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Phosphate Vs Phosphorus: What Is The Difference?

Phosphate Vs Phosphorus: What Is The Difference?

Derivatives from Latin words can often be confusing due to their resemblance with other similar expressions. The exact pronunciation, letters, and symbols are a common concern nowadays with English words where our research and investigation can lead us through a path of chaos. Nevertheless, the same study and analysis can influence our culture and knowledge to know more about similar concepts, clarify and give us the idea of the meaning of similar words such as Phosphorus and Phosphate.

The difference between these terms is that Phosphorus is a non-metal element of the periodic system, while Phosphate is a chemical obtained from Phosphoric Acid. In the body, Phosphorus “forms” itself into Phosphate when it is combined with Oxygen.

People often confuse these terms but do not feel bad if you have mistakenly tangled them. You can say they’re correlatives, so it’s popular to think they’re the same.

Other terms we tend to confuse are:

“Sodium Phosphate” and Phosphate.

Sodium Phosphate is a combination of salts (Sodium) and Phosphate, and it is often used to conserve canned products and some processed meats. We kindly invite you to read our article to know more about these terms.

phosphates sign medical professional

What Is Phosphate?

Phosphate is derivative of Phosphorus, and we can say any salt of a Phosphorus oxoacid is a Phosphate. Its chemical formula is PO4, and together with Nitrogen and Potassium are the most common fertilizers.

What Is Phosphorus?

Phosphorus is an element of the periodic system that symbolizes P. It was named after the Latin word “Lucifer,” which means “Light carrier” or “morning star,” referring to the Planet Venus due to its glowing look when it was first discovered in 1669.

Where Can I Find Phosphorus?

This element can be located on the Earth’s crust on phosphate mines and protein-rich foods such as meats, fish, dairy products, etc.

The largest producer of this element is Morocco, but the largest mine can be found in Florida.

Since this element can help reduce ephedrine to methamphetamine, in 2001, The United States Drug and Enforcement Administration (DEA) named red and white Phosphorus as List 1 Precursor Chemicals (List of chemicals used to manufacture illicit drugs), making it subject to regulatory control.

Form And Type

The form and type of the Phosphate will depend on the number of Phosphoric atoms. For example, they can vary from Orthophosphates, Pyrophosphates, Tripolyphosphates, and Polyphosphates.


The form and type of the Phosphorus are defined as “White Phosphorus,” which can appear as molecules, glow in the dark, and is very poisonous, causing even a lethal reaction with a dose above 50 mg.

“Red Phosphorus” has a crystal appearance and can be found on the side of matchboxes.

How Can I Get Phosphate And Phosphorus In My Organism?

You can get plenty of Phosphate and Phosphorus in your body by eating bread, rice, pasta, dairy food, meats, fish, beans, etc.

Now we will provide you a list of foods that are high in Phosphate and Phosphorus:

  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Seafood such as Octopus, Sardines, Clams, Crab, Salmon, etc., are very high on Phosphorus.
  • Cheese, Milk, Yogurt.
  • Almond, Pistachios, Pine Nuts.
  • Beans and Lentils.
  • Soy

Food That Contains Phosphate:

Although Phosphate can be found in Phosphorus, there are other types of foods where you can find it. These are:

  • Bread and Cereals
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Flour
  • Dairy Products
  • Meats

Even though it can be found on some healthy foods, it is good to know other foods that contain Phosphorus but need to be limited or entirely avoided depending on your health.

These products are:

  • Beer
  • Dark Colas
  • Ice Cream
  • Gelato
  • Pizza
  • Chocolate candies
  • Most processed foods

This list is basically made of the things we like and enjoy the most when we eat them, but we need to be careful about the food we ingest daily.

Why Are They Necessary In Our Body?

Phosphate and Phosphorus are necessary for bones and teeth to grow, and the cells use them to provide elements to DNA, cells for energy, and cell membranes.

How Are Phosphate And Phosphorus Measured In Our Body?

The level of high or low Phosphate and Phosphorus in our body is measured through a blood test.

What Are The Consequences Of High Phosphate And Phosphorus In Our Body?

Some experts state that both high or low amounts of Phosphate and Phosphorus in our body can cause heart diseases.

phosphorus chemical substance

What Are The Symptoms Of High Phosphate And Phosphorus?

A high amount of Phosphate on the body is mostly seen by people with Kidney infections. Even dialysis is not very effective in normalizing the amount of Phosphate. This state is called Hyperphosphatemia and causes the body to:

  • Crush injuries
  • Low levels of the parathyroid hormone
  • Diabetic issues, etc.

Having a high amount of Phosphorus in your body can harm it badly. It causes your bones to waste calcium and send them to stay in your heart, eyes, lungs, etc.

These symptoms are treated with a diet low on Phosphate and with drugs to increase phosphate excretion.

What Are The Symptoms Of Low Phosphate And Phosphorus?

When the body phosphate is too low, it is called Hypophosphatemia, and it can be chronic or acute.

It could be Acute when a person is recovering from an injury or a sickness. The body uses a high amount of Phosphate located in the blood to recover.

These illnesses and injuries can go from:

  • Diabetes Ketoacidosis
  • Severe Burns
  • Alcoholism
  • Undernutrition

There are some cases of a severe drop of Phosphate causing a heart attack or even death.

It is Chronic when the level of Phosphate goes down with time instead of a sudden drop and can be caused by:

  • Using too many diuretics to get rid of urine and salt from the body.
  • The use of antacids for an extended period can also lower the body’s Phosphate with time.
  • Also, some drugs used to treat Asthma can be harmful to the Phosphate level.

The treatment is to take a good amount of Phosphate on some foods and drugs.

Are There Medications And Treatments For Our Phosphorus Control?

Yes, proper medications can come on Foods, pills, liquids, or powders, but your doctor or dietitian should always suggest them.

Some curious data about Phosphorus is that the white Phosphorus can glow in the dark, causing algae on rivers and lakes to bloom using all the dissolved Oxygen. It causes the algae and even fishes to die.

Another curious detail about Phosphorus is that it was known as the devil’s element since its name is “Lucifer,” this element was also the 13th element to be discovered and is also called this way due to its tendency to burst into flames easily.

Some people also believe that Phosphate consumption may be harmful to the human body. However, the Food and Drug Administration classified it as a safe product to consume.

Final Thoughts

Almost all the foods and medicine we utilize can cause a proper state in our health and body. However, we should always measure and control the ingredients that can harm us, even when relevant institutions like the FDA have said it may not be dangerous for us. This is the case when we talk about elements such as Phosphorus and Phosphate in our body. It may be safe depending on the level it could have in our blood, but it could also affect our organism in a bad way and, in some cases, even cause death. That’s why we always should take our doctors and dietitian’s advice to live longer and have decent health.