Elements necessary for humans

At present there are 118 elements listed in the periodic table. Some of these elements are commonly found on the earth in the form of ores. Some are radioactive and have very short half lives. Many such elements have been synthesized in the laboratory and live for a very short time.

Human body like other things existing is made of compounds which are made from the elements. Out of these 118 only some elements are connected with the human body.

Although elements as such don’t make up the body it is the combined form that is molecules constitute the human body. But elemental composition is as follows by mass.

Oxygen: 65%

Carbon: 18%

Hydrogen: 10%

Nitrogen: 3%

Other elements: 4%

Other elements include Calcium, Potassium, Phosphorus, Sulphur, Sodium, Chlorine, Magnesium, Boron, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper,  Fluorine, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Selenium, Silicon, Tin, Vanadium and Zinc.

Although these elements are used in very minor amount, they are crucial to some body processes.

Elements can be divided into different groups according to the functions they perform.

Building Blocks

The main building blocks of the body are proteins which are synthesized from amino acids. For these elements used are Hydrogen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus and Sulphur. DNA also contains these elements except Sulphur. DNA is the genetic code.

Enzymes

Enzymes are chemicals which are catalysts for carrying out chemical reactions like breakdown of sugars and other macro molecules. Such enzymes use some elements like Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Zinc, Selenium and Molybdenum. Enzymes play role in respiration, digestion, metabolism and immune system.

Nerves and Control

Brain sends messages to different parts of the body and this is a two way communication. Electrical signals are carried through electrolytic solutions like brines. Sodium, Potassium and Calcium ions this play the role of transmitting the signals. Similarly Chloride ions regulate the water in and out of cells. Iodine is used to make hormones which regulate metabolism.

Bones and Teeth

Bones make the template on which our body is hoisted. Strong bones and teeth are essential for the healthy body.  Bones and Teeth are made of Calcium and phosphate. Phosphate contains Phosphorus and Oxygen. Manganese element makes more stronger and resistance to breaking.

Blood

Blood is the lifeline of the body. Blood carries oxygen to the cells and removes the carbon-dioxide gas which is the byproduct of combustion reaction. Oxygen is carried by blood due to the presence of iron which binds the Oxygen. Other elements which are constituents of blood are Carbon, Oxygen, Iron and Cobalt. Cobalt is essential to make red blood cells.

Respiration and Energy

Respiration is inhalation of Oxygen. Adinosine Triphosphate (ATP) is formed during respiration which is the compound used by body as energy. Main elements involved here are Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Oxygen.

Source: c&en magazine of American Chemical Society (ACS)

Revival of Govardhan Parvat: The Mountain Moved by Krishna

In our country where mythology plays a big role in the lives of its inhabitants, many sites like hills, rivers, and caves have their associations with the mythology. One such concerns the Lord Krishna and is called Govardhan Parvat (mountain).

The legend is that when the uninterrupted deluge threatened to innundate Mathura, Krishna lifted the entire mountain on his little finger to make an umbrella to protect the Mathura.

UP government has planned to revive the almost barren Govardhan parvat situated about 23 kilometres from Mathura. Government plans to plant the herbal plants on the mountain. These are:

Kadamba: It is a tropical tree. Krishna and Radha are said to have conducted their love play under the cool shade of the tree. It is used as one of the raw materials in the preparation of “itars”.

Tamala or Indian bayleaf or tezpatta: It is commonly used in Indian culinary as well as medicines particularly for alleviation of diabetes due to the presence of highly antioxidant enzymes.

Karira: Scientific name is Capparis decidua. It’s spicy fruits are used for culinary purposes like vegetable, curries, and pickles. It is also used in medicine.

Pakar : It belongs to mulberry family. Leaves have sour taste.

Pilkhan: Scientific name Ficus virens. It grows to heights of about 100 feet. It is Avenue tree. It bears “strangler figs” because they can germinate on other trees and strangle them. It is used in Thai cuisine.

Animals cannot digest Cellulose

Most plants synthesize cellulose which they use to give strength to their bodies and make them withstand the vagaries of storms. It gives the shape to the trees and branches then expand the tree. Cellulose becomes the wood when trees become mature. Furniture is made of this material. It is obvious that cellulose is insoluble in water otherwise no one will use it in construction and furniture.

Cellulose and starch and other carbohydrates consist of glucose molecules which are arranged in chains of different styles. In starch, two chains are intertwined. These chains get separated on boiling the starch in water. This caused the chains to disperse in the water increasing its viscosity. Such starch is called pre-gelatinized starch.

On the other hand, cellulose structure is such that chains are not dispersed and wood remains unaffected in water. Glucose is the basic unit of sugar which is used by animals like humans for obtaining energy to keep the body running.

How do then we assimilate higher sugars like starch. They have to broken down to glucose units. The enzymes found in humans and other animals allow them to digest and metabolize many, but not all, biomolecules. Cellulose is one example of a molecule that defies digestion in many animals.

But the slight difference in the way the glucose molecules are hooked together in starch compared with how they are hooked together in cellulose makes a big difference in their digestibility.

Humans and many other higher animals have the enzyme required to break the bonds in starch, releasing glucose. The particular enzyme is called alpha-amylase.But because the shape of the linkage is different in cellulose, the same enzyme will not work. In fact, where cellulose is concerned, humans do not have an enzyme that will work.

As it turns out, most humans eat a fair amount of cellulose in the form of fruits and vegetables. Although we cannot digest it, the cellulose serves as roughage or fiber that gives food bulk and keeps it moving through the digestive system. In the end, all of the undigested material ends up being eliminated as feces.

Maybe you are wondering how animals such as cattle, sheep, deer, and goats thrive on a diet of grass or other cellulose-rich food. Can they digest cellulose when humans cannot? The answer is no. None of these animals have the enzymes required to digest cellulose. Instead they rely on colonies of microorganisms living in their digestive systems.

These simple microorganisms have the correct enzymes to digest the cellulose and to reassemble the products into starches and proteins. From these products, grazing animals acquire their nutrients. The special relationship between these animals and their resident microbes is called symbiosis—two organisms living with each other to the benefit of both.

Honey: A Food fit for Gods

Honey is thought to be very healthy sweetener. It is produced by bees as their food source and made from nectar sucked from the flowers with the help of enzymes. The final product is made of roughly 80% sugar, 17% water and a number of trace compounds. It is these trace compounds that are responsible for honey’s varied flavors and colors. The most abundant sugars in honey are fructose and glucose. Among the myriad minor complex sugars in the honey are maltose, sucrose, and other disaccharides, as well as trisaccharides such as erlose.

The nectar is mixed with enzymes, Invertase being the most critical, in their stomach-like honey sacs. Invertase splits the sucrose in the nectar into fructose and glucose and also produces some erlose. Back at the hive, the bees pass the digested material to house bees who reduce the moisture content of the mixture by ingesting and regurgitating it. They then deposit concentrated drops into honeycomb cells. Over the next few days, bees fan the fluid with their wings to further concentrate it, and finally, they cap the cells with wax. At the same time, enzyme-mediated changes produce a range of sugars and acids in the honey. Bee enzymes also show up in the finished product. Another enzyme, glucose oxidase, converts glucose to gluconolactone, which is then hydrolyzed to give gluconic acid, the principal acid in honey. Formic, acetic, butyric, and lactic acids are also found in honey, which explains why its pH typically measures 3.8-4.0 which is quite acidic and inhibits the growth of any bacteria in it.

Honey also contains small amounts of minerals and proteins. About 0.2% of honey is ash, probably originating in the flower nectar. Potassium accounts for about one-third of the ash. Other trace elements in honey include iron, manganese, copper, and silicon. The sweetener also contains up to 1% nitrogen, which comes principally from proteins. These proteins can cause honey to foam and form tiny air bubbles.

Of the more than 100 compounds found in honey, many are volatile organic compounds, such as phenylethyl alcohol, that contribute to flavor. The honey flavor is dependent on the flavor compounds and aroma compounds that come from a flower.

Because weather and geography affect flowers, each batch of honey can have a slightly different makeup of flavor chemicals.