Sulfur is a mineral needed for the manufacture of many proteins, including those forming hair, muscles, and skin. Sulfur contributes to fat digestion and absorption, because it is needed to make bile acids. Sulfur is also a constituent of bones, teeth, and collagen (the protein in connective tissue). As a component of insulin, sulfur is needed to regulate blood sugar. Sulfur is present in methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), a naturally-occurring substance available as a supplement.
No recommended intake levels have been established for sulfur. Since most Western diets are high in protein, the majority of diets probably supply enough sulfur.
Most dietary sulfur is consumed as part of certain amino acids in protein-rich foods. Meat and poultry, organ meats, fish, eggs, beans, and dairy products are all good sources of sulfur-containing amino acids. Sulfur also occurs in garlic and onions and may be partially responsible for the health benefits associated with these items.1
Deficiencies of sulfur have not been documented, although a protein-deficient diet could theoretically lead to a deficiency of sulfur. Low levels of cystine, and therefore possibly sulfur, were reported many years ago in people with arthritis, but this association is far from proven.2
Last Review: 07-01-2014
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