January 11, 2016
352 Elemental Body Composition [11 Jan 2016]
First, I promised to let you know the results of the radon test in my house basement. The safe level is considered 200 Bq/m3; my house was 586, nearly 3 times the safe limit. I will be installing an air pump or something like that and will let you know what that entails. I think every house in Rosetown with a basement should be tested. See my December 7 article for details.
Now for this week’s topic. I often write about essential nutrients that our body requires for health or indeed life. Most of these like vitamins, essential fatty acids, amino acids and enzymes are molecules, made of chains of atoms. A few, namely the minerals, are actual atoms or elements. I thought it would be interesting to look at the elemental composition of our bodies.
Recently I saw a chemical “formula” for the human body listing the relative abundance of atoms of different elements: H 375,000,000 O 132,000,000 C 85,700,000 N 6,430,000 Ca 1,500,000 P 1,020,000 S 206,000 Na 183,000 K 177,000 Cl 127,000 Mg 40,000 Si 38,600 Fe 2,680 Zn 2,110 Cu 76 I 14 Mn 13 F 13 Cr 7 Se 4 Mo 3 Co 1
These aren’t the total number of atoms, just the ratio. For every atom of cobalt there are 4 selenium, 2,110 zinc, 40,000 magnesium, 1.5 million calcium, and 132 million oxygen atoms. These ratios would be much different by weight (technically mass); hydrogen which is the lightest element makes up only 10% of the body weight, following oxygen (60-65%) and carbon (18%). Most of the hydrogen and oxygen in our bodies is in the form of water which makes up about 60% of our body weight.
Carbon forms the framework for all organic compounds including proteins and fats so is the next most common after the water forming elements hydrogen and oxygen. Nitrogen and sulfur are also found in protein, and calcium and phosphorus form much of our bones, so these are all also abundant. Sodium and potassium are fairly evenly balanced. Zinc, copper, iodine, manganese, fluorine, chromium, selenium, molybdenum and cobalt are all less than 1 millionth as abundant as hydrogen, which is why they are called trace minerals.
These 22 elements are essential for life (except fluorine which plays a role in hardening dental enamel but is not essential). A few more, like lithium, boron, nickel and vanadium may play some physiological role but in even tinier amounts. Many others are quite detrimental to health in any amount like aluminum, mercury, cadmium, arsenic and lead. Our bodies do an amazing job of keeping these out and keeping the rest close to the right ratio. I for one find that fascinating.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.