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Biology

Phosphorus: A vital mineral we never think of

I’ve never given much thought to phosphorus. It isn’t one of the minerals that we are told to supplement. The reason is that most of us get enough phosphorus through our diets already. No supplement needed. And too much phosphorus can have negative consequences. High phosphorus levels are linked with cardiovascular disease and long term mortality (van Kuijk, et al. 2010). The other issue is that phosphorus and calcium have a balance point. If you have too much phosphorus compared to your calcium it can cause issues with maintaining proper bone density potentially leading to osteoporosis (Calvo, 1994).

So, presumably I don’t think about it because we don’t hear about it. But it is required for normal body processes including filtering wastes in the kidney, building bones and teeth, storing and using energy, reducing muscle pain after workouts, growing, maintaining, and repairing all tissues and cells, and the production of DNA and RNA. Yes the P in ATP (the primary energy currency in your body), and in the backbone of both DNA and RNA, it stands for phosphate, but that isn’t phosphorus. I say this because my students often only remember it as P without really connecting it with phosphorus.

Phosphorus and oxygen bind to form phosphate. So without phosphorus we don’t have any of the things above. I just find it interesting to consider how many things we never think about that we wouldn’t live without. I wonder how many of the specialty diets actually consider the many different nutrients that we depend on?

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About Peyto

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities. Peyto is a reference to Bill Peyto who was an outfitter, trapper, and eventually a park warden in Banff National Park. Peyto Lake and Peyto Glacier are both named after him. He is also a distant relative of mine.

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