Composition of the human body


Composition of the human body

The composition of the human body can be looked at from several different points of view.

By mass, human cells consist of 65–90% water (H2O). Oxygen therefore contributes a majority of a human body's mass. Almost 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of the six elements oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus.

About 0.85% of the remainder is composed of only five elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. All are necessary to life. The remaining elements are trace elements, of which more than a dozen are thought to be necessary for life, or play an an active role in health (i.e., fluorine, which hardens dental enamel but seems to have no other function).

Note that 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 bystander contaminants without function (examples: caesium, titanium), while many others are thought to be active toxins, depending on amount (cadmium, mercury, radioactives). The possible utility and toxicity of a few elements at levels normally found in the body (aluminum) is debated. Trace amounts of cadmium and lead have had functions suggested, but are almost certainly toxic in amounts normally found in the body. There is evidence that one element normally thought a toxin (arsenic) is essential in ultratrace quantities, even in mammals. Some elements that are clearly used in lower organisms and plants (arsenic, silicon, boron, nickel, vanadium) are probably needed by mammals also, but in far smaller doses. Two halogens used abundantly by lower organisms (fluorine and bromine) are presently known to be used by mammals only opportunistically. However, a general rule is that elements found in active biochemical use in lower organisms are often eventually found to be used in some way by higher organisms.[citation needed]

Contents

Elemental composition

The average 70 kg adult human body contains approximately 6.7 x 1027 atoms and is "composed of" 60 chemical elements. In this sense, "composed of" means that a trace of the element has been identified in the body. However, at the finest resolution, most objects on Earth (including the human body) contain measureable contaminating amounts of all of the 88 chemical elements which are detectable in nearly any soil on Earth. The number of elements thought to play an active positive role in life and augmentation of health in humans and other mammals, is about 24 or 25.[1]

The relative amounts of each element vary by individual. The numbers in the table are averages of different numbers reported by different references.

The human body is ~70% water, which is ~11% hydrogen by mass but ~66% hydrogen by atomic percent.

Element Percent of Mass[2][3][4][5] Mass (kg)[6] Atomic percent Atoms Positive health role in mammals[7] Group
Oxygen 65 43 24 1.61e27 Yes (e.g. water) 16
Carbon 18 16 12 8.03e26 Yes (organic compounds are hydrocarbon derivatives) 14
Hydrogen 10 7 63 4.22e27 Yes (e.g. water) 1
Nitrogen 3 1.8 0.58 3.9e25 Yes (e.g. DNA and amino acids) 15
Calcium 1.4 1.0 0.24 1.6e25 Yes (e.g. Calmodulin and Hydroxylapatite in bones) 2
Phosphorus 1.1 7.8e-1 0.14 9.6e24 Yes (e.g. DNA and phosphorylation) 15
Potassium 0.25 1.4e-1 0.033 2.2e24 Yes (e.g. Na+/K+-ATPase) 1
Sulfur 0.25 0.140 0.038 2.6e24 Yes (e.g. Cysteine and Methionine) 16
Sodium 0.15 0.100 0.037 2.5e24 Yes (e.g. Na+/K+-ATPase) 1
Chlorine 0.15 0.095 0.024 1.6e24 Yes (e.g. Cl-transporting ATPase) 17
Magnesium 0.05 0.019 0.0070 4.7e23 Yes (e.g. binding to ATP) 2
Iron* 0.006 0.0042 0.00067 4.5e22 Yes (e.g. Hemoglobin) 8
Fluorine 0.0037 0.0026 0.0012 8.3e22 Yes/No (topically hardens teeth) 17
Zinc 0.0032 0.0023 0.00031 2.1e22 Yes (e.g. Zinc finger proteins) 12
Silicon 0.002 0.0010 0.0058 3.9e23 Yes (probable) 14
Rubidium 0.00046 0.00068 0.000033 2.2e21 No (?) 8
Strontium 0.00046 0.00032 0.000033 2.2e21 No (?) 2
Bromine 0.00029 0.00026 0.000030 2.0e21 No (?) 17
Lead 0.00017 0.00012 0.0000045 3e20 No (?) (toxin in higher amounts) 14
Copper 0.0001 0.000072 0.0000104 7e20 Yes (e.g. copper proteins) 11
Aluminium 0.000087 0.000060 0.000015 1.0e21 No(?) (toxin?) 13
Cadmium 0.000072 0.000050 0.0000045 3e20 No(?) (toxin in higher amounts) 12
Cerium 0.000057 0.000040 No
Barium 0.000031 0.000022 0.0000012 8e19 No (toxin?) 2
Tin 0.000024 0.000020 6.0e-7 4e19 No(?) 14
Iodine 0.000016 0.000020 7.5e-7 5e19 Yes (e.g. Thyroxine) 17
Titanium 0.000013 0.000020 No 4
Boron 0.000069 0.000018 0.0000030 2e20 Yes (probable) 13
Selenium 0.000019 0.000015 4.5e-8 3e18 Yes 16
Nickel 0.000014 0.000015 0.0000015 1e20 Yes(e.g. urease) 10
Chromium 0.0000024 0.000014 8.9e-8 6e18 Yes (not confirmed) 6
Manganese 0.000017 0.000012 0.0000015 1e20 Yes (e.g. Mn-SOD) 7
Arsenic 0.000026 0.000007 8.9e-8 6e18 Yes (not confirmed). Toxic in higher amounts 15
Lithium 0.0000031 0.000007 0.0000015 1e20 No(?) 1
Mercury 1.9e-5 0.000006 8.9e-8 6e18 No (toxin)
Caesium 0.0000021 6e-6 1.0e-7 7e18 No
Molybdenum 0.000013 5e-6 4.5e-8 3e18 Yes (e.g. the molybdenum oxotransferases Xanthine oxidase and Sulfite oxidase 6
Germanium 0.000005 No (?)
Cobalt 0.0000021 0.000003 3.0e-7 2e19 Yes (e.g. vitamin B12) 9
Antimony 0.000011 0.000002 No
Silver 0.000001 0.000002 No (toxin)
Niobium 0.00016 0.0000015 No
Zirconium 0.0006 0.000001 3.0e-7 2e19 No
Lanthanum 8e-7 No
Tellurium 0.000012 7e-7 No
Gallium 7e-7 No
Yttrium 6e-7 No
Bismuth 5e-7 No
Thallium 5e-7 No (toxin)
Indium 4e-7 No
Gold 0.000014 2e-7 3.0e-7 2e19 No
Scandium 2e-7 No
Tantalum 2e-7 No
Vanadium 0.000026 1.1e-7 1.2e-8 8e17 Yes (not confirmed) 5
Thorium 1e-7 No (toxin)
Uranium 1.3e-7 1e-7 3.0e-9 2e17 No (toxin)
Samarium 5.0e-8 No
Tungsten 2.0e-8 No
Beryllium 5e-9 3.6e-8 4.5e-8 3e18 No 2
Radium 1e-17 3e-14 1e-17% 8e10 No (toxin)

Iron = ~3 g in men, ~2.3 g in women

The elements needed for life are relatively common in the Earth's crust, and conversely most of the common elements are necessary for life. An exception is aluminium, which is the third most common element in the Earth's crust (after oxygen and silicon), but seems to serve no function in living cells. Rather, it is harmful in large amounts.[citation needed] Transferrins can bind aluminium.[8]

Periodic table highlighting dietary elements[9]

H   He
Li Be   B C N O F Ne
Na Mg   Al Si P S Cl Ar
K Ca Sc   Ti V Cr Mn Fe Co Ni Cu Zn Ga Ge As Se Br Kr
Rb Sr Y   Zr Nb Mo Tc Ru Rh Pd Ag Cd In Sn Sb Te I Xe
Cs Ba La * Hf Ta W Re Os Ir Pt Au Hg Tl Pb Bi Po At Rn
Fr Ra Ac ** Rf Db Sg Bh Hs Mt Ds Rg
 
  * Ce Pr Nd Pm Sm Eu Gd Tb Dy Ho Er Tm Yb Lu
  ** Th Pa U Np Pu Am Cm Bk Cf Es Fm Md No Lr
The four organic basic elements Quantity elements Essential trace elements Suggested function from biochemistry and handling but no identified biological function in humans

Composition by molecule type

The composition can also be expressed in terms of chemicals, such as:

The composition of the human body can be viewed on an atomic and molecular scale as shown in this article.

The estimated gross molecular contents of a typical 20-micrometre human cell is as follows:[11]

Molecule Percent of Mass Mol.Weight (daltons) Molecules Percent of Molecules
Water 65* 18* 1.74e14* 98.73*
Other Inorganics 1.5 N/A 1.31e12 0.74
Lipids 12 N/A 8.4e11 0.475
Other Organics 0.4 N/A 7.7e10 0.044
Protein 20 N/A 1.9e10 0.011
RNA 1.0 N/A 5e7 3e-5
DNA 0.1 1e11 46* 3e-11

Water: Obviously the amount of water is highly dependent on the level of hydration. DNA: A human cell also contains mitochondrial DNA. Sperm cells contain less mitochondrial DNA than other cells. A mammalian red blood cell contains no nucleus and thus no DNA.

Materials and tissues

Body composition can also be expressed in terms of various types of material, such as:

Composition by cell type

There are many species of bacteria and other microorganisms that live on or inside the healthy human body. In fact, 90% of the cells in (or on) a human body are microbes, by number[12][13] (much less by mass or volume). Some of these symbionts are necessary for our health. Those that neither help nor harm us are called commensal organisms.

See also

References

  1. ^ Ultratrace minerals. Authors: Nielsen, Forrest H. USDA, ARS Source: Modern nutrition in health and disease / editors, Maurice E. Shils ... et al.. Baltimore : Williams & Wilkins, c1999., p. 283-303. Issue Date: 1999 URI: [1]
  2. ^ Thomas J. Glover, comp., Pocket Ref, 3rd ed. (Littleton: Sequoia, 2003), p. 324 (LCCN 2002-91021), which in turn cites Geigy Scientific Tables, Ciba-Geigy Limited, Basel, Switzerland, 1984.
  3. ^ Chang, Raymond (2007). Chemistry, Ninth Edition. McGraw-Hill. pp. 52. ISBN 0-07-110595-6. 
  4. ^ Distribution of elements in the human body (by weight) Retrieved on 2007-12-06
  5. ^ Zumdahl, Steven S. and Susan A. (2000). Chemistry, Fifth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company. pp. 894. ISBN 0-395-98581-1. )
  6. ^ J. Emsley, The Element, 3rd ed., Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.
  7. ^ Neilsen, cited, [2]
  8. ^ Mizutani, K.; Mikami, B.; Aibara, S.; Hirose, M. (2005). "Structure of aluminium-bound ovotransferrin at 2.15 Å resolution". Acta Crystallographica Section D Biological Crystallography 61 (12): 1636. doi:10.1107/S090744490503266X.  edit
  9. ^ Ultratrace minerals. Authors: Nielsen, Forrest H. USDA, ARS Source: Modern nutrition in health and disease / editors, Maurice E. Shils ... et al.. Baltimore : Williams & Wilkins, c1999., p. 283-303. Issue Date: 1999 URI: [3]
  10. ^ Douglas Fox, "The speed of life", New Scientist, No 2419, 1 November 2003.
  11. ^ Freitas Jr., Robert A. (1999). Nanomedicine,. Landes Bioscience. Tables 3–1 & 3–2. ISBN 1570596808. http://www.foresight.org/Nanomedicine/Ch03_1.html. 
  12. ^ Glausiusz, Josie. "Your Body Is a Planet". http://discovermagazine.com/2007/jun/your-body-is-a-planet. Retrieved 2007-09-16. 
  13. ^ Wenner, Melinda. "Humans Carry More Bacterial Cells than Human Ones". http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=strange-but-true-humans-carry-more-bacterial-cells-than-human-ones. Retrieved 2010-10-09. 

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