It is into this inorganic phosphate compartment that phosphate is inserted upon absorption from the diet and resorption from bone and from this compartment that most urinary phosphorus and hydroxyapatite mineral phosphorus are derived. This compartment is also the primary source from which the cells of all tissues derive both structural and high-energy phosphate.
Structurally, phosphorus occurs as phospholipids, which are a major component of most biological membranes, and as nucleotides and nucleic acids. The functional roles include: (1) the buffering of acid or alkali excesses, hence helping to maintain normal pH; (2) the temporary storage and transfer of the energy derived from metabolic fuels; and (3) by phosphorylation, the activation of many catalytic proteins. Since phosphate is not irreversibly consumed in these processes and can be recycled indefinitely, the actual function of dietary phosphorus is first to support tissue growth (either during individual development or through pregnancy and lactation) and, second, to replace excretory and dermal losses. In both processes it is necessary to maintain a normal level of Pi in the extracellular fluid (ECF), which would otherwise be depleted of its phosphorus by growth and excretion.
Food phosphorus is a mixture of inorganic and organic forms. Intestinal phosphatases hydrolyze the organic forms contained in ingested protoplasm, and thus most phosphorus absorption occurs as inorganic phosphate. On a mixed diet, net absorption of total phosphorus in various reports ranges from 55 to 70 percent in adults (Lemann, 1996; Nordin, 1989; Stanbury, 1971) and from 65 to 90 percent in infants and children (Wilkinson, 1976; Ziegler and Fomon, 1983). There is no evidence that this absorption efficiency varies with dietary intake. In the data from both Stanbury (1971) and Lemann (1996), the intercept of the regression of adult fecal phosphorus on dietary phosphorus is not significantly different from zero, and the relationship is linear out to intakes of at least 3.1 g (100 mmol)/day. This means that there is no apparent adaptive mechanism that improves phosphorus absorption at low intakes. This is in sharp contrast to calcium, for which absorption efficiency increases as dietary intake decreases (Heaney et al., 1990b) and for which adaptive mechanisms exist that improve absorption still further at habitual low intakes (Heaney et al., 1989).
A portion of phosphorus absorption is by way of a saturable, active transport facilitated by 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D (1,25(OH)2D) (Chen et al., 1974; Cramer, 1961). However, the fact that fractional