Key Concepts

  • No recommended intake or upper level limit intake is given for sulfur
  • Methionine and cysteine are amino acids containing sulfur
  • Deficiency may be more prevalent in vegans not consuming a variety of vegetable protein sources
  • Food Sources: Eggs, legumes, whole grains, garlic, onions, cruciferous vegetables (brussels sprouts, cabbage)

Introduction

Sulfur is easily obtained from dietary proteins. Methionine and cysteine are amino acids which contain sulfur. We generally do not find free sulfur in our foods.

Functions

Sulfur is needed for the structure of skin, nails, and hair. Sulfur is required for the proper functioning of some enzymes and is important in proper functioning of the electron transport chain. Insulin structure and function is dependent on sulfur as insulin is two separate amino acid chains bound together by disulfide bridges. Taurine, glutathione, cysteine, and methionine are amino acids containing sulfur which are essential in proper detoxification.

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)

No RDA or AI recommendations are set for sulfur.

Deficiency

Deficiency of sulfur can cause joint pain, arthritis, and impaired liver function.

As sulfur is found in methionine and cysteine, individuals who are not consuming these amino acids in sufficient amounts, namely vegans, could become deficient in methionine.

Toxicity/Excess/Upper Intake Level (UL)

No upper intake level is set for sulfur and there are no known toxicities. Excessive intakes can make you smell like sulfur (think eating a bunch of garlic).

Food Sources

  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Cruciferous vegetables (brussels sprouts, cabbage)

The organosulfur compounds found in these foods give them odors, strong flavors, and bitter tastes.

Some individuals may have an inability to process sulfur which can lead to gastrointestinal distress.

Supplements

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) is a supplement high in sulfur used to enhance exercise recovery and reduce join pain.

 

References/Resources

  • Higdon, J., Drake, VJ. (2011). An evidence-based approach to vitamins and minerals (2nd).  New York:  Thieme.
  • Haas, E., Levin, B. (2006). Staying healthy with nutrition.  Berkeley, CA:  Celestial Arts.
  • Groff, JL., Gropper, SS. (2000).  Advanced nutrition and human metabolism (3rd).  Belmont, CA:  Thomson Learning.

 

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