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Sulfur is a key mineral in the human body, helping to build and repair DNA, as well as protect cells against damage. It is also important for the production of proteins and enzymes.
Sulfate is a key sulfur compound that occurs in a variety of proteins and compounds including phospholipids, amino acids, coenzymes, bridging ligands, metalloproteins, and photosynthesis. It is oxidized in many biological processes to sulfide at lower oxidation states or to H2S (hydrogen sulfide).
A major source of sulfur is the air, and sulfur is naturally produced by the weathering of rocks and geothermal vents. It is also absorbed by plants and is consumed by animals that eat them.
It is found in a wide range of foods, from fruits and vegetables to breads and pastas. People who do not consume sufficient amounts of sulfur-rich foods are at risk for a number of health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Agriculturally, S is essential for a range of plant functions, such as nitrogen efficiency, protein synthesis, and formation of phytochemical defense compounds. Careful soil fertility management and the application of manures, compost, or commercial fertilizers containing sulfate can ensure a sufficient supply of this crucial nutrient.
Sulfur is commonly released from the soil through the breakdown of organic matter. The release of S depends on the temperature and moisture, and conditions that promote crop growth may favor increased S availability.
Sulfur is also an important mineral for humans, contributing to the maintenance of healthy bones and muscles. It is an essential component of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids, as well as zinc, copper, selenium, and magnesium. It is a significant factor in the production of vitamin C, and it helps to maintain normal blood levels of iron.