OXYGEN AND OXIDATION
Oxygen – essential, versatile, and basic yet complex – the atom and molecules of oxygen are part of all we are, yet so few of us know just how it works to our benefit, or the unavoidable consequences that accompany it.
It can be responsible for life and death, generation and degeneration, composition and decomposition, oxygenation and oxidation. Life revolves around the never-ending rotation and balance of too much, or not enough oxygen.
THE IMPORTANCE OF OXYGEN
There is clear understanding that oxygen management requires a delicate balance for benefits to be maintained and to avoid toxicity and its consequences. This balance can take many forms and is part of many combinations for differing molecular compositions, inevitably inducing different results of biological function, all of which are continuously at play and paramount with regard to the order of the world, as we know it.
Making up just under 21% of the earths atmosphere, and being a relatively heavy gas, it sits low in the atmosphere and when attached to a couple of hydrogen atoms, it sits even lower as water – the ultimate liquid that is responsible for all life on earth. This essential form of both hydrogen and oxygen (H2O) is balanced, stable and abundant, however life also needs both elements separately to facilitate the different roles and chemical reactions that enable and manage both life and death.
This ultimately leads us to what is referred to as the REDOX Theory – Reduction & Oxidation.
Dioxygen, or molecular oxygen, is the form of oxygen that most of us are familiar with. It provides the energy released in both combustion and aerobic cellular respiration, as well as in the many major classes of organic molecules in living organisms that contain oxygen atoms, such as proteins, nucleic acids carbohydrates and fats. Cellular respiration using O2 enables aerobic organisms to produce much more ATP (cellular energy) than anaerobic organisms. The cellular respiration of O2 occurs in all eukaryotes, including all complex multicellular organisms such as plants and animals.
Throughout the environment oxygen is always being consumed, but it is too chemically reactive to remain a free element in the air without being continuously replenished by the photosynthetic action of organisms, which use the energy of sunlight to produce oxygen from water and carbon dioxide. In nature, free oxygen is produced by the light-driven splitting of water during photosynthesis. Putting the carbon back into the ground or plant and releasing the oxygen back into the air to be used again, should be a major objective for all of us considering the current state of our atmosphere.
In the aerobic organism, the chemical energy of oxygen is released in mitochondria to generate ATP during oxidative phosphorylation, with the reaction for aerobic respiration essentially being the reverse of photosynthesis. Reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as superoxide ion (O−2) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), are reactive by-products of oxygen use in organisms. Parts of the immune system of higher organisms create peroxide, superoxide, and singlet oxygen to destroy invading microbes. Reactive oxygen species also play an important role in the response of plants against pathogen attacks.
Oxygen is damaging to anaerobic organisms, which were the dominant form of early life on Earth until O2 began to accumulate in the atmosphere about 2.5 billion years ago during the Great Oxygenation Event. When we are well and oxygen-rich we represent a less favourable environment to an anerobic organism, in the same way as the anaerobic environment is unfavourable or toxic to us. This unfavourable environment bias makes it hard for that organism to survive and hinders the ability for it to thrive and replicate to a dangerous level.
Generally speaking, aerobic organisms cannot live in an anerobic environment just as anerobic organisms cannot live in an aerobic environment. There are of course varying severities of this concept that are relevant depending on degree however, aspects of immunity strength correlates strongly with this very principal.
Oxygen is required for life, but it’s a fine balance – too much can cause death, not enough can also result in death, and low levels will promote susceptibility to bacterial, viral, anerobic and oxidative attacks or consequences. Oxygen is imperative in the energy creation processes for an enormous number of organisms, however its use results in the creation of by-products (or species) that in turn need to be managed. It is highly reactive and is an oxidizing agent that readily forms oxides with most elements as well as with other compounds. Having enough oxygen to enable cellular respiration and energy creation is vital, but so is the management of the resulting oxidative species.
Oxidative stress is an inescapable component of all
aerobic life – it affects virtually all living things!
THE WORLD NEED SOLUTIONS TO MANAGE OXIDATIVE STRESS
Oxidative stress is simply a state of unmanaged oxidation, with oxidative stress being referred to as the root cause of well over 170 different dis-eases or ailments across many species.
Nature’s problems need nature’s solutions. Synthetic intervention will only address the symptoms, but will not rectify the root cause at the cellular redox level. It’s like trying to use a watering can to put out a wildfire – sure you might make a splash, but it won’t get the job done. The key is for the organism in question to be able to keep up and maintain the necessary balance in the first place. A natural, clean environment will mean that the organism should be able to keep up by natural internal means, however, we no longer have a natural clean environment.
Depending on the circumstances or the environmental challenges an organism needs to endure, it still needs to provide or ingest its own supply of anti- oxidants for survival in order to achieve cellular respiration in animal and aquatic type species, as well as photosynthesis and microbial soil health for plants. The overall health of any organism will be directly associated with this essential function.
Ensuring that an organism is able to produce its own supply of anti-oxidants, or assisting it with supplementation, oxidative stresses can be managed and the resulting dis-ease potential reduced. The inability to do this manifests into a multitude of examples that cost industry and governments trillions of dollars annually and causes significant distress the world over.
As we now know, disturbances in the normal redox state of cells can cause toxic effects through the production of oxidative species and free radicals that damage all components of the cell, including proteins, lipids, and DNA. Oxidative stress from oxidative metabolism causes base damage, as well as strand breaks in DNA. The base damage is mostly indirect and is caused by the reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated, e.g. O2− (superoxide radical), OH (hydroxyl radical) and H2O2 (hydrogen Peroxide). Furthermore, as some reactive oxidative species act as cellular messengers in redox signalling, oxidative stress can also cause disruptions in the normal mechanisms of cellular signalling.
“Oxidative stress is an inescapable component of all aerobic life”
In a healthy aerobic organism, there exists a balance between the ‘Reactive Oxygen Species’ (ROS) production and the system’s ability to protect cells from ROS. An increase of ROS production results in defects that may cause damage or death to the cell or organism. This imbalance is referred to as oxidative stress.
SOME OXIDATIVE INSIGHTS...
Oxidation is any chemical reaction that involves the moving or transport of electrons. Specifically, it means a substance that gives away or loses electrons is oxidized. A familiar example of this is the reaction between the substance iron and oxygen. When iron reacts with oxygen it forms a chemical called rust, which happens because the iron has been oxidized and the oxygen has been reduced (that is, the iron has lost some electrons and the oxygen has gained some electrons).
Oxidation is the opposite of reduction and a reduction-reaction always comes together with an oxidation-reaction. Oxidation and reduction together are called redox reactions (reduction and oxidation). Oxygen specifically does not always have to be present in a reaction for it to be a redox-reaction but they are ever present in biological functions and processes. Generally speaking – Oxidation is the loss of electrons and reduction is the gain of electrons. Both reduction and oxidation go on at the same time, which is a redox-reaction.
Redox is a type of chemical reaction in which the oxidation states of atoms are changed. Redox reactions are characterized by the formal transfer of electrons between chemical species, most often with one species (the reducing agent) undergoing oxidation (it loses electrons), whilst another species (the oxidizing agent) undergoes reduction (gains electrons). The chemical species from which the electron is removed is said to have been oxidized, while the chemical species to which the electron is added is said to have been reduced.
• Oxidation is the loss of electrons or an increase in the oxidation state of an atom, an ion, or of certain atoms in a molecule.
• Reduction is the gain of electrons or a decrease in the oxidation state of an atom, an ion, or of certain atoms in a molecule.
Although oxidative reactions are commonly associated with the formation of oxides from oxygen molecules, oxygen is not necessarily included in all such reactions, as other chemical species often serve the same function. This is expressed throughout nature in many different ways and across a broad range of elements.
Some redox reactions can occur slowly, as in the formation of rust, or much more rapidly, as in the case of burning fuel. There are simple redox processes such as the oxidation of carbon to yield carbon dioxide (CO2) or the reduction of carbon by hydrogen to yield methane (CH4), and there are of course more complex processes such as the oxidation of glucose (C6H12O6) in the human body.
Ozone is a highly oxidative oxygen molecule with the symbol O3. This means one molecule of ozone is made of three oxygen atoms. Ozone is formed from oxygen gas (O2) by the action of ultraviolet light and also atmospheric electrical discharges. It is a completely natural molecule and is present in low concentrations throughout the Earth’s atmosphere. In total, ozone makes up only 0.6 ppm (parts per million) of the atmosphere by volume. Ozone is important to life on planet Earth.
There is a portion of the stratosphere with a high concentration of ozone, called the ozone layer. The ozone layer filters out damaging ultraviolet radiation from the Sun, like a kind of sunscreen. Without this ozone layer things would not be able to live on the surface of our planet. The ozone layer also absorbs a lot of heat from the sun’s rays. However, due to its highly oxidative nature in certain concentrations ozone is toxic to animals, aquatic species and plants. Ozone sanitation is rapidly becoming a popular cleaning agent as it kills a broad range of bacteria, pathogens, and viruses. It is a natural element and will neutralise quickly leaving no chemical residues or odour.
When it comes to biology, these oxidative processes are happening all the time and the biological system is always oxidising other than for its ability to produce and supply itself with antioxidants. If that biological system was to die it would oxidise quickly, and the word we use for that is decomposing.
Aging is a word we use that could ultimately be defined as oxidising slowly, and another biological term commonly used being oxidative stress, simply describes an unmanaged state of oxidation. Homeostasis is the balanced functioning of an organism that is said to be at ease, and the more imbalanced or oxidised something is, will ultimately result in dis-ease and will generally manifest at a weak point in that body.
The mechanics of life exist at a molecular and cellular level utilising an electron transport chain that ultimately results in an oxidative process, which then needs to be reduced by antioxidants. Everything depends on it.
As the oxygen is used there are reactive results that produce reactive oxygen species and free radicals – some good and some bad – and ultimately they all need to be reduced and bought back into balance at some stage. This is where the redox theory comes into play as a reductant needs to be able to donate the electron required to act as the anti-oxidant in order to bring back balance following the oxidation created from the consumption of the oxygen.
Increased performance of a particular organism for example, is directly linked to the increased use of oxygen and while increasing the ability to create energy is fine in most cases, it is only as long as the organism has the ability to manage the resulting by-products produced as a result. This is a fundamental requirement of life and one that cannot be avoided.
It can be likened to a car in that the fuel in the engine is burned to create energy but there is an exhaust that is emitted as a result (the by-product). Animals cannot just vent such a by-product out to the atmosphere. Oxygen and glucose is the fuel, and the reactive oxygen species are the exhaust. If a body cannot clean up that exhaust (oxidation) then it will result in an overload or stress, as in oxidative stress. Oxidative stress then can create all sorts of issues and weaknesses that eventually manifest as some sort of dis-ease at a weak point in the body.
Due to the laws we are regulated by, we can only show a snapshot of the already
science available, however there is much more to learn and share and we will
continue to expand further on all information as the research unfolds.
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