MadSci Network: Medicine

Re: What does sulfur do inside the human body, what is its purpose?

Date: Sat Jul 17 11:58:56 1999
Posted By: Steve Williams, Staff, Special Education, none
Area of science: Medicine
ID: 929930225.Me


According to "Nutrition and Diet Therapy" by Williams, Sulfur is an 
essential mineral occuring in both elemental (sodium,potassium,and 
magnesium) and organic compound forms.  It is present in all the cells of 
our bodies, typically as a constitute of cell protein. 

Nonprotein sulfur includes the organic compounds of sulfalipids and 
sulfatides. However, the largest amount of sulfur in the body is found in 
organic protein compounds including: 

1) Sulfur containing amino acids: Methionine and Cysteine.  These are the 
two most important sources of sulfur in the body.

2) Glycoproteins: Conjugates of sulfur and sulfuric acid with carbohydrate 
derivitives, such as chondroitin-sulfuric acid found in cartilage, tendon 
and bone matrix.

3) Detoxification products: Conjugates including phenol- and 
cresol-sulfuric acids and idoxyl sulfate, some of which is formed through 
bacterial activity in the intestine

4) Other organic compounds: Heparin, insulin, thiamin, biotin, lipoic acid, 
and coenzyme A.

5)  Keratin: This is the protein of hair and skin

Sulfur helps to maintain protein structure. Disulfide linkages form an 
important secondary structure between parallel peptide chains to maintain 
the structual stability of proteins.  Sulfur additionally participates in 
enzyme activity through tissue respiration or biologic oxidation.

Another function of sulfur is to contribute to detoxification. Toxic 
materials are conjugated with active sulfate and converted to non-toxic 
forms for excretion in the urine.

I hope this helps to answer your question.

Steve Williams


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