Everything You Need to Know About Phosphoric Acid


The mention of phosphoric acid, or any other acid for that matter, might send chills down your spine. We have consumed phosphoric acid from time to time, some of us consume even more than they need. Think about the chemical use of phosphoric acid for a moment. It’s used as an industrial and dental etchant, a rust inhibitor, an ingredient in home cleaning products, and a fertilizer feedstock. This might have you worried. However, dietary phosphoric acid is not the same as the phosphoric acid that is used in industrial processes, at least not the chemical composition.

Phosphoric acid is an odorless, clear substance that is used as an additive in different foods, especially colas.

Most people already know about the consequences of consuming soda or diet soda. However, very few know about the ingredient known as H3P04, the chemical formula for phosphoric acid, also known as orthophosphoric acid.

Phosphoric acid is either available as a transparent crystalline solid or a liquid. The crystalline solid is corrosive both to metals and human tissue. Manufacturers who produce foods and beverages prefer phosphoric acid because it is affordable, effective as a preservative, and adds flavor to their products.

The FDA allows manufacturers to use phosphoric acid in the production process for cheese and dairy products so that they can adjust the pH levels.

When you go shopping for food items, the following are some of the names that phosphoric acid can be identified by, that you should be keen to notice:

  • Triphosphoric acid
  • Pyrophosphoric acid
  • Phosphoric (V) acid
  • Orthophosphoric acid
  • E338
  • o-Phosphoric acid
  • Hydrogen phosphate

If we imagine for a moment, consuming a product that is used to remove rust from metals, it is shuddering to imagine the kind of damage that it can do to your body tissues.

Low Bone Density. Studies into the consumption of phosphoric acid have revealed an active role in lowering our bone density. In 2006, a study was published with a hypothesis that consuming colas that contain phosphoric acid and caffeine decreases the bone mineral density (BMD).

During this study, BMD measurements were taken in the hips and spines of more than 1100 men and 1400 women. In the ladies, the study revealed that consuming cola drastically reduced the BMD in the hips, but not in their spine. Generally, those who drank cola daily had a 3.7% lower BMD at the femoral neck and 5.4% lower at Ward’s area, than those who only had one or no serving of cola a month. The femoral neck is the bone bridge that connects the top of the femur and the ball of the hips.

The same results were reciprocated in those who consumed diet cola. The degeneration was similar in decaffeinated soda, though weaker. The study did not, however, indicate any relationship between BMD and consumption of non-cola carbonated beverages. As a result, this study concluded that consumption of cola is highly linked to low bone mineral density particularly in women.

Given that non-cola beverages did not show any negative impact on the bone density, and that decaffeinated cola also led to a deterioration of the BMD, the conclusion of the study was that phosphoric acid has dire effects on the bone health.

Kidney Problems. There are a lot of urinary problems that are often associated with taking beverages that are rich in phosphoric acid, including the formation of kidney stones and chronic kidney disease. A healthy kidney makes sure the body effectively excretes excess phosphorus. Phosphorus is available in so many of the foods that we eat. Because of this reason, you can barely avoid it. Phosphorus, however, becomes a problem when you start consuming too much of it, that the body cannot excrete all the excess. The phosphorous content available in processed food and colas can overload the body, giving us a lot of health problems.

In 2007, a study published in the Epidemiology Journal studied the diet traits of 465 people who had chronic kidney disease and 467 healthy persons. The study revealed that consuming more than 2 colas a day, whether diet cola or regular, increased the risk of developing chronic kidney disease two times over.

Nutrient Deterioration. It is easy to meet your normal phosphorus requirements daily through your diet, especially if your diet is made up of foods that are rich in phosphorus. In fact, it is easier to have excess phosphorus than a deficiency, unless under special circumstances. This is where we have a problem, consuming products that have what scientists refer to as hidden phosphorus – and phosphoric acid is one of the main sources of this.

Excess phosphorus in the body decreases the calcium levels. Other than that, you also risk a phosphorus overload, which impairs the ability of your body to use important minerals and nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and iron. Nutritionists advise that a deficiency in any of these nutrients can lead to lots of health problems.

Acidity in the Body. The role of phosphoric acid in the food production and manufacturing process is simply to acidify beverages and the foods it is used in. Is it bad for your body? There are healthy acids, like Omega-3 fatty acids, but phosphoric acid is nowhere close to a healthy acid. This is the component that gives cola its acidity. In fact, according to experts from the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine, three of the most acidic soft drinks available in the market at the moment are all colas.

The pH of a Coke ranges between 2.5 and 4.2. Coke Classic is the most acidic of the lot with a pH of 2.5. Given this level of acidity, it is wise for you to take a step back and reconsider your consumption of cola.

Tissue Damages. In industrial circles, phosphoric acid is used to remove rust from metals. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that it is dangerous to your body tissue. Other than removing rust, it is also used in refining, cleaning metal and manufacturing fertilizer.

Phosphoric acid is also found in detergents and disinfectants. This is, therefore, a strong acid, and is used in industrial products that can easily cause chemical burns. The surprising thing about phosphoric acid is the fact that given how dangerous it is, phosphoric acid is still used in products that we consume, increasing the risk to our internal organs.

Exposure to phosphoric acid causes irritation to the throat, nose, and lungs, and is indicated by coughing or wheezing. This is a corrosive substance that can also irritate and burn the skin and eyes.

According to the CDC, phosphoric acid can damage the body if you inhale it, or if it comes into contact with your skin or eyes. If and when swallowed, the reaction can be dangerous.

Phosphoric Acid Alternatives

Considering that beverages, especially cola sodas are the main source of phosphoric acid in our daily food plans, it is wise to look into better options that you can use, instead of consuming these soft drinks.

To get your daily fix of beverages, you should consider sparkling mineral water. Sparkling mineral water provides all the carbonation you need, without poisoning your body with phosphoric acid. Besides, sparkling mineral water also includes useful minerals without overloading your body with sugar.

You can also prepare your own juice recipes. Some of the ingredients that you should include in your recipe are apple cider vinegar and ginger. These ingredients help your body by reducing the inflammation. They are refreshing, easy to prepare and loaded with lots of healthy nutrients and minerals.

If you insist on drinking soda, you can consider Kombucha. This is a good way to get the fizzy bubbles often available in soda, just that in Kombucha, they are as a result of natural fermentation. Other than the fizzy bubbles, Kombucha is also loaded with lots of enzymes, B vitamins, and probiotics. You might also want to start drinking coconut water, which is one of the best options you can choose over soda.

Dangers of Consuming Phosphoric Acid

The possibility of consuming too much phosphorus is higher than a deficiency. This is because it is found in so many foods that we eat today as an additive. Because of this reason, we consume more than we probably need in our food.

Having seen the important role that phosphorus plays in the body, our bodies need it. However, consuming too much of it can cause a lot of problems. According to studies, consuming too much phosphorus can leave you vulnerable to heart disease or osteoporosis. While calcium and phosphorus work in tandem to form strong and healthy bones and teeth, they must be in proportionate quantities to be effective.

An imbalance would be unhealthy because the amount of calcium in the body decreases, so you experience bone loss in the process. The body draws calcium from the bones into the blood in order to try and restore balance. This might result in calcification of important organs, hence increasing your risk of heart problems. Other than that, this imbalance also affects the ability of your body to use other important minerals like magnesium, zinc, and iron. Contact with phosphoric acid as a chemical substance is also dangerous because the fumes can irritate your respiratory system, eyes, and skin. Does decaffeinated coffee cause heartburn, read it here.

Moderate Consumption of Phosphoric Acid

For normal body function, you need 700 mg of phosphorous in your meal daily. You can get this from your normal sources of food. Anything that is high in protein like fish, chicken, eggs, beans, and meat will often have a high content of phosphorus. This also means you have a high likelihood of getting more phosphoric acid from processed food and soda you drink with or after your meal than your body needs.

Other than beer, dark-colored sodas often contain a lot of phosphoric acids. Soda has become a normal part of our diets, with a bottle containing around 500 mg of phosphoric acid. Therefore, some people consume close to 4,000 mg a day, being at a higher risk of some of the negative health concerns linked to phosphoric acid.

People who have kidney problems should not have more than 1,000 mg of phosphorous a day. One of the roles of the kidney is to help the body get rid of excess phosphorous. However, too much of it will build up in the blood if the kidney is not working properly.

How Phosphoric Acid Affects Your Teeth

Dentists often advise against the consumption of sugary stuff. Other than that, you also need to be wary of phosphoric acid, given the damage that it can do to your teeth. Phosphoric acid is actually one of the most commonly used ingredients in the food additives industry. It is a highly acidic product, and because of this, it will erode the enamel, making your teeth vulnerable to easy decay. Pure water has a pH of 7.00. The human mouth has a pH of between 6.7 and 7.00. Phosphoric acid, on the other hand, has a pH between 2.47 and 3.35.

The presence of acidic content in your mouth softens and dissolves the enamel. This is what initiates tooth decay. A soft enamel also encourages the formation of plaque, which further erodes the enamel. If the deterioration continues, the damage spreads into the dentin, and you end up with sensitive teeth, and constant toothaches. The only way out for you at this point would be root canal surgery.

In order to reduce the impact that phosphoric acid has on your teeth, you can reconsider your consumption of foods that contain this ingredient, or how you consume them. Take soda, for example. Using a straw when drinking soda reduces the contact it has with your teeth. Immediately you are done with the drink, rinse your mouth with clear water. This will reduce your intake of soda in a day. If you have to take them, consume beverages that contain phosphoric acid only at mealtimes. You can also try and drink your soda quickly instead of taking your time with it. This is to reduce the exposure your teeth have to phosphoric acid.

While you can take precautions to keep your teeth safe from phosphoric acid in beverages, there are other reasons why you might need to stay away from these drinks altogether. These drinks contain caffeine, additive dye and large amounts of sugar which give you empty calories without any nutritional benefit.

Sugar-free sodas might also have caffeine, so they can be mildly addictive. Other than that, sodas have been linked to the formation of kidney stones, weight gain, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. Instead of soda, you can choose drinks that do not contain phosphoric acid such as fruit juice and milk, which do not just protect you from damage by phosphoric acid, but also provide more minerals and vitamins.

Foods That Contain Phosphoric Acid

The following is a list of the recommended daily consumption limit of phosphorus, irrespective of whether you are male or female.

  • Children 1 – 3 years 460
  • Children 4 – 8 years 500
  • Children 9 – 13 years 1,250
  • Adolescents 14 – 18 years 1,250
  • Adults older than 19 years 700

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers do not need to take additional phosphorus. Anyone who has a kidney disease should consume less phosphorus. Women who have gone through menopause might need more phosphorus, especially if they have been using calcium supplements.

How often do you look at the list of ingredients when drinking your soda? Most people do not. Phosphoric acid is one of the ingredients used not just in soda, but a lot of processed foods. It is used to maintain freshness and add flavor.

Phosphoric acid is made from phosphorus, a mineral that occurs naturally in the body. Together with calcium, they work together to strengthen your bones and teeth. It also helps the body use and store energy, while supporting kidney function. After a hard day working out at the gym, it also helps in muscle recovery. It is also important in the production of RNA and DNA, the genetic codes that make us who we are, so it does play an important role in growth. Before being converted into phosphoric acid, phosphorus is chemically converted into phosphorus pentoxide in the manufacturing process.

Phosphoric acid is an additive that is common in a lot of foods. It is an odorless, colorless substance that is also used in detergents, fertilizers, beverages, and foods. In the food industry, it is used as a preservative, and to give a sharp flavor to the foods that it is used in. That being said, however, phosphoric acid is also known to have a negative impact on bone mineral density. The following are some of the food items that contain phosphoric acid, that you need to know about:

Dairy Products

Most dairy products contain phosphoric acid, used to modify the proteins, and at the same time change the pH value of the dairy products so that the product that ends up in the market is of a high quality. This also helps to keep the products on the shelf for a longer time. Some of the other dairy products that contain phosphoric acid include buttermilk, non-diary coffee creamers, cottage cheese and milk.

Dairy foods are considered a better source of phosphorus because they have a good calcium-phosphorus balance. You can get up to 40% of the daily requirement from 150 grams of low-fat plain yogurt. A 200 ml glass of milk will provide more than 50% of the amount of phosphorus a 6-year-old needs a day or 36% of what you need daily as an adult.

The content of phosphorus in cheese varies from one type to the other, ranging from 100 mg to 1,000 mg in each serving. The quantity will depend on the type of cheese and the processing standards. Paneer, ricotta, hard cheese and cream cheese have the highest amount of phosphorus as compared to other types of cheese.

That being said, however, you should try and stay away from processed cheese because they contain inorganic phosphorus, which when absorbed into the intestine, easily leads to the accumulation of phosphorus in the blood.

Soft Drinks

Soft drinks are the most obvious foods that contain phosphoric acid, especially since they have been adversely mentioned all over the internet, and in nutritional circles. The biting taste that is associated with soft drinks is as a result of phosphoric acid, especially in cola sodas. Other than the colas, a lot of drinks contain phosphoric acid, including punches, bottled tea, and sports drinks. Most of the fruit flavored beverages also contain phosphoric acid.

Scientists have since proven that phosphoric acid found in colas can be linked to a lower bone mineral density in women. Therefore, phosphoric acid does have a negative impact on your bone health.

Baking Soda

To produce baking powder, phosphoric acid is mixed with baking soda. This is a leavening agent that is used in so many baked products. If you consume any baked item that is leavened with baking powder instead of yeast, you are consuming phosphates. This should also be mentioned in the list of ingredients on the food pack.

Processed Foods

A lot of processed foods contain phosphoric acid, including processed meat, bottled beverages, flavored water, and cereal bars. In order to enhance the flavor and moisture, a lot of poultry and meat products are often infused with salt solutions, which contain phosphate salts or phosphoric acid. You can find out the specific phosphate salt in the list of ingredients.


Eggs are a healthy source of phosphorus needed in the body. However, each part of the egg contains a different amount of phosphorus. The whole egg has 86 mg of phosphorus. The egg white contains 5 mg of phosphorus. Therefore, the egg yolk contains most of the phosphorus you get from an egg.

Red Meat

Red meat like veal and beef are considered some of the richest food in terms of phosphorus content. Most red meats contain between 10 and 20 times the amount of phosphorus than calcium. Consuming a lot of red meat, therefore, is one of the reasons why you might develop hyperphosphatemia, as a result of the calcium-phosphorus imbalance.


Yeast might not be commonly used as food, but we consume bread that is made from yeast, thereby adding phosphorus to the body. Yeast is actually a food product that has a lot of phosphorus. Other than that, however, it also contains other minerals, amino acids, chromium and B vitamins.


Poultry might not have as much phosphorus as fatty fish and red meat. In some cases, you can find poultry foods that have been infused with phosphate additives, especially to prolong their shelf life. This increases the phosphorus content in them. Unless you are specifically required to consume more phosphorus, you should always look for products that do not contain these additives whenever you are shopping for your food.

Lentils and Beans

Compared to beef and chicken, lentils and beans contain a larger amount of phosphorus. However, the best source for your body is animal proteins. Animal protein foods have a better availability of phosphorus since the body absorbs between 40% and 60% of phosphorus in animal foods compared to the 10% to 30% in plant foods.


Chocolate contains phosphorus, though the amount depends on the type of chocolate you use. You can get up to 308 mg of phosphorus from 100 grams of dark chocolate, and only 176 mg of phosphorus from 100 grams of white chocolate. Since milk is rich in phosphorus, milk chocolates do have a large amount of phosphorus.

Shell Fish and Fatty Fish

Some of the best sources of phosphorus include shellfish like mollusks and clams. You can get up to 282 mg of phosphorus from a 100 gram serving of salmon, and up to 43% of the recommended daily value from 100 grams of cooked scallops.

The body absorbs 100% of the inorganic phosphorus that is found in carbonated drinks, just as it does with processed cheese. As a result, you should be careful about the processed foods and carbonated drinks that you consume daily so that you do not distort the calcium-phosphorus balance in the body.

A high phosphorus-calcium ratio increases the secretion of parathyroid hormones, which triggers calcium loss in the body. Diet sodas are no better either because they are basically made of water, artificial sweeteners, and chemicals, including phosphoric acid.

Risk of Phosphorus Deficiency

Given the amount of phosphorus that we consume on a daily basis and the ease with which we can access it, phosphorus deficiency is a rare occurrence. That being said, there are people who still suffer a deficiency in phosphorus for one reason or the other.

The following are some instances where you might be at risk:

Alcoholics. Alcohol draws phosphorus from the bones, in the process of lowering your overall level

Salt Substitutes. If, for some reason you have to use salt substitutes, you might have a phosphorus deficiency because the substitutes have potassium, which reduces the level of phosphorus over time.

Athletes. The bodies of long-distance athletes lose electrolytes through sweat. As a result, they lose magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and sodium, which need to be replenished often.

Dehydration. Any reason that might cause dehydration will lead to a significant drop in potassium levels, sodium, magnesium, and potassium. This can include diarrhea and consumption of excess alcohol.

Antacids. Antacids that contain magnesium, calcium, and aluminum distorts the absorption of phosphorus in the digestive tract.

Corticosteroids. If you are using corticosteroids like prednisone, your body excretes a lot of phosphorus through urine.

Anticonvulsants. These products often create enzymes which affect the absorption of phosphorus, thereby lowering the level of phosphorus in your body.

Insulin. In high doses, insulin can lower your body’s rate of phosphorus absorption

Bile Acid Sequestrants. These are products that are used to reduce your cholesterol level. They can also prevent the absorption of phosphorus into the bloodstream.

  • Using Non-steroid Anti-inflammatory Drugs
  • Using Blood Thinners
  • Using Cardiac Glycosides
  • Using Immune Suppressants
  • Using ACE Inhibitors for Blood Pressure

Having looked at some of the benefits and risks of having phosphorus in the body, a deficiency of phosphorus, though rare, might lead to rickets, anemia, low appetite, painful muscles, a weak immune system, and numbness. Considering that phosphorus is present in most of the foods we eat, a deficiency can be rare.

Scientists suggest that the body easily absorbs phosphorus from meat products than plants, though the amount that is absorbed differs from one person to the other. The following is a breakdown of some of the foods that contain a lot of phosphorus, in consideration of their common serving size. In case you have kidney disease, you should be making plans to eat food that is low in phosphorus.

Calcium phosphate makes up our bones. Therefore, to support bone maintenance and development, phosphorus is very important. Other than that, it has other functions, including regulation of the pH levels in the body, regulating the activity of proteins and enzymes, and transporting energy needed for cellular activities.

Excess phosphorus is removed from the body through the kidneys, while the required amount of dietary phosphorus is absorbed in the small intestine. Calcium and phosphorus are regulated by the parathyroid hormone. Vitamin D is also important in regulating the amount of phosphorus and calcium in the body.


Phosphoric acid is available in a lot of processed foods. Unfortunately, these foods form the basic foundation of most of our meal plans each day. To be on the safe side, always read the food labels carefully. This will help you know what you are feeding your family. Kidney problems are currently on the rise in so many countries in the world. Lots of young people are suffering from kidney stones, and all this is because of the amount of phosphoric acid that they consume through unhealthy eating plans.

Other than kidney stones and other kidney problems, you end up being weak, as a result of fragile bone health. The best thing you should do is start looking into healthier alternatives to your beverages and make this a routine. You will be safe and avoid unnecessary health problems.

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