What is sulfur? Why do we need it?
The mineral sulfur plays a vital role in the body. As an individual
element, it makes up an important part of the proteins responsible
for the formation of hair, muscles and skin. It is also a
component of bones, teeth and collagen. It is also an important
ingredient in insulin, the substance used to regulate blood
In terms of metabolic processes, sulfur contributes to the
digestion and absorption of fat, because it is needed to help
make bile acids. It is also necessary for synthesizing collagen,
and is required for the metabolism of several vitamins, including
thiamine, biotin and pantothenic acid. Many health experts
claim that a sulfur-containing supplement known as methylsulfonylmethane
(MSM) can treat a wide variety of disorders. To date, these
claims remain unsubstantiated.
How much sulfur should I take?
A recommended daily allowance for sulfur has yet to be established.
However, because most dietary sulfur is consumed as part of
certain amino acids (methionine, cystine and cysteine) found
in foods rich in protein, diets that contain high amounts
of protein-rich foods should provide an adequate source of
What are some good sources of sulfur?
What forms are available?
Meat and poultry, organ meats, fish, beans and dairy products
are all good sources of sulfur-containing amino acids. Sulfur
also occurs in garlic and onions. Many supplements also provide
trace amounts of sulfur.
What can happen if I don't get enough
sulfur? What can happen if I take too much? Are there any
side-effects I should be aware of?
Sulfur deficiencies have yet to be thoroughly documented.
A study in the 1930s found that patients with arthritis appeared
to have low levels of sulfur, but no definitive link has been
established. Protein-deficient diets and use of tobacco may
lead to sulfur deficiency, but since most Western diets are
high in protein, they probably supply an adequate amount of
As of this writing, there are no known side-effects or drug
interactions with the use of sulfur supplements.
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