Sulphur is an essential mineral naturally found in many food items. It is a quintessential ingredient for the synthesis of protein. Protein contains ~3-6% of sulphur. Sulphur-based amino acids like methionine and cysteine are responsible for the synthesis of protein in the body.
Sulphur smells like rotten eggs and a similar odour is observed during the burning of hair which indicates the presence of sulphur in hair. In addition to protein, synthesis sulphur is responsible for metabolism intermediaries like glutathione.
Functions of Sulphur
Sulphur works as a cofactor for various proteins and regulates the synthesis of protein in the body. It actively participates in the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein. Sulphur deficiency leads to disruption of protein synthesis in the body and the result affects a different part of the body.
What is Sulphur Deficiency?
Sulphur deficiency is very common, and we often ignore that fact. It is caused by prolonged deprivation of sulphur rich diet. However, it can also be caused by the malabsorption of sulphur due to preexisting health conditions like gastrointestinal disorders, renal failure, diabetes, and prolonged alcoholism.
Sulphur deficiency leads to the health conditions like impaired protein synthesis, metabolism and Gi disorders, Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease.
Causes of Sulphur Deficiency
The condition of sulphur deficiency can be developed due to various factors. Some of the major cause has been illustrated below:
- Inadequate Diet: The long-term deprivation of sulphur rich diet is the common cause of its deficiency. The major source of sulphur is animal produce. It may be inaccessible to various groups and may cause its deficiency. It is very much evident in South-Asian and African countries.
- Unavailability of Nutritious Food: Soils from different geographies have a different composition. Soil deficient in sulphur may produce sulphur deficient agricultural produce. It is caused by the overexploitation of fields and can be rectified by providing phosphate-rich fertilizers and fortified seeds.
- GI Disorders: The majority of the sulphur forms part of the protein in the body. It is directly linked with the synthesis of proteins in the body which are necessary for metabolism. Gastrointestinal disorders affect the absorption of protein in the body and hence affect metabolism.
Studies have found out that controlled intake of sulphur helps in its absorption however, excess Sulphur intake leads to its excretion through urine.
Symptoms of Sulphur Deficiency
The common symptoms of sulphur deficiency include:
- Joint pains
- Fragile nails and hair
- Memory loss
- Impaired wound healing
Health Risks due to Low Sulphur
- Impaired Metabolism: Sulphur is key to the amino acid glutathione which acts as metabolism intermediaries. Sulphur deficiency will cause a low concentration of glutathione in the body and may adversely affect the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Insufficient sulphur contents may cause GI disorders in severe cases.
- Protein Synthesis: Sulphur acts as a cofactor for protein synthesiser amino acids like methionine and cysteine. These proteins are an essential element for protein synthesis and their deficiency can lead to insufficient protein in the body which may have a multidimensional impact on the functionality of the body.
- Cardiovascular Diseases: Protein forms the core of the human cells and it can be damaged in case of protein imbalance in the body. Sulphur deficiency causes protein insufficiency which may lead to heart cell damage.
- Alzheimer: Severe sulphur deficiency may lead to irreversible brain cell damage and cause loss of memory. Several studies found out that sulphur deficiency may cause Alzheimer however, further study is required on the same.
Tests for Sulphur Deficiency
Sulphur measurement (total and free) is done through the urine test. The sulphation of renal tubular proteins depends upon the presence of sulphur in the body.
- Urine Test: Sulphur has a very wide range of functionality and its absorption and excretion of excess concentration depend upon the concentration of sulphur in the body. The renal tabular proteins which are sulphur dependent regulates renal excretion. It measures the total and free sulphur.
Ideally, we don’t require any precautions before the teat however, we should stop any sort of medications that might interfere with the concentrations of sulphur in the body.
Remedies of Sulphur Deficiency
- Sulphur Supplements: The clinical remedy of sulphur deficiency are to take sulphur supplements. If you are diagnosed with a severe Sulphur deficiency, you should consider medical supplements under the supervision of doctors. As higher Sulphur may have side effects.
- Sulphur Rich Diet: The simple way to prevent sulphur deficiency is the inclusion of sulphur rich food items in the daily diet. Some of the sulphur rich food items are meat, poultry, fish, seafood, legumes, onion, garlic, sprouts, egg.
- Fortified Food Items: Several agricultural lands across the globe are poor in micronutrients which produces nutrient deficient food items. It can be overcome by using sulphur rich fertilisers and fortified seeds.
- Vitamin D Rich Diet: Moderate sulphur deficiency can also be cured by consuming vitamin D-rich food items along with sunlight. Some of the food items rich in vitamin D are salmon, tuna, mackerel, fish oil, milk, and cheese.
Prevention of Sulphur Deficiency
It is often said that “Prevention is better than Cure” and indeed this is very much true about micronutrient deficiencies. Sulphur deficiency can be prevented through the consumption of Sulphur rich diet.
Food items rich in Vitamin D:
- Fish oil
- Milk Products
Adequate Intake (>19 yrs.):
The simple way to prevent Sulphur deficiencies is to maintain recommended daily intakes. The intakes of sulphur vary with the different age groups however, the recommended daily intake of sulphur has not yet reached the consensus.
Sulphur is essential for the synthesis of proteins and makes cells healthier. It also plays a key role in metabolism and renal functions. Its deficiency may lead to cell damage which may affect different parts of the body differently.
Although Sulphur deficiency has several ill effects, it can be treated with the right consultation and medical supplements as prescribed by medical experts however, a high concentration of sulphur may be deadly. The best possible way to avoid these complications by consuming sulphur and vitamin D-rich diet.