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Tin is a trace mineral element with the atomic number of 50 and some animals do not grow well without it. Although it has been said that there is no known biological function of tin in the human body there have been studies that suggest it could have a function in the tertiary structure of proteins or other bio-substances and the human body does have receptors for it.

There has been very few studies of the function of tin in humans but of those that took place it did prove to lessen aches and pains and skin problems, increase energy and improve digestion, mood and general wellbeing in some people. There has also been studies where it has been shown to lessen fatigue and improve some forms of depression and there have been reports that it has the ability to treat asthma, certain types of headache and insomnia.

When human tissue has been examined for tin after accidental death, it has been found in the aorta, brain, heart, kidneys, liver, muscles, ovaries, pancreas, spleen, stomach, testes and uterus. None has been found in the thyroid while the prostate, which usually shows no other trace element, has contained tin. Traces of tin can be found in the foetal heart and spleen and higher levels in the liver, while no tin has been found in still-born infants.

Tin (as a fluoride carrier known as stannous fluoride) is added to some toothpastes and it is used in the form of stannous chloride as a chemical preservative. It is also often added to tinned asparagus to improve its taste and is known to be a remedy for certain species of intestinal parasites.

Tin is far less toxic than other known vital trace elements, such as copper and cobalt, as it is excreted very quickly.

Tin deficiency

Rat studies have shown that tin-deficient diets resulted in alopecia (hair loss), decreased efficiency of food utilisation, hearing loss, poor growth and changes in mineral concentrations in various organs.

It has not yet been proven but deficiency of tin may be the cause of asthma, depression, headaches, insomnia and shortness of breath in humans. There are many causes of depression, some resulting from abnormal brain chemistry, while others are associated with low blood pressure, thyroid dysfunction, low blood sugar or low (or high) levels of various essential nutrients, such as calcium, copper, lithium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, protein, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and others. Administering extra tin will not work when other chemical imbalances are present, but it could be the missing link when other attempts to resolve depression that involve low or malfunctioning adrenal glands have failed.

Tin is linked with iodine the same as calcium is associated with magnesium. Tin may support the adrenal glands while iodine supports the thyroid gland, with both affecting cardiac output. The adrenals control the left side of the heart while the thyroid control the right side. In addition to low vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and/or vitamin B1 (thiamine), low tin could be a common cause of low adrenaline, which can lead to left-sided cardiac insufficiency. While fatigue or depression may be experienced with cardiac insufficiency of either side, asthma and breathing difficulties are more common with left-sided heart failure and swelling of hands and feet is more common with right-sided heart failure.

Tin overdose

Tin toxicity studied over the last 200 years in humans, has been linked to the consumption of foods or beverages that were stored long term in tinned, non-lacquered containers and where levels of several hundred to several thousand mg/kg were ingested. Toxicity can cause abdominal pain, diarrhoea, headaches, nausea, palpitations, rash, stomach complaints and vomiting. However, excess tin is rapidly excreted and no long-term negative health effects have been reported although it may cause infertility in men as it reduces sperm metabolism.

Daily dietary intake of tin from various food sources (excluding tinned food) ranges from one to three milligrams, which is less than one tenth of the daily intake obtained years ago when tin cans were not lacquered or had not been replaced by aluminium cans and when tin cups and pans were still in use.

Estimated intake of tin from a 600 g lacquered tin-lined can with acidic content is approximately 15 mg. Estimated intake of tin from a 600 g non-lacquered tin can with acidic content is approximately 60 mg. These levels vary considerably when other substances, such as copper and iron salts, nitrates, sugar or sulphur compounds, are present as well as acidity, temperature and length of time of content storage. As bronze contains copper and tin, the use of tin with food and beverages has been present since the bronze age.


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The prevalence of tin compounds in industry makes it  hard to avoid over exposure but limiting tinned foods and avoiding seafood from many coastal areas, where there is tin contamination, are two ways to lower tin levels in the body. Studies on tin content of coastal waters found high levels around areas where agricultural and industrial plants or tin mines were situated or next to land which was densely populated.

NOTE: Aluminium drink and food cans have a polymer plastic lining which can leak into the food or drinks being stored especially if they are of an acidic nature. See Dangers of plastics

Natural sources of tin

NOTE: Tin may interact with iron and copper, particularly in the gut, and so inhibit absorption of these elements.

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