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Transition Metals

Characteristics and electron configuration of Group 3 - 12 of the periodic table

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Ions of Life

Ions of Life

Credit: Perdita
Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spirulina_tablets.jpg
License: CC BY-NC 3.0

Dietary supplements are widely used around the world. Spirulina (tablets above) is one such “food” that contains a high protein content and acts as a source of several metals. Once used as a food source by the Aztecs and related groups, this material is a form of cyanobacterium. Although widely touted as a health food, there is little or no evidence to date that would indicate any benefit to consumption of Spirulina.

News You Can Use

  • Chromium is required in trace amounts, but its exact functions in the body are not clear. This transition metal is somewhat of an enigma since its exact function is not known. There are some data that suggest chromium may be of importance in the management of type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes mellitus.
  • Manganese is found in bone, liver, kidneys, and pancreas. Dietary sources rich in manganese include nuts and seeds, wheat germ, and whole grains. Almost 40% of Americans have a manganese deficiency due to reliance on processed grains instead of whole grains. Caution needs to be taken if you choose to use manganese supplements since excessive amounts of this material can cause neurological problems.
  • Credit: Stacy Spensley
    Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/4093477608/
    License: CC BY-NC 3.0

    Whole wheat bread is more nutritious and more delicious than standard white bread [Figure2]


  • Iron is perhaps one of the most important transition metal ions due to its involvement in oxygen transport. This cation is a component of the heme molecule, a cyclic structure that is part of the hemoglobin protein found in red blood cells. Oxygen will interact with the iron portion of the hemoglobin and be transported through the bloodstream to the cells. The oxygen is then released to enter the cells.
  • The average human has a total body copper content of about 100 mg. Copper is a component of the enzyme cytochrome oxidase, involved in the utilization of oxygen as part of the process for the manufacture of ATP. Maintenance and repair of connective tissues also requires copper. Although many people are convinced that wearing a copper bracelet will help with the pain and swelling of arthritis, there is no medical evidence for this belief.

Can You Apply It?

Use the links below to read more about transition metal ions. Then answer the following questions.

  1. What are good dietary sources of chromium?
  2. What enzyme is manganese a component of?
  3. What effects does excessive manganese have on adults?
  4. What are symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia?
  5. What are symptoms of copper poisoning?

Image Attributions

  1. [1]^ Credit: Perdita; Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Spirulina_tablets.jpg; License: CC BY-NC 3.0
  2. [2]^ Credit: Stacy Spensley; Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/notahipster/4093477608/; License: CC BY-NC 3.0

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