Is water the only inorganic substance humans ingest?

I’ll guess that ‘organic’ means ‘extracted from a plant, animal, fungus, or other organism.’

Several spring to mind. Some additives to food are not organic, in the definition above. Food dyes or preservatives may be purely synthetic, bearing no resemblance to anything found in nature. CO[sub]2 [/sub] added to fizzy drinks, or nitrogen added to Guinness.

Medicines may not be organic as defined above. Aspirin is an organic substance, but is now synthesized rather than extracted. And some are not found in nature at all.

You know I was generalizing! I didn’t get into the modification of the hydrocarbon chain bit. Day 1 lecture…
:smiley:

I certainly hope he didn’t, or my faith would be badly shaken. Most of the elements are of no biological value, and the rarer ones are unlikely to be found in detectable amounts in most human bodies. Here is a list of elements that are found. Note that many elements are not listed (i.e., are not found), and many that are listed have no known “positive health role in mammals”- i.e., they are basically just dirt that gets in there.

Radioactivity does not have much to do with it (although, obviously, highly radioactive stuff in significant amounts is bad). Potassium is mildly radioactive, for instance, and we need it in significant quantities.

This may be true of a lot of the needed minerals, but generally not for the elements we need that occur mainly (in us, and in food) as ions in ionically bound compounds (mostly salts or weak acids): not only sodium, potassium and iodine (as you say) but also calcium, magnesium, chlorine (as chloride), flourine (as flouride) and phosphorus (as phosphate, especially if you drink a lot of cola(!), although we get a lot phosphorus in organic form too), maybe zinc (certainly we need it, but whether we normally get much of what we need in inorganic form, I don’t know)

In The Disappearing Spoon (highly recommended, btw), the author mentions that a Google search for just about any non-man-made element will find either dietary supplements containing that element, or lawyers offering to help you sue someone who caused you to be exposed to that element. Possibly both for the same element.

Some radioactive elements are used for medical purposes, some quack (like the infamous Radithor), some legit. In some cases, this involves ingesting radioactive elements. Some people ingest radioactive iodine as a treatment for hyperthyroidism, for example.

Nope, that’s what I meant… inorganic in the sense that it doesn’t contain both hydrogen and carbon.

I should also expand my query after the fact to ask if water is the only inorganic compound we ingest in its pure form. Sure, we take in iron, calcium, magnesium, sulfur, phosphorus… even trace amounts of gold and thorium, but no one outside of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! is eating a cannonball. :wink:

Don’t you ever put salt on your food?

A lot of people take calcium carbonate, both as a dietary supplement and as an antacid. Magnesium carbonate and aluminum phosphate are also used for indigestion, as is sodium bicarbonate. Magnesium sulphate (Epsom Salts) is used as a laxative. Lithium salts (generally carbonate) are used to treat bipolar disorder.

How pure does it have to be to count? People seldom drink distilled or deionized water, it tastes nasty.

OK - I need to say this. As a chemist - I must clarify that it is the COVALENT BOND between the carbon and hydrogen that makes a compound organic. Now - I might even be snooty enough to say that there must be a carbon to carbon bond for a compound to be organic, but methane is typically considered organic, so I will be nice and not disparage methane. much.
Thus NaHCO3 doesn’t count, nor does HCN. So don’t even try.

Thanks for clarifying, and sorry for the distraction I caused.

Do you mean consciously? Because a lot of food additives are inorganic and we ingest them:
titanium dioxide
clay
gypsum

Just look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E_number#Full_list for lots of examples.
iron oxides
aluminium
silver
gold
sulphur dioxide
various sulphites
nitrites and nitrates (cheaper than day-rates, haha)
boric acid

These are only those not mentioned so far, and only from colours and preservatives.

Well, how about we limit it to what I thought the thread meant–inorganic compounds we consume by themselves? There can be impurities, of course, but the idea is that the main point is to consume the inorganic compound.

I don’t think salt even qualifies this way. at least, for most people.

It does qualify for those of us with low BP, who have been ordered to eat a high-salt diet. While I don’t usually lick chunks of rock salt (waste of a pretty rock), there are times when the main point of ingesting something salty is the salt.
Also, many of the “minerals” mentioned may be ingested in an inorganic form but are used in an organic form (mainly as proteinic cofactors): iron in hemoglobin, calcium in coagulation factors and calcium channels, etc. Some are ingested directly in an organic form, such as iron and magnesium from animals and plants.