If you will look at the periodic table of elements, you will see that the different elements are arranged systematically. The periodic table was developed to provide information on the basic properties of different elements. Students and scientists alike use the periodic table to compare different chemical behaviors necessary in studying not just chemistry—but physics, biology, and engineering as well.
Like in the periodic table, the different chemical elements found in the human body are also carefully arranged. This is essential in helping the body to work properly and, thus, keep it strong and healthy.
Elements in the Body
The human body is an amazing structure wherein chemical elements are carefully balanced to promote proper body functioning. A number of elements and compounds are essential for growth and development. These include oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorous.
Oxygen on Earth occurs in three forms: (1) as a gaseous oxygen and ozone in the atmosphere; (2) as part of minerals; and (3) as part of water. When we drink water and breathe in air, we take in oxygen. This essential element is not only used for quenching thirst and for respiration, it is also important in the production of energy. When oxygen combines with carbon and hydrogen, it produces carbohydrates. In turn, carbohydrates must combine with oxygen to burn and produce the energy needed by the body for a day’s work.
Carbon is the second most abundant element in the human body. We take in carbon when we eat foods that are rich in carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, sugar, and other starchy foods. Carbon is also a waste product of the respiration process when it is exhaled in the form of carbon dioxide.
Hydrogen is present in water and most organic compounds. It enters the body when we drink water and eat foods that are rich in protein, carbohydrates, sugar, and fats. Organic compounds have a long chain of carbon atoms with hydrogen atoms attached to it. When hydrogen enters the body through the food we eat, it combines with oxygen to burn and release carbon dioxide into the air when we exhale.
Proteins are organic compounds made up of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen. Proteins are considered to be the building blocks of the body. Nitrogen helps in building muscle groups, cells, and tissues. Aside from these, nitrogen is found in the DNA and RNA of any living organism.
Calcium and phosphorus are minerals that are essential in building strong bones and teeth. They are also important in muscle contractions and in the development of connective tissues and organs.
The Trace Elements
Oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen are considered as the four basic organic elements. Calcium and phosphorous, on the other hand, are considered as quantity elements. There are other elements needed by the body for growth and development. However, these elements come in lesser quantity or small doses. These are called trace elements.
Although they only come in small doses, the importance of trace elements in the body cannot be ignored. Some trace elements needed by the body are:
• Iron — needed for oxygen transport in the bloodstream; considered as the energy mineral;
• Manganese — cofactor for some enzymes; responsible for improving eyesight;
• Zinc — important in healing wounds and improving the immune system;
• Chromium — can aid in weight loss and prevent diabetes by regulating insulin production;
• Boron — necessary for proper brain and memory functioning, and mental alertness; and
• Iodine — essential for spleen, liver, and brain functions; helps prevent goiter.