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How Is Oxygen Transported into Cells?

How Is Oxygen Transported into Cells? | Pure Life Science

One of the basic misunderstandings of the 20th and 21st centuries is how oxygen is transportedinto cells. It has always been assumed that cell membranes are easily penetrable by oxygen without the need of a specific transport mechanism—however, this isn’t the case. Oxygen has to be facilitated across the membrane—just like all other nutrients—and it is the fatty acids in the cell membrane that are the facilitators. Having free oxygen running around the cell oxidizing things would be a disaster!

A paper that was published in 1976 by the American Academy of Pediatrics says something very interesting and mostly missed by the science intelligentsia (Campbell, Crozier, & Caton, 1976).

“Impaired oxygen supply and deteriorating health, in cystic fibrosis patients, correlates with abnormal changes in the fatty acid composition of blood lipids. As the proportion of oleates increases and that of linoleates decreases, erythrocyte membrane interference with the formation of intracellular oxyhemoglobin increases and arterial oxygen pressure decreases. The physical-chemical basis for these changes seems to be that oleic and linoleic acid differ in their ability to undergo reversible oxygenation in response to changes in oxygen pressure. The oxygen complex of linoleic acid dissociates at relatively high pressures, whereas that of oleic dissociates only at low pressures. Accordingly, excessive substitution of oleic for linoleic acid in membrane lipids would be expected to decrease the intracellular oxygen pressure to a level where hemoglobin oxygenation and any other oxygen-requiring processes would be impaired.”

The last section is deliberately bolded; basically, it says that the more oleic acid (omega-9 found in olive oil) in a cell membrane, the LESS efficient the oxygen transportation across membranes is, and the more linoleic acid (omega-6), the MORE efficient the transportation of oxygen is. Also of significance, the paper states that the oxygen dissociation curve of linoleic acid is similar to hemoglobin, which is what you would need in order to have a cell membrane pull oxygen away from the haem molecule that brought it there.

This elegantly ties together the results seen when supplementing with proper, unadulterated (not processed) omega-6 linoleic acid (those results being better energy levels, higher endurance, and lessened recovery time).


Campbell, I., Crozier, D., & Caton, R. (1976). Abnormal Fatty Acid Composition and Impaired Oxygen Supply in Cystic Fibrosis Patients, American Academy of Pediatrics, 57(4). Retrieved from

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