“Elementary my dear Watson!”
Minerals required by the human body are “elements” therefore they cannot be created inside the body – they have to be supplied. There are over 60 elements present in the body, however only 19 are considered “essential elements” and to have necessary biological functions.
96% Structural Elements
96% of the body by weight is composed of the following four elements – which are considered “structural elements” and not nutrient minerals (However, they are all supplied by macronutrients and water):
65% Oxygen Atomic number 8 18% Carbon Atomic number 6 10% Hydrogen Atomic number 1 3% Nitrogen Atomic number 7
4% Nutritional Elements (including 0.01% Trace Elements)
When we refer to minerals in the body in the context of nutrition it’s the remaining 4% weight that we are referring to, consisting of macrominerals and trace elements.
The human body requires major minerals (macrominerals) – which generally need to be consumed in gram amounts daily:
1.5% calcium Atomic number 20 1% phosphorus Atomic number 15 0.25% potassium Atomic number 19 0.25% sulfur Atomic number 16 0.15% sodium Atomic number 11 0.15% chlorine Atomic number 17 0.05% magnesium Atomic number 12
The 11 elements so far listed make up almost 100% of body weight.
Sodium, potassium and chloride are important electrolytes. Calcium, magnesium and phosphorous are required for correct structural integrity of the skeleton. Sulfur is oxidized into sulfate (SO²⁻ ₄). Inorganic sulfate is essential for cell growth and other important physiological processes. 0.01% Trace Elements
The remaining fraction of 1% of body weight consists of minor minerals (trace elements) with a known biological function:
0.006% iron Atomic number 26 0.0032% zinc Atomic number 30 0.0001% copper Atomic number 29 0.000019% selenium Atomic number 34 0.000017% manganese Atomic number 25 0.000016% iodine Atomic number 53 0.000013% molybdenum Atomic number 42 0.0000021% cobalt Atomic number 27
Cobalt is an unusual element in that it is mostly made available through microbes in the gut producing vitamin B12.
There are several other elements, such as silicon, boron, nickel, vanadium, chromium and arsenic, that may play a biological role but are not classified as essential.
Fluorine and lead are not essential and both are neurotoxins.
One test of 18 males and 11 females displayed a difference in body water content of between 45.6% to 70.2% (Ref: Roger Williams, PhD. “Biochemical Individuality”).
Despite the apparent precision of the percentages of the elements presented it has to be pointed out that this is not what any “individual” would expect to have. Most constituents of the body show a normal variation between individuals of sometimes several fold. It’s tempting to have a notion of “normal” levels that are quite constrained but what we really have is a normal variation – a gradient, which is quite extensive.