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Overview of Phosphate's Role in the Body

By James L. Lewis, III, MD, Attending Physician, Brookwood Baptist Health and Saint Vincent’s Ascension Health, Birmingham

Phosphorus is an element that plays an important role in the body. In the body, almost all phosphorus is combined with oxygen, forming phosphate. Phosphate is one of the body's electrolytes, which are minerals that carry an electric charge when dissolved in body fluids such as blood, but the majority of phosphate in the body is uncharged. Bone contains about 85% of the body’s phosphate. The rest is located primarily inside cells, where it is involved in energy production.

Phosphate is necessary for the formation of bone and teeth. Phosphate is also used as a building block for several important substances, including those used by the cell for energy, cell membranes, and DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid).

The body obtains phosphate from foods and excretes it in urine and sometimes stool. How much phosphate is in stool varies, depending on how much is not absorbed from food. Foods that are high in phosphate include milk, egg yolks, chocolate, and soft drinks.

The level of phosphate in the blood may be