Where do the carbon atoms that we are exhaling come from?


Where do the carbon atoms that we are exhaling come from?

In: 5

Sugars and fats in your body. They are broken down in your cells, usually with the assistance of oxygen, into water and carbon dioxide, which is exhaled.

Our bodies run on glucose, which is a simple sugar made from carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. Our mitochondria (part of the cell) oxidize glucose into carbon dioxide and water as they produce ATP. (Which is what cells actually run on.) So basically the source of the carbon we exhale are the carbohydrates we eat. (Which get converted to glucose as part of digestion.)

Our body combines oxygen we breath in with sugars to make the chemical energy we use to move around and have body functions. Those sugars are carbon based and the reaction breaks them apart and produces CO2, which we breath out.

They’re all from the food you eat! Carbs, fats, and protein all contain lots of carbon atoms. Your body “burns” the food fuel by reacting it with oxygen. Calling it “burning” is maybe more literal than you think – overall it’s actually the same chemical reaction as normal combustion:

fuel + oxygen —> carbon dioxide + water + energy

Your body does this reaction in a slower more controlled way than an open flame, with more steps that allow for collecting and using the energy. But it’s the same reaction. The resulting energy runs your body, the water is used as well, and the carbon dioxide is exhaled.

~~You’re~~ Your food.

One of the ways your body gains energy is to get the carbon atoms in your food and combine them with oxygen.

When done in the particular way your body is able to do it, this releases chemical energy such that the biological machinery in your cells can harness it.

This produces cardon dioxide too, and we breathe out those molecules to get that waste out of our system.