Elements in Animals and Humans
Animals and humans have similar evolutionary backgrounds. Specific elements
play critical roles in the structures of proteins and the activities of
enzymes. The purpose of this page is to outline some of the uses of elements
in the structure of animals and humans and to illustrate why these elements
are essential in the body and for optimal health.
- Calcium (Ca)
Structure of bone and teeth.
- Phosphorous (Ph)
Structure of bone and teeth. Required for ATP, the energy carrier in
- Magnesium (Mg)
Important in bone structure. Deficiency results in tetany (muscle spasms)
and can lead to a calcium deficiency.
- Sodium (Na)
Major electrolyte of blood and extracellular fluid. Required for maintenance
of pH and osmotic balance.
- Potassium (K)
Major electrolyte of blood and intracellular fluid. Required for maintenance
of pH and osmotic balance.
- Chlorine (Cl)
Major electrolyte of blood and extracellular and intracellular fluid.
Required for maintenance of pH and osmotic balance.
- Sulfur (S)
Element of the essential amino acids methionine and cysteine.
Contained in the vitamins thiamin and biotin. As part of glutathione it
is required for detoxification. Poor growth due to reduced protein synthesis
and lower glutathione levels potentially increasing oxidative or xenobiotic
damage are consequences of low sulfur and methionine and/or cysteine intake.
- Iron (Fe)
Contained in hemoglobin and myoglobin which are required
for oxygen transport in the body. Part of the cytochrome p450 family
of enzymes. Anemia is the primary consequence of iron deficiency. Excess
iron levels can enlarge the liver, may provoke diabetes and cardiac falurer.
The genetic disease hemochromatosis results from excess iron absorption.
Similar symptoms can be produced through excessive transfusions required
for the treatment of other diseases.
- Copper (Cu)
Contained in enzymes of the ferroxidase (ceruloplasmin?) system
which regulates iron transport and facilitates release from storage. A
structural element in the enzymes tyrosinase, cytochrome c oxidase,
ascorbic acid oxidase, amine oxidases, and the antioxidant
enzyme copper zinc superoxide dismutase. A copper deficiency can
result in anemia from reduced ferroxidase function. Excess copper levels
cause liver malfunction and are associated with genetic disorder Wilson's
- Manganese (Mn)
Major component of the mitochondrial antioxidant enzyme manganese
superoxide dismutase. A manganese deficiency can lead to improper bone
formation and reproductive disorders. An excess of manganese can lead to
poor iron absorption.
- Iodine (I)
Required for production of thyroxine which plays an important role
in metabolic rate. Deficient or excessive iodine intake can cause goiter
(an enlarged thyroid gland).
- Zinc (Zn)
Important for reproductive function due to its use in FSH (follicle
stimulating hormone) and LH (leutinizing hormone). Required for DNA binding
of zinc finger proteins which regulate a variety of activities. A component
of the enzymes alcohol dehydrogenase, lactic dehydrogenase
carbonic anhydrase, ribonuclease, DNA Polymerase and
the antioxidant copper zinc superoxide dismutase. An excess of zinc
may cause anemia or reduced bone formation.
- Selenium (Se)
Contained in the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase and
heme oxidase. Deficiency results in oxidative membrane damage with
different effects in different species. Human deficiency causes cardiomyopathy
(heart damage) and is known as Keshan's disease.
- Fluorine (Fl)
- Cobolt (Co)
Contained in vitamin B12. An excess may cause cardiac failure.
- Molybdenum (Mo)
Contained in the enzyme xanthine oxidase. Required for the excretion
of nitrogen in uric acid in birds. An excess can cause diarrhea and growth
- Chromium (Cr)
A cofactor in the regulation of sugar levels. Chromium deficiency may
cause hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar) and glucosuria (glucose in the
Rats have been shown to have improved growth on diets which contain
other micro nutrients. These include:
- Lead (Pb)
- Nickel (Ni)
- Silicon (Si)
- Vanadium (Vn)
These elements are all toxic at high levels.
Understanding Nutrition by Whitney & Rolfes