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The basic composition of a human body

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The human body is a miraculous, well-oiled and exceptionally complex machine. A multitude of functional parts need to come together for a person to live a healthy life – and every biological detail of our body, from the mundane to the most magical, is driven by just 21 chemical elements.

Of the 118 elements present on Earth, only 21 of them are found in the human body. Together they make up the mix of divergent molecules that combine to form our DNA, cells, tissues and organs.

Based on the data presented by the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), in the infographic above, we have broken down a human body into its elemental composition and the percentages in which they exist.

These 21 elements can be categorized into three main blocks based on the amount found in a human body, the main building block (4 elements), essential minerals (8 elements) and trace elements (9 elements).

The Four Elements: Ingredients of Life

Four elements namely oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen are considered to be the most essential elements in our body.

Oxygen is the most abundant element in the human body, accounting for approximately 61% of the mass of a person. Since around 60-70% of the body is water, it is no surprise that oxygen and hydrogen are two of the most abundant chemical elements in the body. Along with carbon and nitrogen, these elements combine to 96% of body mass.

Here is an overview of the composition of the four elements of life:

Element Body mass weight (kg) Body mass percentage (%)
Oxygen 43 kilograms 61.4%
Carbon 16kg 22.9%
Hydrogen 7.0kg 10.0%
Nitrogen 1.8kg 2.6%

Values ​​are for an average human body weighing 70 kg.

Let’s see how each of these four chemical elements contributes to the flourishing functionality of our body:

Oxygen

Oxygen plays an essential role in metabolism, respiration and cellular oxygenation of the body. Oxygen is also found in all major organic molecules in the body, including proteins, carbohydrates, fats, and nucleic acids. It’s an important part of everything from our cells and blood to our brain and spinal fluid.

Carbon

Carbon is the most crucial structural element and the reason we are known as carbon-based life forms. It is the basic building block required to form proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The breaking of carbon bonds in carbohydrates and proteins is our main source of energy.

Hydrogen

Hydrogen, the most abundant chemical element in the universe, is present in all bodily fluids, allowing toxins and waste products to be transported and eliminated. Thanks to hydrogen, the joints of our body remain lubricated and able to perform their functions. Hydrogen is also said to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, helping to improve muscle function.

Nitrogen

An essential component of amino acids used to build peptides and proteins is nitrogen. It is also an integral part of DNA and RNA nucleic acids, the chemical backbone of our genetic information and genealogy.

Essential and additional minerals

Essential minerals are important for your body to stay healthy. Your body uses minerals for several processes, including the proper functioning of your bones, muscles, heart, and brain. Minerals also control the production of beneficial enzymes and hormones.

Minerals like calcium are an important component of our bones and are necessary for bone growth and development, as well as muscle contractions. Phosphorus contributes to strong bones and teeth and is vital for metabolizing energy.

Here is an overview of the elemental composition of essential minerals:

Element Body mass weight (g) Body mass percentage (%)
Calcium 1000g 1.43%
Phosphorus 780g 1.11%
Potassium 140g 0.20%
Sulfur 140g 0.20%
Chlorine 100g 0.14%
Sodium 95g 0.14%
Magnesium 19 grams 0.03%
The iron 4.2g 0.01%

Values ​​are for an average human body weighing 70 kg.

Other macro minerals like magnesium, potassium, iron, and sodium are essential for cell-to-cell communications, such as electrical transmissions that generate nerve impulses or heart rhythms, and are necessary for the maintenance of health. thyroid and bones.

Excessive deficiency of any of these minerals can cause various disorders in your body. Most humans get these minerals as part of their daily diet, including vegetables, meat, legumes, and fruits. In case of deficiencies, however, these minerals are also prescribed as supplements.

Biological composition of trace elements

Trace elements or trace metals are small amounts of minerals found in living tissue. Some of them are known to be nutritionally essential, while others may be considered non-essential. They are generally in minimal quantity in our body and constitute only 1% of our mass.

Of these, trace elements such as zinc, copper, manganese and fluorine are paramount. Zinc acts as a first responder against infections and thus improves resistance to infections, while balancing the immune response.

Here is the distribution of trace elements in our body:

Element Body mass weight (mg) Body mass percentage (%)
Fluorine 2600mg 0.00371%
Zinc 2300mg 0.00328%
Copper 72mg 0.00010%
Iodine 13mg 0.00002%
Manganese 12mg 0.00002%
Molybdenum 9.5mg 0.00001%
Selenium 8mg 0.00001%
Chromium 6.6mg 0.00001%
Cobalt 1.5mg 0.000002%

Values ​​are for an average human body weighing 70 kg.

Although only found in trace amounts, copper is instrumental in the formation of red blood cells and in maintaining healthy nerve cells. It also helps form collagen, an essential part of bones and connective tissue.

Even with constant research and studies being done to fully understand the uses and benefits of these trace minerals, scientists and researchers are constantly making new discoveries.

For example, recent research shows that some of these trace minerals could be used to heal and fight chronic and debilitating diseases ranging from ischemia and cancer to cardiovascular disease and hypertension.