5 min read ⌚
The molecule that made the world
Do you know the nature of oxygen? Do you know what happens when you breathe?
Do you know the role oxygen has not only in keeping you alive but for the evolution of the species as well?
If not, this is a good place to start finding out the answers to those questions.
Who Should Read “Oxygen” and Why?
“Oxygen” is a book about the gas that keeps us alive, and as you will see once you read the book, poisons us really slowly.
We recommend it to all readers who would like to know the role oxygen played in the evolution of organisms, and how the world became as it is today, as well as to those who wish to understand the process of breathing and how it affects our bodies.
About Nick Lane
Dr. Nick Lane is a prolific author who holds a degree in biochemistry from the Imperial College in London.
If we ask you what is Oxygen, then you will probably tell us that it is what keeps you alive, right?
But did you know that Oxygen also kills you?
Yes, breathing both keeps you alive and slowly kills you at the same time.
With every breath you take, some toxic byproducts are produced and stored in your body, and over time these byproducts harm you.
It is not like you can stop it.
If we found the answer to this – we would have stopped aging already.
Anyway, let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start from the very beginning.
Today, in the air we breathe, there is around 21 percent oxygen. However, that was not the case around four billion years ago when the atmosphere had very little oxygen.
Then, after the Cambrian explosion, the only survivals on earth were plants.
In order to survive the harsh conditions, they had to do much photosynthesis and produce vast amounts of oxygen in the process.
The single cellular organisms which were not used to this amount of oxygen tried to escape it, but not being able to, they ultimately had to group themselves, and that is how the multi-cellular organisms evolved.
After some time, in the air there a lot of oxygen – almost double of today’s levels.
This percentage made it easier for cells to grow and thus the giant animals were created. However, this percentage did not only make it easier for the animals to grow, but they could also move more easily, which made hunting easier as well.
One significant name to note during our explanation of the topic is the world-renowned Marie Curie.
Curie is a Nobelist which discovered radiation. However, her discovery seemed to be fatal since she died of leukemia when she was 67.
But why is Curie important to oxygen?
Because her discoveries of radiation are closely related to oxygen as well.
Do you remember that we told you that oxygen could kill?
Well, Curie’s findings show that the biological damage as a result of radiation and oxygen poisoning are almost the same.
Yes! I was just as surprised when I read this information as well!
When radiation pierces the body, it breaks water into oxygen and hydrogen, in the process producing toxic byproducts.
When you breathe, however, these byproducts are turned into water.
So, breathing is poisoning you – it just does it very slowly.
But, if it is so, how can you protect yourself? You cannot stop breathing, can you?
Filling yourself up with antioxidants is one way of doing it. Another technique is to exercise cardio exercises – to run.
Although there are many innovations nowadays, we cannot seem to answer the one question that has been pressing people forever: how to stop aging.
In the modern world, two theories of aging exist stochastic and programmed theories.
The first ones argue that aging has nothing to do with genes. This is where the oxygen poisoning theory comes into play.
The programmed theories, on the other hand, are those that believe that aging is mainly genetical.
The author of the book believes that the truth about aging is somewhere in between.
And until someone proves it – we cannot state anything for certain. However, it is quite reasonable to think that the fewer toxins we enter in our body, the slower the aging process will be.
The question is, how can we stop oxygen from producing toxins that harm us in the long term?
Key Lessons from “Oxygen”
1. Multi-Cellular Life Developed Thanks to the Increase in Oxygen
2. Giant Animals Can Exist Only With High Levels of Oxygen
3. Breathing Determines the Speed of Aging
Multi-Cellular Life Developed Thanks to the Increase in Oxygen
Most of the organisms we interact with in everyday life are multi-cellular.
However, primate life was not like that. Multi-cellular organisms developed thanks to the increase in oxygen that happened because the plants that survived the Cambrian explosion started photosynthesizing a lot of oxygen to survive.
Giant Animals Can Exist Only With High Levels of Oxygen
The giant animals from the past could only exist because of the huge levels of atmospheric oxygen. When these animals live, there was 35% oxygen in the air. To compare it with, today we have only 21% oxygen in the air.
Oxygen made it easy to grow and breathe, but also it eased the movement as well.
Breathing Determines the Speed of Aging
Did you know that breathing both keeps you alive and kill you?
With every breath you take your body produces toxic byproducts, and stores them. These byproducts over some time are the cause of damage.
However, there is not a limit of how much oxygen you can breathe – it all depends on your body.
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Mitochondria, as we have seen, are only passed on in the egg, so all 13 mitochondrial genes come from our mothers. If these genes really do influence lifespan, and we can only inherit them from our mothers, then our own lifespan should… Click To Tweet
As conventionally stated, the idea that breathing oxygen causes aging is disarmingly simple. Click To Tweet
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The expression of normal genes in an oxidized environment is the basis of their negative pleiotropic effects in old age. Click To Tweet
Our Critical Review
This is not a book you pick up to read for fun, but it is filled with so many interesting information that you would not come across.
Also published on Medium.