In many respects, phosphorus is an amazing mineral. Second only to calcium, it’s found in abundance in the human body, not only in bones and teeth, but in every single cell. Phosphorus and calcium combined together (calcium phosphate) give our bones that nice rigid structure that provides strength to our bones. It also helps to turn food from raw material into energy which promotes a healthy metabolism.
Luckily for us, phosphorus is one of those minerals that is plentiful in our natural diet and found in a variety of foods such as dairy products, cereals and other grains, nuts, meat, fish, eggs, and legumes. It’s so abundant in our diet that it’s rare to find someone who’s deficient in phosphorus unless there is a secondary contributory illness (such as liver disease, renal failure, starvation, diabetics with ketoacidosis, or alcoholism) causing the deficiency. It almost sounds to good to be true doesn’t it? After all, how many times do you find a mineral that is plentiful in our diet, good for us, and for which there is almost no deficiency? Can there be too much of a good thing when it comes to phosphorus? Unfortunately, the answer may be yes.
In a study conducted at Providence Medical Research Center in Spokane, WA, researchers found a link between coronary artery calcification (CAC) and increased levels of blood phosphorus. CAC is an early indicator that atherosclerosis may be developing. Atherosclerosis is known to be a contributing risk factor in heart attack and other heart related events.
The study consisted of 900 participants, all of whom were also participants in the Spokane Heart Study. Twenty-eight percent of the participants were diagnosed with CAC at the beginning of the study. At the six-year mark of the study, the levels of CAC increased in the participants who were diagnosed at the beginning of the study. In addition, another 33 percent of study participants developed CAC during the ensuing six-year time period.
Researchers found a direct link between the levels of phosphorus and increases in CAC levels. Higher levels of phosphorus, even in small amounts, increased the risk of developing CAC.