • Bone pain;
  • Electrolyte imbalance;
  • Loss of appetite leading to weight loss;
  • Change in behavior (confusion, anxiety and irritability);
  • Numbness and tingling of the limbs;
  • Growth problem.


Severe or prolonged phosphorus deficiency can be dangerous for its victim. The situation can lead to the following complications, especially if the problem is associated with a lack of calcium:

  • Rickets: children are the biggest victims of this disease. It occurs when the individual is deficient in both phosphorus and vitamin D. Spinal pain, stunted growth, and muscle weakness are common symptoms of the condition.
  • Osteomalacia: it affects not only children, but also adults. It results in bone fragility caused by a lack of vitamin D. The disease causes pain in the pelvis, legs and ribs.

The right actions in case of phosphorus deficiency


A doctor is the person capable of diagnosing a phosphorus deficiency. He will subject the patient to a blood or urine test. A problem is detected if the phosphorus level is below 2.5 and 4.5 mg/dl.

Phosphorus deficiency
A doctor must diagnose and confirm a phosphorus deficiency.

The doctor will ask his patient questions relating to the symptoms. Also, he may ask him to submit his family medical history. The person concerned will provide details about their lifestyle and eating habits. The doctor will ask the patient to perform a physical examination before prescribing treatment or other tests.


A doctor remains the right person to help you overcome hypophosphatemia. While waiting to make an appointment, decide to rebalance your diet. Favor foods that are sources of phosphorus, trying to respect the recommended nutritional reference to avoid an overdose. For example, eat dairy products regularly. You can also turn to phosphorus supplements. Consider taking vitamin D if there is a deficiency at this level. It is recommended to stop taking a medication causing phosphorus deficiency. Administration of the mineral intravenously is possible if the deficiency is severe.