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Difference Between Breathing and Respiration

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Last updated date: 18th Apr 2024
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Introduction: Fundamental Processes of Life

Breathing and respiration are fundamental processes that are essential for the survival of all living organisms, including humans. These processes work together to ensure the exchange of gases, primarily oxygen and carbon dioxide, which are crucial for cellular metabolism and energy production. In this article, we will explore the difference between breathing and respiration, explain breathing and respiration, breathing and respiration difference, what is breathing and respiration, characteristics of breathing and respiration.

What is Breathing and Respiration?

Breathing and respiration are two interrelated processes that are essential for the survival of living organisms, including humans. While they are often used interchangeably, they refer to distinct aspects of the overall mechanism involved in the exchange of gases within the body.


Breathing: Breathing, also known as ventilation, is the mechanical process of inhaling and exhaling air. It involves the movement of air into and out of the lungs, enabling the exchange of gases between the respiratory system and the external environment. The primary organs involved in breathing are the lungs, along with associated structures such as the diaphragm and intercostal muscles.


Respiration: Respiration, on the other hand, refers to the broader process of gas exchange that occurs at the cellular level. It involves the utilization of oxygen (O2) by cells to produce energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) through the breakdown of glucose and other nutrients. Simultaneously, respiration eliminates the waste product of cellular metabolism, carbon dioxide (CO2), from the cells.


Breathing is the mechanical process of inhaling and exhaling air, whereas respiration is the cellular process of utilising oxygen to generate energy and removing waste products, primarily carbon dioxide. Together, breathing and respiration ensure the exchange of gases required for cellular metabolism and the overall functioning of the body.


Function of Breathing and Respiration

The function of breathing and respiration is crucial for maintaining the physiological processes necessary for life. Let's explore the functions of each process individually:


Function of Breathing:

1. Gas Exchange: The primary function of breathing is to facilitate the exchange of gases, primarily oxygen (O₂) and carbon dioxide (CO₂), between the lungs and the external environment. During inhalation, oxygen-rich air enters the lungs, where it diffuses into the bloodstream, binding to hemoglobin in red blood cells. Simultaneously, carbon dioxide, a waste product of cellular metabolism, is expelled from the bloodstream into the lungs and then exhaled during the process of exhalation.


2. Oxygen Supply: Breathing ensures a continuous supply of oxygen to the body's cells. Oxygen is essential for aerobic respiration, which occurs within the cells and is the primary process through which cells generate energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Adequate oxygen levels are necessary for the optimal functioning of organs and systems, including the brain, heart, muscles, and more.


3. Removal of Carbon Dioxide: Breathing plays a vital role in eliminating carbon dioxide, a waste product produced by the cells during metabolism. Exhaled carbon dioxide is transported back to the lungs, where it is expelled from the body during exhalation. Maintaining proper levels of carbon dioxide in the blood is crucial for maintaining the pH balance and preventing acidification.


Function of Respiration:

1. Cellular Energy Production: The primary function of respiration is to generate energy in the form of ATP within the cells. Through a series of complex biochemical reactions, respiration breaks down glucose and other nutrients to release stored energy. This energy is utilised by cells for various processes, including muscle contraction, synthesis of molecules, active transport, and overall maintenance of cellular functions.


2. ATP Synthesis: Respiration occurs within the mitochondria of cells and involves three main stages: glycolysis, the Krebs cycle (also known as the citric acid cycle or TCA cycle), and oxidative phosphorylation (electron transport chain). These processes collectively result in the production of ATP, which serves as the primary energy source for cellular activities.


3. Waste Product Removal: As a byproduct of respiration, carbon dioxide is produced within cells. This carbon dioxide diffuses out of cells into the bloodstream and is transported back to the lungs for elimination through breathing. Additionally, other waste products generated during cellular metabolism, such as water and heat, are also removed through various physiological processes.


The function of breathing is to facilitate the exchange of gases (oxygen and carbon dioxide) between the lungs and external environment, ensuring a continuous supply of oxygen to the body and removal of carbon dioxide. On the other hand, respiration occurs within cells and is responsible for generating energy (ATP) through the breakdown of glucose and other nutrients, while also removing waste products. Together, breathing and respiration maintain the necessary oxygen-carbon dioxide balance, supply energy to the body, and support overall cellular metabolism and physiological functions.


Characteristics of Breathing and Respiration

Breathing: Breathing is a voluntary and involuntary process, meaning we can consciously control our breathing but it also occurs automatically without our conscious effort.


  • Breathing primarily involves the exchange of gases between the lungs and the external environment.

  • Breathing is regulated by the respiratory center in the brainstem, responding to the levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the blood.


Respiration: Respiration is an involuntary process that occurs at the cellular level.


  • Cellular respiration takes place in the mitochondria of cells and involves the breakdown of glucose and other nutrients to produce ATP.

  • Respiration involves three main stages: glycolysis, the Krebs cycle, and oxidative phosphorylation.


Difference Between Breathing and Respiration

Sr. No.

Difference

Breathing

Respiration


Process

Mechanical inhalation and exhalation

Cellular metabolism and ATP production


Control

Voluntary and involuntary

Involuntary


Location

Lungs 

Cells


Primary function

Gas exchange with the external environment

Cellular energy production


Regulation of Process

Controlled by the respiratory center in the brainstem, responding to CO₂ and O₂ levels in the blood

Regulated by enzymes and various cellular factors


Relationship with Oxygen

Supplies oxygen to the body

Utilises oxygen in the breakdown of glucose and other nutrients


Relationship with Carbon Dioxide

Eliminates carbon dioxide from the body

Produces carbon dioxide as a waste product

Summary

Breathing and respiration are interrelated processes that are vital for sustaining life. Breathing involves the mechanical inhalation and exhalation of air, while respiration encompasses the cellular exchange of gases necessary for energy production. Both processes are crucial for maintaining the oxygen and carbon dioxide balance in the body, facilitating cellular metabolism, and supporting overall physiological functions. Understanding the characteristics and  breathing and respiration difference enhances our comprehension of the complex mechanisms that keep us alive.

FAQs on Difference Between Breathing and Respiration

1. Is There a Role of Breathing in Respiration?

Breathing, a form of physiological respiration, is a vital process in vertebrates that enables gas exchange in the lungs. Through this process, oxygen is absorbed by the blood in the lung's alveoli during inhalation and subsequently distributed to all cells in an organism's body via the circulatory system. Inside the cells, oxygen is utilised within the mitochondria to generate ATP through aerobic respiration. The final step of this process is oxidative phosphorylation, where oxygen acts as the ultimate electron acceptor. As a result of cellular respiration, carbon dioxide is produced as a byproduct. This waste gas diffuses out of the cells, enters the bloodstream, and is eventually exhaled from the body. The interconnected processes of breathing and respiration are crucial for maintaining adequate oxygen supply and removing carbon dioxide in order to support cellular energy production and overall physiological functioning.

2. Is Respiration Passive or Active?

Respiration is primarily an active process that occurs within cells. Cellular respiration, which takes place in the mitochondria, involves complex biochemical reactions that generate ATP and provide energy for cellular activities. This process includes molecular movement across cell membranes and electron transport between molecules. Unlike breathing, which involves the mechanical movement of air and blood in the body, respiration is a biochemical activity that occurs entirely within cells. It is a highly regulated and energy-demanding process, relying on enzymes and various cellular factors. Respiration does not require external aid and is considered an intrinsic and essential metabolic process for cellular functioning.

3. What is Cellular Respiration?

Cellular respiration is the process through which our bodies derive energy from oxygen. It involves the utilisation of oxygen and glucose within cells to produce ATP, the energy currency of cells. As a byproduct, carbon dioxide is generated, which the body eliminates.


The journey begins in the alveoli, where oxygen enters the bloodstream. The blood transports oxygen to the heart, which then pumps it to cells throughout the body. Cells take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide waste into the bloodstream.


Once oxygen is received, cells initiate cellular respiration. They utilise oxygen and glucose as energy sources. During this process, ATP is generated, but carbon dioxide is also produced, which can be harmful to cells. To dispose of it, cells release carbon dioxide into the blood. The blood carries it back to the lungs, where it is expelled from the body through exhalation.


Cellular respiration is a continuous process occurring in every cell, providing the energy needed for cellular functions. It repeats endlessly, ensuring our existence until the end of life.