According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, phosphorus is an essential nutrient that all human cells require to function. The New York Times identifies the primary purpose of phosphorus as helping bones and teeth develop.
The Linus Pauling Institute reports that bones contain 85 percent of a person's total phosphorus. The remainder of the phosphorus is spread throughout the body. For example, it is a necessary element in cell membranes, the Institute states. In addition, many hormones and enzymes interact with phosphorus, and it is crucial for the body's acid-base equilibrium. The New York Times describes phosphorus as critical for the formation of ATP, which the body needs to store energy.