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Oxygen, the ultimate measure of longevity

Oxygen is the molecule of life. It’s involved in every reaction in our body necessary to sustain
life and movement. It’s also the foundational element for long and high-quality life.
Without oxygen, death is inevitable. Luckily, our body houses a unique computer system that
allows us to breathe without thinking about inhaling and exhaling. Our brain and neurons ensure
that oxygen exchange and transport of oxygenated blood across every cell in our body happens
seamlessly in the background.

In this article, we will do a deep dive into the mechanisms through which oxygen is the
cornerstone of longevity, the research that stands behind this statement, and how its absorption
by our body can be measured to provide a clear assessment of longevity and health.

The Oxygen Chain

To better understand the statement “Oxygen is the molecule of life,” we should first understand
how and why our bodies use oxygen. Oxygen is the catalyst for energy release in every cell, a
process necessary to sustain life and power movement. This mechanism involves using oxygen
to oxidize or, in other words, “burn” nutrients we consume. These nutrients consist primarily of
fats and carbohydrates. This burning process is similar to what happens in your fireplace when
you set a piece of wood aflame, and oxygen interacts with wood in a chemical reaction to
release energy, in this case, heat. The oxidation of nutrients releases the energy our cells use to
stay alive, move, and power other vital functions. Although this process may sound simple, it
involves several systems in our body and employs most of the core organs. Here’s how this
process works:

First, oxygen molecules enter the lungs through inhalation.
● The lungs then absorb oxygen molecules through specialized membranes called alveoli
and transfer them into the bloodstream. Their transfer into the bloodstream occurs
through a specialized hormone called hemoglobin, which can attract and retain oxygen
molecules onto its surface and thus act as a transport mechanism. As hemoglobin draws
oxygen molecules, the blood becomes rich in oxygen that can be transferred around the
● Oxygenated, or oxygen-rich blood, is pumped with the help of the heart across the body,
helping oxygen molecules reach every cell.
● Once oxygen molecules reach their destination, they detach from hemoglobin and enter
the cell. Inside the cell, there are dedicated systems called mitochondria responsible for
using the newly delivered oxygen to oxidize and break down the fats and carbohydrates
we have consumed.
● The breakdown of fats and carbohydrates releases energy used to maintain the proper
temperature across our body and move (e.g., movement of muscles).
● The oxidation of fats and carbohydrates releases carbon dioxide (CO2), which must be
cleared from our bodies. Consequently, CO2 is expelled from the cell and released into
the bloodstream, where it’s carried back to the lungs. CO2-carrying blood is then
pumped back to the lungs. There, through the opposite mechanism oxygen used to
enter the bloodstream, CO2 exists blood circulation into the inner cavity lungs. Lastly,
through exhalation, this CO2 is expelled into the environment..

This process is also known as Aerobic Metabolic or Cellular Respiration. Aerobic comes from
the Greek word “Aερας” (aˈe.ɾas), which means air and refers to the presence of oxygen in the
energy release process. Aerobic metabolic accounts for more than 95% of our overall energy
generation and is distinct from the secondary energy release mechanism called Anaerobic
Metabolism, which will be covered in a separate post.

What’s important to keep in mind from the process described above is that:
– Oxygen is a hard requirement for our body to release the energy it needs to stay alive,
regulate its temperature, and move.
– Four significant systems are involved for oxygen to be absorbed, delivered, and utilized
in the “burning” of fats and carbohydrates: lungs, heart, blood, and cells.
– Metabolism is the collective function of all these systems. A “broken” metabolism may
mean that any part of this chain may be problematic and hampering the most
fundamental process in the human body, the oxygen chain.

Chronic disease & Oxygen Chain

To understand how oxygen plays a crucial role in regulating the quality and length of one’s life,
one should examine the relationship between the ability to utilize oxygen and the primary factors
hampering longevity, namely chronic diseases.
Chronic diseases are typically conditions caused by lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition, lack
of exercise, or tobacco use and inflict an ongoing reduction in quality and duration of life. The
four most common, deadly, and costly chronic conditions are heart disease, lung disease,
cancer, and diabetes.
Besides cancer, the scientific community now openly acknowledges that heart disease, lung
disease, and diabetes are highly interlinked in terms of their underlying lifestyle drivers and their
high degree of comorbidity (i.e., one leads to the other). The term used to characterize this
collective disorder is “Cardio-metabolic Syndrome.”
Cardio-metabolic syndrome is driven primarily by lifestyle factors, which for the most part, can
be traced to poor nutrition and lack of exercise. No matter the contribution of exercise or
nutrition to the cardiometabolic syndrome, its advent can always be traced to the oxygen chain.
Specifically, a disruption of the oxygen chain in any of the three fundamental components,
namely heart, lungs, and cells, is directly related to the rise of the equivalent cardio-metabolic
syndrome’s facet, namely heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes, respectively.
The implications of this phenomenon are significant for the early detection and prevention of
these conditions. In short, analyzing and monitoring the oxygen chain can help early detect
predisposition for heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes. Here’s a brief description of how
oxygen denotes deterioration in each system.

Heart Disease

The heart is our body’s blood pump and helps push oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to every
cell. It’s also responsible for moving carbon dioxide-rich blood from the cells back to the lungs.
Nearly every form of heart disease, including Ischemic Heart Disease and Heart Failure, causes
the heart to be less effective in pumping oxygen-rich blood into your body. This manifests
through a reduction in the amount of oxygen your body consumes per heartbeat. This is
measured during a graded breath analysis test through a variable called O2pulse. A separate
blog post covers a detailed review of how breath analysis can help detect heart conditions.

Lung Disease

Nearly every form of lung disease will cause the lungs to be less effective in absorbing oxygen.
Whether it’s Asthma, Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disorder (i.e., COPD), or Pulmonary
Embolism, the effects are a reduced ability to absorb oxygen and deliver it to the bloodstream.
The main breath variables used to detect this deficiency include the maximum amount of air
lungs can exchange with the environment (i.e., MVV or maximum voluntary ventilation), the
amount of oxygen transferred into the blood (i.e., SpO2 or blood oxygen saturation), and the
maximum amount of air one can exhale during exercise (i.e., Peak VT or maximum tidal
volume). A separate blog post covers a detailed review of how breath analysis can help detect
lung conditions.


Diabetes is a condition in which cells cannot metabolize carbohydrates, thus leaving them in the
bloodstream. The presence of carbohydrates in the bloodstream is toxic as it causes gradual
degradation of every tissue in the body. The onset of diabetes can also be traced back to the
oxygen chain, but this time on a cellular basis. When cells become less able to absorb and
utilize oxygen, they become less able to oxidize fat as a fuel source. This leads to increased
intramyocellular lipids levels (i.e., fat within muscles and tissue) and a higher blood
concentration of free fatty acids. This, in turn, stimulates higher glucose release in the liver and
further insulin secretion by the pancreas. Exposing your body to a constant state of increased
insulin concentration in the blood makes your cells less “sensitive” to insulin leading to the onset
of insulin resistance and, consequently, diabetes. A separate blog post covers a detailed review
of how breath analysis can help detect predisposition to diabetes.

Quantifying Longevity Through Oxygen

The importance of oxygen for long-term health has been established through studies examining
the function of individual elements found in the oxygen chain (i.e., heart, lungs, cells) and its
global function (i.e., overall oxygen consumption). The latter has been scrutinized through
epidemiological studies that have examined the correlation between mortality risk and the total
amount of oxygen one’s body can absorb. After decades of rigorous scientific research
measuring peak oxygen consumption among individuals of various backgrounds, ethnicities,
and ages and subsequently tracking their fatality rates over several decades, the scientific
community concluded that cardio-respiratory fitness, AKA VO2peak or peak oxygen
consumption, is the strongest predictor of how well and long someone will live. Although a low
VO2peak can’t reveal the exact sub-system (e.g., heart, lungs, or cells) causing its deterioration,
it can certainly indicate that at least one is facing an underlying problem and is thus a strong
indicator of chronic disease onset. This immediately translates into a reduction in expected
lifespan and quality of life. The findings of these studies were summarized in a landmark
scientific statement published by the American Heart Association in 2016, which elevated
VO2peak into a critical vital sign that provides the strongest evidence about life expectancy and
quality. Specifically, for every unit increase in VO2peak, measured in Metabolic Equivalent (i.e.,
METs), one’s likelihood of death and onset of chronic disease declines by ~15%. Such is its
predictive power that the American Heart Association openly called for implementing VO2peak
in annual physical examinations.


Most people train for life, meaning that a longer and better life is the motivation behind picking
up a workout routine or cleaning up their diets. Therefore, assessing how effective a wellness
routine is for one’s longevity goals is essential to its success. Breath analysis provides the gold
standard in determining how the oxygen chain works globally and its components, thus
indicating whether a wellness routine leads to a longer and better life. It does so while also
pinpointing the sub-systems of the oxygen chain, namely lungs, heart, and cells that may have
been impacted by age, lifestyle, or other factors that would require a closer medical
examination. Ultimately, oxygen is the molecule of life. The way it flows through the body is the
best picture of one’s health, and breath analysis is its most reliable measurement tool.

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Tuning Your Diet to Be Healthier

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Susan Edwards

Wow Metabolic

Our Story

My name is Susan Edwards FMP, HHP. I am the owner of a thriving wellness center in Brea, Ca. For over 10 years I have worked with clients who have chronic pain, weight gain, low energy and inflammation. My clients were getting some pain relief and having short term recovery. However, I knew I could do more for them. I realized they need a more individualized ” Down to the Root” approach for Optimal Health. I have now added Functional Medicine Programs and Metabolic Testing with PNOE the GOLD Standard in Metabolic Testing . Since adding these programs my team and I are able to get to the Root of our clients issues. This has enabled them to have long term Pain Relief, Reduce Weight, recover their Energy and lower their Inflammation. It is Awesome to see our clients now living their lives with Joy and Vitality. 

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Meet The Team

Our Team

Connor Edwards

Metabolic Tester

Carly Jeffers

Metabolic Tester
what we do

Individual nutrition programs


chosen with love,

care and creativity.

Peter Bowman

Nutrition Expert

what we do

Individual nutrition programs and, ideal recipes, chosen with love, care and creativity.

Peter Bowman

Nutrition Expert