Oxygen: more is not necessarily better

We know that during cellular respiration, 1 molecule of glucose is broken down in the presence of 1 molecule of oxygen to produce energy in the form of 36 ATP molecules (net). Compare this to the 2 ATP molecules produced during anaerobic respiration and we can see why animals with higher metabolic rates rely on aerobic respiration for energy.

In class yesterday, some of you asked if breathing in higher concentrations of oxygen would create more energy. Good question! You are not alone in thinking that more oxygen is better, oxygen bars started as a fad in Japan in the late 90’s. Basically, you would go in and pay a dollar a minute for a 5-10 minute dose of concentrated O2 fed through a “nose hose.” Alleged benefits range from a healthier immune system to helping with hangovers. For a first person account of such an experience, click here.

However, scientists warn against long-term exposure to pure oxygen because of oxygen toxicity. Breathing in oxygen at higher concentrations leads to the formation of free radicals that eventually lead to lung, and even brain, damage. Read some articles on the cons of breathing pure oxygen by clicking on the links: News-Medical and Science Daily as well as a scathing commentary on O2 bars at LiveScience.

What do you think?

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