With this post, we will complete the series of all the seven essential macro elements. Today the macro element sulfur will be in our focus. And we will explore the question “How Important is Sulfur for Your Health? – The Protein Creator”. You will also get to know what sulfur is, how much you need of it, from where you can get it and what else might be interesting about this macro element.
Why is Sulfur so Important for Your Health?
Sulfur compounds have so many different important functions for your health. The most important function of sulfur is its participation as a component of proteins. They are the main part of some amino acids, among other things the essential amino acid methionine.
A very special function of sulfur in our body is its property to form disulfide bridges. These bridges can lead to very strong and stiff protein structures.
An example we all know is keratin. It is a compound containing disulfide bridges, which makes up our hair and our nails.
So we can summarize that sulfur plays a very important role in the protein metabolism, such as the creation of essential and semi-essential amino acids and its ability to form strong structures through disulfide bridges.
What is Sulfur?
Sulfur is a chalcogene, which means ore creator, and is found in the 6th main group of the periodic table of elements.
Sulfur is found in nature as a free element and a compound. It is nonmetallic and in its free form, it is of yellowish color. Sulfur is heat-sensitive and water-soluble. Typical compounds, which are relevant for the body and/or can be found in food are sulfur oxides, sulfates and organic sulfur compounds.
Sulfur is one essential element, which is not so well researched yet, but we know, that it is an essential macro element for us, as we have to get our amount through nutrition.
What is the demand of Sulfur?
As sulfur is found in many protein-rich foods, it is one of the rare cases where there is no specific information about the daily demand of it.
Where can you get Sulfur from (Top foods)?
Here are the Top foods, which are rich in Sulfur:
1. Peanuts (up to 400 mg/100g),
2. Fish and meat (up to 350 mg/100g)
3. Eggs, cheese, parsley and soybeans (up to 200 mg/100g)
4. Broccoli, millet, sunflower seeds (up to 150 mg/100ml)
5. Garlic and onions (up to 50 mg/100ml)
Fact: Sulfur is mainly found in protein-rich and nutrient rich foods, such as nuts, seeds, pulses, herbs, allium and animal products.
What are the functions and benefits of Sulfur?
As we just learned above, the uppermost important function of sulfur is its function in the protein metabolism.
It is a component of several amino acids, such as the essential amino acid methionine and the semi-essential amino acid cysteine. Other amino acids in which sulfur plays a role are cystine, homocysteine and taurine. With glutathione there is an antioxidant, which is found in nearly all cells and which is made up of the three amino acids glutamine, cysteine and glycine.
Another important function of sulfur in our body is its ability to form strong and stable structures with disulfide bridges, which can be found in the connective tissues as collagen, the cell walls and in keratine, which gives hair and nails its rigidity.
Moreover sulfur is a component of several coenzymes, such as coenzyme A and the cofactor iron-sulfur-cluster, which help enzymes to react and work properly. Sulfur helps to activate vitamin C, vitamin B1, B5 and B7.
Another function of sulfur is its support in the intercellular energy supply and the support of the energy production of anaerobic bacteria, which can make up trillions in our gut.
Three other important functions of sulfur are the transport of the trace element selenium, the blood clotting with heparin and the detoxification in the liver with sulfate.
At last, there is the very interesting compound MSM, which stands for Methyl-Sulfonyl-Methane. It is the name for organic sulfur, which fulfills the above functions. It is found in nutrient-rich plants, in vegetables, fruits, meat and fish. Higher amounts of it are only accessible through supplementation.
What deficiency symptoms of Sulfur exist?
As there is plenty of protein-rich food, which is containing sulfur, a lack of it is very seldom.
Symptoms caused by a lack of sulfur can be as followed:
- dry/weak skin, hair and nails
- blood flow disorders
- liver restrictions
What overdose symptoms of Sulfur exist?
An overdose of sulfur is possible due to a high consume of it. This can be the case when consuming mainly protein-rich food and food, which is preserved with sulfur compounds. The symptoms can be:
- a headache
- gastrointestinal problems
- allergic reactions
What else may you have to consider about Sulfur?
The amount of sulfur in our body is about 0,25%, which is 175 g for a person with 70 kg.
Sulfur forms insoluble compounds with molybdenum, copper and heavy metals. What we want to have for heavy metals to help to detoxify our body is not so helpful considering molybdenum and copper, as they are essential trace elements. So as always the intake amount of sulfur should be hold at a reasonable level. This can be supported by not consuming too many products, which are processed with sulfur dioxide. It is used to preserve foods, such as wine and dry fruits, as it helps to prevent oxidation.
Although there are malodorous sulfur compounds, such as hydrogen sulfide, which remembers us of the smell of rotten eggs,
there are also beneficial uses in healing water or therapeutic baths. These do not only help with skin problems but also with inflammations, for example in the joints, as sulfur can be absorbed through the skin.
Sulfur is long known. It was used 5000 B.C. by the Greeks and the Egyptians. Lavoisier guessed in 1777 that sulfur is an element. In 1810 Gay-Lussac among others was able to prove that sulfur is an element.
The word sulfur comes from the Latin word sulfur, which means brimstone. The prefix and suffix “thio” comes from the Greek word “theion”, which means sulfur.
Now we know that sulfur holds so many, nearly countless, benefits for our body. Alone to mention its several functions in the protein metabolism. It is a component of amino acids, coenzymes and gives stability to protein structures. Furthermore, it is there for the supply of energy on the intercellular level and it has many helpful properties within the relief of inflammations and the detoxification due to the binding of heavy metals. Sulfur is found in protein-rich food. But be sure to not eat too much of it and especially sulfur dioxide, as it binds the essential trace elements molybdenum and copper.
Hope you enjoyed this series of the seven essential macro elements. The next time, we will switch over to a new series about the essential trace elements.
Now to you. What do you think? What was interesting here or do you want to know something else? Let us know in the comments.