Management of natural and added dietary phosphorus burden in kidney disease

Semin Nephrol. 2013 Mar;33(2):180-90. doi: 10.1016/j.semnephrol.2012.12.018.


Phosphorus retention occurs from higher dietary phosphorus intake relative to its renal excretion or dialysis removal. In the gastrointestinal tract the naturally existing organic phosphorus is only partially (∼60%) absorbable; however, this absorption varies widely and is lower for plant-based phosphorus including phytate (<40%) and higher for foods enhanced with inorganic phosphorus-containing preservatives (>80%). The latter phosphorus often remains unrecognized by patients and health care professionals, even though it is widely used in contemporary diets, in particular, low-cost foods. In a nonenhanced mixed diet, digestible phosphorus correlates closely with total protein content, making protein-rich foods a main source of natural phosphorus. Phosphorus burden is limited more appropriately in predialysis patients who are on a low-protein diet (∼0.6 g/kg/d), whereas dialysis patients who require higher protein intake (∼1.2 g/kg/d) are subject to a higher dietary phosphorus load. An effective and patient-friendly approach to reduce phosphorus intake without depriving patients of adequate proteins is to educate patients to avoid foods with high phosphorus relative to protein such as egg yolk and those with high amounts of phosphorus-based preservatives such as certain soft drinks and enhanced cheese and meat. Phosphorus rich foods should be prepared by boiling, which reduces phosphorus as well as sodium and potassium content, or by other types of cooking-induced demineralization. The dose of phosphorus-binding therapy should be adjusted separately for the amount and absorbability of phosphorus in each meal. Dietician counseling to address the emerging aspects of dietary phosphorus management is instrumental for achieving a reduction of phosphorus load.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Diet Therapy
  • Food Preservatives / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hyperphosphatemia / etiology
  • Hyperphosphatemia / metabolism*
  • Hyperphosphatemia / therapy
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Phosphates / metabolism*
  • Phosphorus Metabolism Disorders / etiology
  • Phosphorus Metabolism Disorders / metabolism
  • Phosphorus Metabolism Disorders / therapy
  • Phosphorus, Dietary / metabolism*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / complications*


  • Chelating Agents
  • Food Preservatives
  • Phosphates
  • Phosphorus, Dietary