Oxygen is important to our energy and health. Unless the body gets enough oxygen, it can cause fatigue, hyperventilation and fainting, and in extreme cases it can even die.
Role of oxygen
Any change in oxygen concentration can affect how the body breathes. Oxygen demand varies from person to person and relies entirely on physical adjustment and compensation for hypoxia. Because oxygen is used as energy, it is an indispensable element of human survival. Cells in the body need oxygen to survive.
The breathing process involves inhaling and expelling air. The air enters the lungs as the chest muscles expand. Then the muscles contract to force the air out. This is a simple and necessary process for oxygen to move through the body. Air enters the lungs through the trachea, which then carries oxygen to the heart from hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Eventually, carbon dioxide is returned to the lungs and exhaled.
Air passes through the bronchioles to a micro-balloon called the alveoli. Here, small blood vessels carry blood through these alveoli and replace with fresh oxygen. Capillaries carry these oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the left ventricle of the heart, which is then pumped through the arteries to all parts of the body.
The cells receive oxygen from the blood and remove waste such as carbon dioxide, which is then transported intravenously to the right ventricle. The blood here is very low in oxygen and most of it is waste. The blood is pumped back into the lungs and then the waste is sent to the alveoli through the capillaries. At this time, the carbon dioxide is excreted by exhaling.
Cellular processes require oxygen to burn calories from food. This process is used to turn food into energy, and the principle is the opposite of the photosynthesis in which plants convert energy into sugar. A cyclic sequence called the citrate cycle (or the Krebs cycle) drives this step in the cell. This process stores energy in cells called adenosine triphosphate, which requires the use of oxygen and produces carbon dioxide and water.
Oxygen gives the body the ability to turn food into energy. When oxygen is deprived, cellular respiration stops and causes cell death.
The protein building block (amino acid) contains oxygen, so proteins also use oxygen as part of the molecular structure. This is the same as carbohydrates and fats. Since these molecules make up the main part of body tissue, oxygen is also one of the important elements that make up the body itself.