Trace Elements

  • The human body is mainly composed of Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon and Nitrogen. However there are also other elements that are found in the body which are vital for survival. These may be called Trace Elements or Ultratrace Elements.
Trace Element: An element, other than C H O N, found in the body in small quantities (less than 100 ppm), that is important for proper functioning.
  • These are the most common Trace Elements, with their uses:
    • Potassium, K: Electrolyte, coregulating ATP with Sodium
    • Chlorine, Cl: HCl, Cellular Pump Functions
    • Sodium, Na: Electrolyte, Coregulating ATP with Potassium
    • Calcuim, Ca: Muscle, Heart, Digestive System, Bones, Blood Cells
    • Phosphorus, P: Phospholipids, Bones, ATP etc…
    • Magnesium, Mg: Processing ATP, Bones
    • Zinc, Zn: Enzymes
    • Iron, Fe: Proteins and Enzymes, specifically Haemoglobin
    • Manganese, Mn: Cofactor
    • Copper, Cu: Redox Enzymes
    • Iodine, I: Thyroid Hormones, probably Antioxidant


  • Iron is vital Trace Element, since it is part of the Haemoglobin protein that carries Oxygen in the blood. Oxygen molecules bind the Iron Ion in the Haem group present in Haemoglobin.

  • A deficiency of Iron is called Anemia, whose symptoms include: weakness, poor concentration, pale skin, and in severe cases, Hyperdynamic Circulation.

  • People who are Iron deficient shouldn’t give blood. The amount of Iron in the blood can be tested by placing a drop in Copper Sulphate Solution, which reacts with the Haemoglobin to form a white blob. If the blob is dense enough to sink, the person has sufficient Iron content. However, if the blob floats, the person has insufficient Iron in their blood.


  • Iodine is very important in the Thyroid Gland, because it involved in the creation of thyroid hormones, the primary ones of these being T3 and T4.

  • Goitre, a condition arising from an Iodine deficient diet, is a swelling of the Thyroid Gland. Iodine taken into the body, as Iodine Ions in common salt, drinking water and cows milk, or as Iodate(V) ions found in marine plants and animals, is stored in the ‘Iodine Pool’, and excess is excreted. Goitre happens when this pool is low on Iodine.

  • Too much Iodine-131 in the body, for example caused by a nuclear accident, can be fatal. This can be prevented by taking Iodine to fill up the Iodine Pool, so that Iodine-131 is harmlessly excreted. Countries keep stockpiles of Potassium Iodate(V) tablets.


  • The trace element Calcium is highly important in the development of healthy bones, particularly in young people and pregnant women.

  • Deficiency of Calcium can cause demineralised bones in the body and Osteoporosis. This leads to frequent bone fractures and skeleton curvature, and is increasingly common as people live longer.

Written by Sam Adam-Day.