We all know that we cannot live without oxygen and that it enables life for almost all living organisms on our planet. But do we really understand why is so important to us and which body functions it supports?
Let’s begin at the beginning. We are breathing oxygen from the air, which contains approximately 78 percent nitrogen and 21 percent oxygen. In average, human inhales and exhales around 16-times a minute in order to get enough oxygen to stay alive. Incredibly, the most prevalent element in our body is oxygen – oxygen makes up 65 percent of human body and is responsible for 90 percent of the body’s energy.
People can live about a month without food, a week without water and just few minutes without oxygen.
When we inhale oxygen enters body through our mouth and nose and then travels all the way to the lungs. When it gets to the smallest parts of the lungs (alveoli), those inflate like a balloon. Here oxygen enters capillary network and is bind to hemoglobin – the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all body’s cells and then as a transport for waste gas, carbon dioxide, back to the lungs.
The average adult’s lungs contain about 600 million alveoli.
Cells need oxygen mainly for two functions:
- to utilize oxygen to produce ATP – molecules, which are essential for many body processes,
- to eliminate toxins and waste through oxidation.
Just like a car, humans also need fuel. We get it from the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins that were ingested through food or from storage body fat. With a help of oxygen, cells convert these into energy, so our body can function and create heat. We can say that more oxygen we inhale, more energy our cells can produce – this makes our body stronger and well-prepared for daily challenges. Because our body is not capable of storing oxygen, it is vital that we pay attention to our oxygen levels and take care of sufficient oxygen supply.