How efficient are our lungs in oxygen extraction?

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- Updated on September 13, 2020

Proofread by Samson Hui Proofreader on July **, 2019


How efficient are our lungs in oxygen extraction? 1By Dr. Artour Rakhimov, Alternative Health Educator and Author

- Medically Reviewed by Naziliya Rakhimova, MD

How efficient are our lungs in oxygen extraction?

How efficient are our lungs in oxygen extraction?What is the oxygen absorption rate by the body and how efficient are your lungs in capturing oxygen from the air? The lungs oxygen retention rate in sick people and most modern people are much less than normal because they breathe much more than the medical norm (see links with dozens of studies below). Indeed, if they extract about the same total volume of oxygen as healthy people, their rate (percentage or efficiency) of extraction is much less. Let us consider these effects in detail. We can start with the normal values for breathing at rest.

In this short 2-min video below, Dr. Artour Rakhimov clarifies oxygen extraction in lungs for people with normal breathing, those who have chronic diseases, and people in super health.

Normal gas exchange parameters

Composition of outer or inhaled air:
O2 – Oxygen 158 mm Hg (20.9%)
CO2 – Carbon dioxide 0.3 mm Hg (0.04%)
H2O – Water 5.7 mm Hg (0.75%)
N2 – Nitrogen 596 mm Hg (78.4%)

Composition of the expired air:
O2 – Oxygen 116 mm Hg (15.3%)
CO2 – Carbon dioxide 32 mm Hg (4.2%)
H2O – Water 47 mm Hg (6.2%)
N2 – Nitrogen 565 mm Hg (74.3%)

Young MDs smilingFrom Summary of values useful in pulmonary physiology: man. Section: Respiration and Circulation, ed. by P.L. Altman & D.S. Dittmer, 1971, Bethesda, Maryland (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology).

During normal breathing, the oxygen content in the inhaled air is 20.9%, while in the expired air is 15.3% (see above). Hence, 5.6% of the air is extracted or captured as oxygen. This oxygen remains in the lungs and is used by the human body. If we multiply this result by 6 L/min (normal minute ventilation), it is equal to 336 ml of oxygen per min that is captured and retained by the human body.Lungs during hyperventilation breathing

How efficient are our lungs in capturing oxygen from the air?

Oxygen absorption in the body (in %) or the efficiency of extraction of oxygen from the air is 5.6% (left in the lungs) divided by 20.9% (total oxygen in outer air). The result is about 27%. Hence, people with normal breathing parameters retain about a quarter of the oxygen, the remaining three quarters are exhaled back.

Why might some people be more efficient in capturing oxygen than others?

The graph showing hyperventilation in normal modern subjects

Since most people breathe much more than the medical norm, they capture much less of inhaled oxygen. Note that overbreathing also reduces the O2 content in body cells and promotes chronic diseases.

Oxygen extraction rate in people with chronic diseases

People with chronic diseases breathe about 12-18 L/min (as we learned from the Minute Ventilation Table for the Sick) or about 2.5 times more than the norm. Since they have about the same metabolic rate or oxygen demands, chronic hyperventilators extract much less oxygen, and most of the oxygen is exhaled back. In the severely sick, oxygen retention can be only a few percent.

Oxygen capturing rate in very healthy people

Very healthy people breathe very little, down to about 1.5-2 L/min or only 3-4 breaths per min, as during deep mindfulness meditation or reduced breathing exercises popular among devoted Buddhists. The meditators and breathing students can extract close to 50% (or even more) of oxygen they inhale. The maximum value of the lungs oxygen extraction coefficient (or ideal oxygen extraction rate in humans) is probably close to 70%.

Chart: Efficiency of lungs at capturing oxygen from the air

The Chart below provides exact numbers for oxygen extraction rates in percents for different groups of people. It answers the question “Why can some people be more efficient at capturing oxygen in their lungs?”. You can find the exact number of different groups of people including people with chronic diseases, most modern people, people with normal breathing, and finally very healthy people, including those who practice Buddhism. This Chart with all numbers is located right below here.

Health state of people Minute ventilation Oxygen extraction in the lungs
People with chronic diseases About 15 L/min Less than 10%
Most modern people About 12 L/min About 10-12%
People with normal breathing 6 L/min 27%
Very healthy people About 2-3 L/min 40-50%

The fastest breathing technique to increase the oxygen extraction rate in the lungs is located below here as your bonus content. Share the page to reveal the bonus content.

You need to use the Amazing DIY breathing device that provides the fastest CP increase after breathing sessions and use this device up to 1-2 hours per day in total for your practice. See the Amazon book (Kindle and paperback) “Amazing DIY Breathing Device”.There is a PDF version of this book available on this site in the Books Section.


YouTube Video: Breathing patterns and oxygen extraction rate

Go back to Types of Breathing Patterns