Thursday, April 8, 2010

What makes oxygen so important?

Everyone knows we need oxygen to live yet many people do not know how it actually works in the body. My professional interest for many years has been devoted to the study of oxygen and oxidation (the reaction that makes it possible to maintain life) in the body and I want to share what I've learned with you. It is my belief that if you learn about oxidation, you will be able to live healthier lives and I will continue to dedicate my life to that goal!

Through this blog I will take you on a journey, my journey, that has led me to obtain a profound understanding of how diet and vitamins impact every day health, sometimes quite severely and sometimes even fatally. Over the centuries, we have made a lot of changes in how we eat and what we eat. Those changes, sometimes seemingly simple, can alter the course of your wellness in ways you probably have never imagined.

And all of it, every last bit of it, boils down to oxygen.

Now - what is oxygen? Oxygen is vital to life but how is oxygen used in the body? When we breathe air, the lung tissues extract it and pass it into the blood where it is picked up by hemoglobin, the pigment that gives our red cells their color. Hemoglobin has the remarkable ability to combine with oxygen to transport it in the blood stream. It carries the oxygen to all our tissues where it is able to give it up and donate it to our cells where it is used to produce energy. This process is called oxidation, a chemical reaction that is a form of combustion where fuel (food) is consumed.

Oxidation occurs in microscopic "engines" of the cells called mitochondria. Cells are so small that they can only be seen with a microscope and the structure of mitochondria can only be seen with an electron microscope. Each cell contains many mitochondria and their job is to use the oxygen to create energy by oxidation. This provides the power for all body functions and life itself.

Oxygen is truly the spark of life! It is pulled from the air and enters the mitochondria where oxidation occurs. Getting oxygen into the mitochondria is a very complicated process and in my next post we'll talk about the principles of oxidation and how it yields energy.