A Survey of the Essential Biochemical Elements

  • Earl Frieden
Part of the Biochemistry of the Elements book series (BOTE, volume 3)


The simplest definition of an essential element is that it is an element required for the maintenance of life; its absence results in death or a severe malfunction of the organism. Experimentally, this rigorous criterion cannot always be satisfied and this has led to a broader definition of essentiality. An element is considered essential when a deficient intake produces an impairment of function and when restoration of physiological levels of that element prevents or relieves the deficiency. The organism can neither grow nor complete its life cycle without the element in question. The element should have a direct influence on the organism and be involved in its metabolism. The effect of the essential element cannot be wholly replaced by any other element. The importance of modifying any of these specific criteria in identifying the essentiality of a particular element has been emphasized by Luckey and Venugopal (1977).


Essential Element Essential Trace Element Bulk Element Ultratrace Element Primitive Ocean 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Earl Frieden
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ChemistryFlorida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA

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