The body is composed of many atomic elements that provide the basic chemical framework for human body composition. Atoms combine with each other to form all the molecules in the body. In the case of hydrogen and oxygen, they come together to form the body's most abundant substance, water. For this reason, these two elements, along with the life-defining element carbon, are known to be the three most common atomic units in the body.
Oxygen is the body's most abundant atomic type; oxygen atoms make up around two-thirds of the total composition. Most of the oxygen present in the body is absorbed from the lungs, by way of respiration, into the bloodstream. All living cells in the body require oxygen to survive, because the oxidation process provided by the oxygen atoms is required for nutrient compounds to be broken down and utilised by cells. One of the byproducts of the oxidation process is carbon dioxide, which is composed partly of oxygen atoms as well.
Carbon is the second most abundant atomic type present in the human body; it comprises about 18 per cent of the total elemental make-up. This element is the basic building block for all organic molecules found on earth and is the primary component in human DNA. It is a complex atom, in that it has four bonding sites that allow it to be the basis of the long molecular formations that are inherent to human structure. Carbon bonds are also formed and broken without the expenditure of large amounts of energy, perhaps one of the reasons that it is so abundant in the body. It is also the other component of carbon dioxide.
Hydrogen, which has the smallest atomic make-up, comprises around 9 per cent of the human body. Hydrogen helps determine the specific characteristics of different molecules. For example, the number of bonded hydrogen atoms on a fatty acid molecule determines the type of fat, either saturated or unsaturated. Hydrogen is a major component in water, as well, boosting its numbers within the body significantly.
Other Common Atoms
In addition to the top three atoms, the human body consists of varying amounts of over 50 other elemental atoms. Calcium is another abundant atom, most of it being found in the bones and teeth. Phosphorus, which makes up around 1 per cent of the body, is the major component of ATP, which provides raw energy for cellular chemical reactions. All of the elemental atoms that make up the body have widely varied functions and characteristics that play important roles in things like the activity of enzymes and the structuring of proteins.
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