Phosphoric acid is a common additive in many processed foods. Manufacturers use it to add flavor and maintain freshness.

Phosphoric acid is a colorless, odorless crystal, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). In order to add it to other products, it’s often dissolved in water first.

It gives soft drinks a tangy flavor and prevents the growth of mold and bacteria, which can multiply easily in a sugary solution. Most of soda’s acidity also comes from phosphoric acid.

Phosphoric acid is made from the mineral phosphorus, which is found naturally in many foods. It works with calcium to form strong bones and teeth, according to the National Institutes of Health. It also helps support kidney function and the way your body uses and stores energy.

Phosphorus helps your muscles recover after a hard workout. The mineral plays a major role in the body’s growth and is even needed to produce DNA and RNA, the genetic codes of living things.

Phosphorus is first turned to phosphorus pentoxide through a chemical manufacturing process. It’s then treated again to become phosphoric acid.

It’s actually more common to have too much phosphorus than not enough. Phosphorus is found naturally in many foods and phosphoric acid is used as an additive, so most people get enough in their diet.

Your body needs phosphorus, but too much of it can cause problems. Studies suggest that excessive phosphorus intake can put you at risk for osteoporosis and heart disease. Calcium and phosphorus work together to form and maintain healthy teeth and bones. The minerals need to be balanced in order to be effective.

Too much phosphorus can decrease the amount of calcium in your body, leading to bone loss. It can also impair your body’s ability to use other minerals, such as iron, zinc, and magnesium.

For example, research links high consumption of soda to an increased risk of bone fractures. In one observational study, people who drank soda daily doubled their risk of breaking a bone.

Your kidneys help your body get rid of excess phosphorus. Some people with chronic kidney disease may need to monitor the amount of phosphorus in their diet, because their kidneys may be unable to remove excess phosphorus.

Phosphoric acid is dangerous if you come into contact with it as a chemical substance. The toxic fumes can irritate your skin, eyes, and respiratory system.

The recommended daily amount (RDA) of phosphorus needed for normal bodily function in adults is 700 mg. You can get this easily from natural food sources.

Foods that are high in protein (e.g. dairy, meat, beans, eggs, chicken, and fish) are usually high in phosphorus. Bread and other bakery goods also contain the nutrient. This means additional phosphoric acid from processed food and drinks is likely more than the body needs.

Phophorus that’s added to products like soda is also very easy for your body to absorb. This can make it easy to get too much phosphorus.

Because so many of us drink sodas and eat processed foods, some experts are concerned about the American diet when it comes to added phosphorus. Phosphorus additives make up somewhere between 10% to 50% of phosphorus intake in a typical Western diet, according to estimates.

Some estimates suggest that a can of cola contains 50 to 60 mg of phosphoric acid. Some flavored waters can contain up to 85 mg of phosphorus per bottle.

For most adults, a phosphorus intake of 4,000 mg per day is considered to be the safe upper limit. People who take in more than this amount are considered at risk for negative health effects associated with phosphorus.

Adults with acute kidney failure are recommended to have no more than 800 mg of phosphorus a day. Kidneys help the body get rid of extra phosphorus, but too much phosphorus can build up in the blood if they’re not functioning well.

Still want to get your soft drink fix? Some drinks on the market don’t use phosphoric acid or use very small amounts.

Clear carbonated drinks such as ginger ale, lemon-lime sodas, and flavored seltzers may be less likely to contain phosphoric acid.

You can check for added phosphorus in processed foods and drinks. Look for phosphoric acid and other phosphorus additives like sodium phosphate in the ingredients list on the package.