Composition of the human body

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This article is about the chemical composition of the human body. For the body's content of fat, bone, and muscle, see body composition.

The human body's chemical composition consists of a variety of elements and compounds. By mass, human cells consist of 65–90% water (H2O), and a significant portion is composed of carbon-containing organic molecules. Oxygen therefore contributes a majority of a human body's mass, followed by carbon. 99% of the mass of the human body is made up of the six elements oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus.

Elemental composition

Element Percent by mass
Oxygen 65
Carbon 18
Hydrogen 10
Nitrogen 3
Calcium 1.5
Phosphorus 1.2
Potassium 0.2
Sulfur 0.2
Chlorine 0.2
Sodium 0.1
Magnesium 0.05
Iron 3.8g in men, 2.3g in women
Cobalt, Copper, Zinc, Iodine < 0.05 each
Selenium, Fluorine < 0.01 each

(from Chang, Raymond (2007). Chemistry, Ninth Edition. McGraw-Hill. pp. p. 52. ISBN 0-07-110595-6.)[1]

Other elements necessary for human life (see dietary mineral) are:

A small amount of chromium is necessary for health.

Boron has been found necessary for optimal health in rats, so presumably it plays a role in humans as well.

The elements needed for life are relatively common in the Earth's crust, and conversely most of the common elements are necessary for life. An exception is aluminium, which is the third most common element in the Earth's crust (after oxygen and silicon), but seems to serve no function in living cells. Rather, it is harmful.

Besides these elements that are necessary for life, our bodies contain trace quantities of most other elements, including some that are harmful, such as mercury, cadmium, and lead.


The composition can also be expressed in terms of chemicals, such as:

Body composition can also be expressed in terms of various types of material, such as:

There are many species of bacteria and other microorganisms that live on or inside the healthy human body. In fact, 90% of the cells in (or on) a human body are microbes, by number (much less by mass or volume) (from Glausiusz, Josie. "Your Body Is a Planet". Retrieved 2007-09-16.).