Trace Elements

Trace elements



Molybdenum is an essential trace element for virtually all life forms. It functions as a cofactor for a number of enzymes that catalyze important chemical transformations in the global carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur cycles. Thus, molybdenum-dependent enzymes are not only required for human health, but also for the health of our ecosystem.


The biological form of molybdenum, present in almost all molybdenum-containing enzymes (molybdoenzymes), is an organic molecule known as the molybdenum cofactor. In humans, molybdenum is known to function as a cofactor for three enzymes:



Cobalt is a trace element mineral whose main function is in vitamin B12, although there are some cobalt-dependent enzymes. There is no evidence of cobalt deficiency in human beings, and no evidence on which to base estimates of requirements for inorganic cobalt. ‘Pining disease’ in cattle and sheep is due to cobalt deficiency (their intestinal micro-organisms synthesize vitamin B12) and it is a growth factor for some animals. Cobalt salts are toxic in excess, causing degeneration of the heart muscle, and habitual intakes in excess of 300?mg/day are considered undesirable.



Iodine is a trace mineral required for human life. Humans require iodine for proper physical and mental development. It impacts cell respiration, metabolism of energy and nutrients, functioning of nerves and muscles, differentiation of the fetus, growth and repair of tissues, and the condition of skin, hair, teeth, and nails. Iodine is also needed for the production of thyroid hormones. The thyroid (a small gland in the front of the neck), which contains 80% of the body's iodine pool, converts iodine into the thyroid hormones thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3).



A highly toxic gas that usually occurs in combination with other elements, forming fluorides. Fluorine is an essential trace element needed for the healthy development of teeth and bones. A low fluorine intake increases susceptibility to dental caries. Fluorides are present naturally in hard water, but they are also added to drinking water in some areas, and to most toothpastes to harden teeth. A concentration of 1 part per million (1 ppm) in tap water retards tooth decay by more than 50 per cent. Too much fluoride (above 10 ppm) can damage enamel, causing discolouration of the teeth.



Second only to oxygen, silicon is the most abundant element in Earth's crust. It is found in rocks, sand, clays and soils, combined with either oxygen as silicon dioxide, or with oxygen and other elements as silicates. Silicon's compounds are also found in water, in the atmosphere, in many plants, and even in certain animals.

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