Ingredients of the Human Body

Ingredients of the Human Body


Oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen make up 90% of the human body.


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Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. Only about 0.85% is composed of another five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. All 11 are necessary for life. The remaining elements are trace elements, of which more than a dozen are thought based on good evidence to be necessary for life. All of the mass of the trace elements put together (less than 10 grams for a human body) do not add up to the body mass of magnesium, the least common of the 11 non-trace elements.

Not all elements which are found in the human body in trace quantities play a role in life. Some of these elements are thought to be simple common contaminants without function (examples: cesium, titanium), while many others are thought to be active toxins, depending on the amount (cadmium, mercury, lead, radioactive). In humans, arsenic is toxic, and its levels in foods and dietary supplements are closely monitored to reduce or eliminate its intake.

Some elements (silicon, boron, nickel, vanadium) are probably needed by mammals also, but in far smaller doses. Bromine is used abundantly by some (though not all) lower organisms, and opportunistically in eosinophils in humans. One study has found bromine to be necessary to collagen IV synthesis in humans. Fluorine is used by several plants to manufacture toxins, but in humans only functions as a local (topical) hardening agent in tooth enamel, and not in an essential biological role.


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