Saturation is a phenomenon of the physical world.
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Chemistry uses the word to describe when a solution is so filled with a solute that the substance can no longer be dissolved in the liquid. It is the point where a liquid can't take another atom.
In biology, saturation in one form is the description of the percentage of elements connected to receptors on a cell. Receptors are like locks, and the substrate is the key. If every lock or bonding site is occupied, then we say the protein or carrier is totally saturated.
During a respiratory infection of influenza, or RSV in babies, the tiny tubes of the lungs, the bronchioles, swell and fill with copious mucous. With the passages blocked, the child gets less air into the distal alveoli and, hence, less oxygen to the blood. The hemoglobin is not fully saturated.
When that occurs, we have to supply additional oxygen. With more oxygen, the saturation goes up. A probe on the finger or toe measures this by the redness of the blood. The redder the red blood cells, the higher the oxygen saturation.
The food industry throws around words like saturated or polyunsaturated fats as if we all knew what they are saying. In the case of fats, saturated means there are no spaces left on the carbon backbone. Hydrogen atoms or other attachments take up the parking spots.
Polyunsaturated means hydrogen is missing at many places along the carbon chain. In those spots, nature makes a double bond that connects carbon to another carbon. (Don't worry: There is no quiz at the end of the column.) The more double bonds, the more poly the fat. When we are down to one, it is monounsaturated, like olive oil. The less the fat is saturated, the more it is liquid at room temperature.
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