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The Role of Elements in Life Processes

Zinc (Zn) - a micronutrient Zinc has been recognized as an essential trace element for plants, animals and humans for more than 70 years. Though the average adult body only contains between 2-3 grams of zinc (a paperclip weighs about one gram), this element has some very important functions. Zinc is involved in well over one hundred different reactions in the body. Some of these reactions help our bodies construct and maintain DNA, the molecule that controls how every single part of our bodies is made and works. Zinc is also needed for the growth and repair of tissues throughout our bodies. This unique element is essential for the creation, release and use of hormones in the body. Additionally, our senses of sight, taste and smell depend on this element. Good sources of zinc include whole wheat bread, seafood and other animal meats. Vanadium (V) Vanadium has recently been declared by some scientists to be essential for good human health. It is believed that vanadium is involved in helping the body convert some foods into energy. It has also been suggested that diabetics may benefit from vanadium when trying to stabilize blood sugar levels. This element is also thought to help bones and teeth form properly. Sulfur (S) - a macronutrient Sulfur is an important element that is used in small amounts to help construct virtually all parts of the human body. Sulfur helps protect the cells in our bodies from environmental hazards such as air pollution and radiation. Consequently, sulfur slows down the aging process and extends our life span. Also, sulfur helps our liver function properly, helps us digest the food that we eat and then turn that food into energy. Sulfur is also important for helping our blood clot when we cut or bruise ourselves. Additionally, sulfur is an important part of vitamin B1 and insulin. Interestingly, sulfur is also an important part of a substance that keeps your skin supple and elastic. If you don t think that is important, just imagine trying to get a date to the homecoming dance with stiff, loose skin hanging all over your body. Sodium (Na) Sodium is an element that is vital to human life. Together with potassium and chlorine, it forms a very important part of blood plasma. Without sodium, our cells could not get the nutrients they need to survive. Sodium also allows our bodies to maintain the right blood chemistry and the correct amount of water in our blood. This element also allows our muscles to contract normally. Furthermore, our bodies need sodium to digest the food that we eat. Normal functioning of our nervous system also depends on this important element.

Silicon (Si) Silicon is indeed a very common mineral that is required by our bodies. We use it, along with calcium, to grow and maintain strong bones. It is also important to the formation of connective tissues, like ligaments and tendons. Silicon is also important for the growth of hair, skin and fingernails. Unfortunately, despite the fact that silicon is important to the human body, there is comparatively little being done to learn more about why and exactly how it is important for good health. Selenium (Se) Together with vitamin E, selenium helps our immune system produce antibodies, which is obviously an immensely important task. Selenium helps keep the pancreas and heart functioning properly. This remarkable element is also needed to make our tissues elastic. Imagine, for instance, if our skin wasn t elastic; we d have loose skin draping all over our bodies. It may be cool to have loose clothes draping all over our bodies, but people might make fun of you if you had that much loose skin. Sufficed to say that selenium is a very important element to our bodies. Potassium (K) - a macronutrient The element Potassium is an extremely important element in the human body. Our bodies are made up of millions of tiny cells, such as brain cells, skin cells, liver cells etc. Imagine a nerve cell in your finger for a moment.But when you touch something, it sends messages down a chain of many nerves to your brain that help you determine what it is that you just touched. When a nerve cell does this, it actually pumps out chemicals, which give the message to the next nerve cell and eventually to the brain. Potassium helps control the release of those chemicals. Without potassium, the nerve cell couldn t send those messages to your brain. Phosphorus (P) - a macronutrient Phosphorus is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body, second only to calcium. This essential mineral is required for the healthy formation of bones and teeth, and is necessary for our bodies to process many of the foods that we eat. It is also a part of the body's energy storage system, and helps with maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Phosphorus is also found in substantial amounts in the nervous system. The regular contractions of the heart are dependant upon phosphorus, as are normal cell growth and repair. Oxygen (O) - a macronutrient It is also worth mentioning that water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O) and that water is absolutely necessary for virtually all life as we know it. Water is incredibly important in our bodies. In fact, more than 50% of our bodies are made of water. It dissolves other life-supporting substances and transports them to fluids in and around our cells. It is also a place in which important reactions take place in our bodies. Many people consider water to be the "blood of life".

Nitrogen (N) - a macronutrient Nitrogen is another important element. It plays an important role in digestion of food and growth. As you may know, almost 80% of the air we breathe is made up of nitrogen. But humans cannot use the nitrogen in the air we breathe, that nitrogen is in the wrong form. We have to get nitrogen, in a different form, from the food that we eat. Fortunately, there is plenty of nitrogen in food to nourish our bodies. One specific time that this is especially important is during pregnancy. When a woman is pregnant, the nitrogen removed from food during digestion is needed to help the fetus to grow properly. By term, the mother and infant will have accumulated over a pound of nitrogen. Nickel (Ni) Though many scientists suspect that nickel is necessary for good human health, it has not been proven. People with certain liver and kidney diseases are known to have low levels of nickel in their bodies. Also, excess nickel in the body is associated with a high incidence of heart disease, thyroid disease and cancer. In both of these cases, the significance of the amount of nickel in the body is unknown. Some scientists think that nickel affects hormones, cell membranes and chemicals called enzymes. Whatever the case, nickel certainly appears to affect human health, even though we do not know exactly how. Molybdenum (Mo) - a micronutrient Molybdenum (pronounced mo-lyb-den-um) is necessary for good health, though in extremely small amounts. Molybdenum is found in all tissues of the human body, but tends to be the most concentrated in the liver, kidneys, skin and bones. It is required for the proper function of several chemicals in the human body. Some of these chemicals have the very important job of allowing the body to process the iron and nitrogen in our diets. Molybdenum is believed to be important in helping our cells grow. Also, small amounts of dietary molybdenum have been credited with promoting healthy teeth. Some evidence suggests that molybdenum might reduce the risk of some types of asthma attacks. Manganese (Mn) - a micronutrient Manganese is actually an extremely important element that the body uses for a variety of things. For instance, we use it to make chemicals that help us digest the food that we eat. Manganese also supports the immune system, regulates blood sugar levels, and is involved in the production of energy and cell reproduction. This important element is also important for bone growth. Additionally, manganese works with vitamin K to support blood clotting. Working with the B-complex vitamins, manganese helps to control the effects of stress while contributing to ones sense of well being.

Magnesium (Mg) - a macronutrient Magnesium is an element that is required by our bodies for numerous different functions. We need it for the proper growth, formation and function of our bones and muscles. In fact, magnesium and calcium even control how our muscles contract. Magnesium prevents some heart disorders and high blood pressure. Higher intake of magnesium is also associated with improved lung function. Our bodies use it to help convert our food into energy and it helps our bodies absorb calcium and potassium. This important element also helps our brains function normally. Magnesium even helps to prevent depression. Magnesium is essential in allowing your body to control insulin levels in your blood. This means that it is very important in the amount of energy that your body has to operate. It is suspected that taking extra magnesium might be beneficial for those suffering from fatigue. Iron (Fe) - a micronutrient The element iron has many functions in the body. This element is used by the body to make tendons and ligaments. Certain chemicals in our brain are controlled by the presence or absence of iron. It is also important for maintaining a healthy immune system and for digesting certain things in the food that we eat. In fact, plays a vitally important part of how our body obtains energy from our food. If the lack of iron in our bodies is severe, we can get "iron deficiency anemia", which essentially means that our blood won t carry enough oxygen to our bodies so we can function normally. Iodine (I) Iodine is an element that is required in very small amounts by the human body. You are probably already aware of some of the uses of this element. Iodine is found in a purple solution that we often put on scrapes and cuts to help our wounds heal faster by preventing them from getting infected. But the most important thing about iodine is that it keeps our thyroid gland healthy. Most of the iodine in our bodies is stored in this organ, located in the base of your neck. The thyroid gland uses iodine to make chemicals that affect our growth, the way we development and how we burn the energy that we get from the food we eat. If we don t get enough iodine in our diets, we can expect to have a loss of energy and to gain weight. Hydrogen (H) - a macronutrient It would be virtually impossible to understate the importance of this element to human life. First of all, water is a compound of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O). Water is incredibly important in our bodies. It dissolves other life-supporting substances and transports them to fluids in and around our cells. It is also a place in which important reactions take place in our bodies. Chemically, water is a remarkable substance and it s many unique attributes make life possible. Hydrogen is obviously a critical component of water and minute chemical bonds called "hydrogen bonds" are what give water many of its unique attributes.

Germanium (Ge) Germanium is a trace element that some believe is highly beneficial to good human health. In fact, germanium has many important medicinal properties. In the body, germanium attaches itself to oxygen molecules. This has the unexpected effect of making our bodies more effective at getting oxygen to the tissues in our body. The increased supply of oxygen in our bodies helps to improve our immune system. It also helps the body excrete harmful toxins. The increased supply of oxygen in our bodies caused by germanium has many other exciting effects as well. Taking germanium supplements is effective in treating arthritis, food allergies, elevated cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, and even cancer. Germanium can also be used to control pain in the human body. Fluorine (F) Fluorine is an element that the body uses to strengthen bones and teeth. This element differs from the other elements that the body needs because we get most of it from the water that we drink, not from the food that we eat. But this important element is also valuable because it helps the body strengthen the bones in your body. Fluoride is the most important trace element affecting bones and teeth. In fact, fluoride is the only element known to single-handedly stimulate bone growth. Fluoride, along with large quantities of calcium, is a large part of what makes your bones strong. When the body does not receive enough fluoride, bones start to loose calcium, and then become weak and brittle. Fortunately, it is easy for us to get enough fluorine because of the fact that it is added to our drinking water. Other good sources of this key element include seafood, teas and toothpaste. Copper (Cu) - a micronutrient copper is a major component of the oxygen carrying part of blood cells. Copper also helps protect our cells from being damaged by certain chemicals in our bodies. Copper, along with vitamin C, is important for keeping blood vessels and skin elastic and flexible. This important element is also required by the brain to form chemicals that keep us awake and alert. Copper also helps your body produce chemicals that regulate blood pressure, pulse, and healing. Current research is looking into other ways copper can affect human health, from protecting against cancer and heart disease, to boosting the immune system. Cobalt (Co) Cobalt is another element that is necessary for good human health. While cobalt has no specific function by itself, it forms the core of vitamin B-12. Without cobalt, Vitamin B-12 could not exist. The body uses this vitamin for numerous of purposes. B-12 is necessary for the normal formation of all cells, especially red blood cells. Vitamin B-12 also helps vitamin C perform its functions, and is necessary for the proper digestion of the food that we eat. Additionally, vitamin B-12 prevents nerve damage by contributing to the formation of the protective sheath that insulates nerve cells.

Chromium (Cr) Chromium, in fact, is an element that is essential to good human health. It does many important things in the body. Most significantly, it is a vital component of a molecule that works with insulin to stabilize blood sugar levels. In other words, it helps our bodies absorb energy from the food we eat and stabilizes the level of energy that we feel throughout the day. Our bodies need sufficient quantities of chromium to make many of the large biological molecules that help us live. This vital element can also help increase muscle mass while reducing fat mass in our bodies. It helps cells, such as heart muscle cells absorb the energy they need to work properly. Chlorine (Cl) - a micronutrient Chlorine also works with potassium and sodium to regulate the amount of fluids in the body and to regulate pH in the body. This vital element also helps muscles flex and relax normally. Chlorine is extremely important in allowing us to digest our food properly and to absorb the many other elements that we need to survive. Excessive vomiting can lead to a serious loss of chlorine in the body. This can lead to a dangerous imbalance of pH in the body, which can cause muscle weakness, loss of appetite, dehydration and coma. Carbon (C) - a macronutrient The element carbon is perhaps the single most important element to life. Virtually every part of our bodies is made with large amounts of this element. The carbon atom is ideal to build big biological molecules. The carbon atom can be thought of as a basic building block. These building blocks can be attached to each other to form long chains, or they can be attached to other elements. Calcium (Ca) - a macronutrient Calcium is an extremely important element in the human body. It is one of the most abundant elements in our bodies and accounts for 2 to 3 pounds of our total body weight. Most of us know that calcium is important in building and maintaining strong bones and teeth, but it is also important for many other things. It helps control things like muscle growth and the electrical impulses in your brain. This vital element is also necessary to maintain proper blood pressure and make blood clot when you get cut. Calcium also enables other molecules to digest food and make energy for the body. Increasing calcium intake in our diet is believed to lower high blood pressure and prevent heart disease. It is also used to treat arthritis. Boron (B) - a micronutrient This element is also necessary to allow the brain to function properly. In fact, boron can increase mental alertness. According to a series of studies recently conducted by the US Department of Agriculture, low boron intakes by humans caused decreased brain activity. The studies showed that people on low boron diets also had lower brain performance on attention and short-term memory tests.