What Is Tricalcium Phosphate?

Medically reviewed by Alan Carter, PharmD on May 2, 2017Written by Summer Fanous on May 26, 2015

Overview

Calcium is an essential mineral you need for many bodily functions and for bone development. It’s important to take in a proper amount of calcium regularly. We generally receive enough calcium through our diets. However, if you aren’t eating enough calcium-rich foods like dairy, boney fish, and some greens, you may not be getting all the calcium you need.

Luckily, there are multiple types of calcium supplements, which usually come in the form of calcium salts. Each supplement has largely the same effect on the body. Tricalcium phosphate is one of these supplements.

Why phosphate?

Because calcium bonds easily to other minerals, many calcium supplements feature calcium bonded with various minerals and vitamins. Tricalcium phosphate is a supplement in which calcium is bound to a phosphate molecule.

Though dietary deficiencies of phosphorus are uncommon, phosphorus is an essential part of cell membranes and nucleic acids. It also plays a vital role in many biological processes, including energy production, cell signaling, and bone mineralization. Calcium bonds easily with phosphorus. Studies have shown that tricalcium phosphate has a few unique characteristics when used in self-setting bone cements, biodegradable bioceramics, and composites for bone repair, as compared to other calcium salts. As a dietary calcium supplement, it’s no more effective — and may in fact be less effective — than calcium citrate or calcium carbonate.

How’s it used?

Calcium supplements have been found to have positive effects on preventing bone loss as we age. It’s important to know that calcium is best absorbed when combined with Vitamin D.

Besides medicinal purposes, tricalcium phosphate is used as an anti-caking agent in manufacturing and agriculture. It’s widely available and inexpensive. These qualities, combined with its ability to separate materials, have made it popular around the world.

Is it bad for you?

Multiple studies of tricalcium phosphate have shown it to be safe for both human and animal consumption. These studies have concluded that calcium phosphates can aid in bone and mineral regeneration. Future biomedical applications are promising.

As a nutritional supplement, tricalcium phosphate is comparable to other calcium supplements. Tricalcium phosphate has also found a proven place in industrial and agricultural applications. With widespread availability and low cost, it will likely continue to be used for its current purposes while new ones are being explored.

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