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A naturally-occurring mineral (chemical symbol P), essential to the human diet, and its second most abundant mineral (after iron). It co-operates with calcium to ensure good bone mineralisation and is present in every cell of the body. Phosphorus deficiency is rare, but the mineral can be deflected by sugar and antacids, and symptoms include weak teeth, rickets, gum infections, arthritis, loss of appetite and muscle weakness.

Its best natural sources are eggs, fish, grains, raw wheat germ, meat, nuts and seeds. The normal requirement for adults is 800mg, but lactating women need a little more.

It was first identified by the German alchemist Hennig Brand in 1669.

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It"s also a major component of fertilisers and match heads.

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