As natural as breathing – the normal person takes approximately 8 to 14 breaths per minute. With 1440 minutes in a day and assuming a normal respiratory rate of 12 breaths per minute, we take about 17, 280 breaths in a day. Of course, this assumes that there is no exercise to raise the respiration rate, no decrease in respiration during the sleep cycle, etc. But it does give us a starting point.
Breathing is also called ventilation and includes both inhalation and exhalation. In addition to removing carbon dioxide, breathing also results in a loss of water from the body which can be seen when the individual exhales into very cold air and this moisture condenses into a fog. Recent studies indicate that there may be other elements in exhaled breath that indicate the presence of disease processes.
“Breath-omics” may be a new frontier in biomarker research. On September 8, 2014 Fox News reported that research presented at the European Respiratory Society International Congress suggests that physicians may be able to diagnose lung cancer by gauging the temperature of exhaled breath. In addition, a pilot study published March 5, 2013 in the British Journal of Cancer reported on the presence of volatile organic compound (VOC) patterns in patient breath samples that may allow the differentiation between gastric cancers, peptic ulcers and other benign stomach ailments.
One recent study even suggests that analyzing exhaled breath can distinguish patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease from healthy control group volunteers – and from one another! Just be ready, at some future office visit, to provide your breath-print along with your insurance information.