Chemistry

An Overview of Elements Found in the Human Body



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The human body is a complex organism, and as such a classification of all the important elements inside it and explanation of their roles would fill the New Testament twofold. The fact is, all those elements together are important, and depleted supplies of any would lead to degradation of the body's functions. 99% of the average human body's mass is composed of only six elements however. These are Nitrogen, Oxygen, Hydrogen, Calcium, Phosphorous and of course Carbon, which every organic molecule contains.

Importantly, 65-90% of the body consists of water by weight, meaning Oxygen and Hydrogen are major components. Nevertheless, almost every group in the Periodic Table is represented in the body, so it is perhaps a useful learning tool to approach a description of the body's elements in group order.

GROUP 1 ALKALI METALS

H
Hydrogen
Comprising 9.6% of body weight, this is mainly a component of H2O in the body.

Na
Sodium
A number of roles but only 0.2% of body weight, it is mainly important for appropriate nerve and muscle function, but also helps prevent blood clotting. It is important in helping prevent HCl acid from burning stomach walls

K
Potassium
At 0.4% of the body weight, this is important for membrane function, nerve impulses and the contraction of muscles. As an electrolyte it removes toxins from tissues.



GROUP 2 ALKALINE EARTH METALS

Mg
Magnesium (0.02%)
Magnesium is required for the activation of many enzymes, increases tissue elasticity and strengthens bones and teeth

Ca
Calcium (1.8%)
A major component of the skeleton's bones and teeth, yet it too also regulates muscle contractions and assists in blood clotting



TRANSITION METALS

Fe
Iron
This is vital for the transport of oxygen, and is a component of hemoglobin, myoglobin and the cytochromes used for cell respiration.

Zn
Zinc
Found in all bodily fluids e.g. urine. Vital part of the immune system and necessary for hormone production, especially in the prostate gland. Copper (Cu) and Manganese (Mn) are other highly important transition elements.



GROUP 3

B
Boron
A metalloid, this improves the retention of Ca, Mg and P, and is important in brain functions like memory and alertness.

GROUP 4

C
Carbon

At 18.6% of the body weight this is found in every organic molecule in the body and originates from the air and food. It creates CO2 a waste product of respiration, in the lungs.

Ge
Germanium
This expels dangerous pollutants and pathogens from the body, and produces killer cells that maintain a strong immune system.



GROUP 5

N
Nitrogen
78% composition of the air ends up as 3.2% of body weight. This is a crucial component of proteins and nucleic acids.

P
Phosphorus (1.0%)
This is found in the nucleus of every cell and is necessary for reproductive growth.



GROUP 6

O
Oxygen
This makes up 65% of body weight and is present in water. It is necessary for respiration.

S
Sulphur
This is found in many amino acids and helps reduce muscle cramp. It lubricates joints and promotes the healthy growth of skin, nails and hair.

Se
Selenium
This is a very powerful antioxidant, slowing the ageing process. It is vital in the process of cell death called apoptosis.

GROUP 7

Cl
Chlorine (0.2%)
This aids the cellular absorption of water

I
Iodine
This is a component of thyroid hormones, and is essential for the function of the spleen and liver.



All these elements and many more have multiple roles and many assist with the same job, but I hope this brief introduction proves useful and perhaps intriguing.

Much of the information in this article is summarized material from the following websites:

http://www.innvista.com/health/anatomy/elements.htm
http://chemistry.about.com/od/periodictableelements/ig/Elements-in-the-Human-Body/index.htm

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