Nitrogen is a chemical element with the atomic number of 7 and vital to all life on earth. It is part of all amino acids, which
make up proteins including those in
RNA. The human body contains about 3% by weight of nitrogen, the fourth most
abundant element in the body after oxygen, carbon and hydrogen. In respiration,
the presence of nitrogen in the air inhibits oxidation of the lung tissues,
where specialised cells extract the oxygen from the air (normally about 20% by
Nitrogen is essential for the human body to synthesise amino acids. The protein
that is consumed in the diet contains amino acids. These are made up of organic
molecules containing nitrogen. Through the nitrogen obtained from these amino
acids, the body produces other amino acids that are vital for body functions.
Microbes transform nitrogen into forms that get absorbed in the plants.
A deficiency of nitrogen can lead to slow growth of the hair and nails, brittle hair and hair loss,
slower wound healing, muscle wasting, bone fractures, sprains and complex
Excess of nitrogen in the body is harmful. If nitrogen intake exceeds nitrogen
excretion, as can occur with high-protein diets, excess nitrogen leaves the body
increasing the risk for
kidney stones and
osteoporosis. Amino acids of protein are converted to ammonia by the liver.
High levels of ammonia are toxic to the nervous system, with symptoms that
include vomiting and tremors and can lead to coma and death. Therefore, moderate
protein consumption is best. The recommended daily intake for protein in humans
from all sources should never exceed the size of the clenched fist of the person consuming it and
that includes children.