The mineral phosphorus is an essential part of the diet. In the human body, it is almost always found in an oxidized form known as phosphate. Bone contains the bulk of the body's phosphate. However, innumerable other substances in the body, such as cell membranes, contain phosphate as part of their structure. In addition, phosphate plays a central role in the fundament energy-producing processes of all life. Indeed, some biochemists believe that phosphate-based reactions in volcanic vents may have occurred before life itself developed, later to be incorporated into the first living cells.

In general, most people consume more than enough phosphorus in the diet.3 It is present in high quantities in milk, other protein sources and grains. Additionally, it is added to many beverages and packaged foods.

Phosphorus deficiency may develop in certain circumstances, however. People with severe alcoholism may become deficient in phosphorus as well as other basic nutrients; deficiency may also occur in people with kidney failure, parathyroid dysfunction or poorly controlled diabetes.4