What Makes Up the Human Body?

If you enjoy old nursery rhymes, you may think that boys are made of snakes, snails, and puppy-dogs’ tails. Similarly, you may believe that girls are made of sugar, spice, and all things nice.

Although you can find sugar, spices, and snails in human beings, snakes or puppy-dogs’ tails are unlikely to be found. So what is the real composition of human beings?

The answer is actually both simple and complex, depending on your perspective.

For instance, biologists will tell you that the human body is mostly made up of water. Water? Yes! Even though the body appears solid, it is actually composed of approximately 57-65% water.

On the other hand, if you ask chemists, they will say that the human body is mostly oxygen. Since water is 89% oxygen by mass, most of the body’s mass does indeed come from oxygen.

However, if you count atoms, hydrogen is the winner. Hydrogen atoms make up 67% of the atoms in water, so most of the body’s atoms are hydrogen.

While we consider the elements that make up the body, it’s important to note that the body contains around 60 different types of elements. However, nearly 99% of the body’s mass is made up of only six elements: oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus.

An additional 0.85% comes from five other elements: potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. The other approximately 50 elements are present in very small amounts and are known as trace elements. Despite their small quantities, more than a dozen of them are believed to be essential for life.

While these facts are often mentioned as answers to the question of the body’s composition, there are other ways to look at it. For example, you can analyze the types of molecules, such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and DNA.

You can also examine different types of tissues, like muscles and bones. You can even look at cell types, although it can be confusing. Why? Because despite the hundreds of different types of cells in the body, the largest type in terms of number of cells is not even human. Instead, it is the millions of bacteria that exist in the gastrointestinal tract!

Finally, you can adopt the viewpoint of some physicists who claim that the body is mostly empty space. How is that possible? When you consider that 99.9% of an atom is empty space, you can technically argue that the human body is mostly just that: empty space.

Of course, the same can be said about all other forms of matter. Thanks to the electromagnetic force, the electrical charges within atoms repel each other, giving atoms volume and providing the body with its size and shape.

Without these charges, there would be no space inside atoms and we would be incredibly tiny. How tiny? Scientists once calculated that if all the space inside atoms was removed, all of humanity would fit in the space of a single sugar cube!

Give It a Try

Are you ready to delve deeper into what makes up the human body? Don’t forget to explore the following activities with a friend or family member:

The human body is composed of trillions of cells. If you’re curious about the components of these cells, you can explore the Human Cell Diagram online. It provides information about the small building blocks that form the cells in your body.

To understand the importance of water for your body, you can perform a simple experiment. Take a glass from the cupboard, add a few ice cubes, and fill it with tap water. As you enjoy a refreshing drink of ice water, take a look at Wonder of the Day #170. This daily act of drinking water replenishes a significant portion of your body. It emphasizes the importance of staying hydrated by consuming enough water every day.

If you’re interested in learning about the specific elements and their functions within your body, you can read about it in the article “Elements in the Human Body and What They Do”. Additionally, you can check your medicine cabinet for any multivitamin supplements and examine the label. This will help you identify the trace elements provided by the supplement.

For more information, you can refer to the following sources:

1. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/what-the-human-body-is-made-of-a7173301.html

2. https://www.reference.com/science/human-body-made-up-aef144249a02d3f5

3. http://www.livescience.com/3505-chemistry-life-human-body.html

4. http://chemistry.about.com/cs/howthingswork/f/blbodyelements.htm

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