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Carbon release from human tissue? - (Apr/04/2013 )

I was listening to a cd recently on mindfuness meditation and the psychologist made the following statement: "All of the carbon atoms in our body are being breathed out in carbon dioxide back into the universe, where they enter plants and animals." As this statement referred to ALL carbon atoms in the body, I was curious about this statement as it relates to the carbon in human tissue. I asked a friend who has a PhD in cellular biology and 40 years experience in the field about this. His reply was "Carbon atoms are being exhaled in the form of CO2 , mostly from the breakdown of the foods we eat. A person would have to be starving in order for carbon to be released from tissue and those carbon atoms be exhaled as CO2. If a nearby person breathed in that CO2 (which is toxic), it would quickly be exhaled". Which of these invidivdualos is correct?


Both. Your cellular biologist friend gave you the most simplified answer, while the psychologist gave you the extreme (more thought provoking) example. Your body is constantly breaking down cells, which comprise tissue, to form additional structures. With that being said, carbon containing molecules are constantly being recycled for rebuilding and synthesis of new molecules. The carbon containing glucose could have easily been ingested in the form of a cupcake, traveled to your small intestine, transported through your blood, utilized as energy in your foot, formed a new carbon compound, gone through 100x of different cycles, transported to your brain, then back to your lungs and exhaled in the form of CO2. This CO2 could have risen into the atmosphere and ended up in DPRK, where it is being utilized in photosynthesis to produce happy buds for Kim Jong-Un.


As far as I remember the opposite extreme you also can find, i.e. carbon that is in structures that is almost never or never renewed and therefore can be there your whole lifetime, such as cells nerve cells or which are replaced very slowly such as cells in bones.
Anyway molecules (or its parts) which are part of the structure of cells stay longer (and in long-lived cells very long), molecules which are used for generation of energy are in your body for a short time.


CO2 which a human exhale is used by the plants, which we have already read in school. Therefore, it does not impact human body.
information on human tissue