Osmolarity is more than a difficult word to pronounce quickly, three times in a row.
A chemist or biologist would probably define osmolarity as a measure of the total amount of chemicals dissolved in a liquid, cream, lotion, or gel. Expressed in a slightly different way, osmolarity is the total concentration of components in a liquid.
Osmolarity occurs to help produce an equilibrium, when a substance in a solution (such as a fluid) crosses a membrane from an area of lower concentration to an area of higher concentration. Also, osmolarity is sometimes also called osmolality. Solutions containing the same concentration of particles are said to be isoosmotic or (isotonic).
The medical community must be aware of the osmolarity of a wide range of fluids because, for example, introducing fluids into the blood that are not isotonic with blood can have a profoundly negative impact. Whereas fluids that are isotonic or isoosmotic with blood can enter the body and stay there in harmony.
The osmolarity of blood is normally between 275 and 295, urine can range from 50 to 1200, but after 12 to 14 hours of fluid restriction, this number should be higher than 850, while normal saline (often introduced into the body) has an osmolarity of 286.
In addition to this short list, the normal osmolarity of the following items should also be taken into account:
- Female vaginal secretions (natural lubrication of women): 260 to 290
- Human semen: 250-380
- Coconut oil: 180-340
- Most commercial personal lubricants: 1,000 to more than 10,000 (1)
As you may have noticed, the osmolarity of coconut oil is in the same range as the osmolarity of many core elements of the human body (blood, vaginal secretions, and sperm, for example). Therefore, these elements are all isoosmotic and can therefore be expected to exist in harmony. In other words, they all contain the same concentration of dissolved particles, allowing them to happily exist together in a joyous state of equilibrium.
In comparison and unhappily nestled in a dark place away from the sunny bliss of coconut oil and bodily fluids, you’ll find the land of personal lubricants. As indicated in the short list above, the osmolarity of most commercial lubricants is much higher. But what does this mean?
When two fluids that have a similar osmolarity are combined, as mentioned, they create a balance. Due to this balance, the two fluids can coexist peacefully. For example, coconut oil can be expected to play quite well with the human body, because coconut oil’s natural range of osmolarity (180-340) is quite close to the osmolarity of vaginal secretions and sperm (260- 380).
However, when two fluids that do not have the same osmolarity combine, they combine and then try to create an equilibrium. Unfortunately, in an effort to form this new balance, the damage is caused by movement in or out of endothelial cells. And, the greater the difference between the osmolarities, the greater the possibility of cell damage and the faster the damage should be expected to occur. In fact, some research has already shown that personal lubricants can damage the cellular lining of the vagina and rectum. One such study, a January 2012 study published by the US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health, concluded that “lubricating products can increase vulnerability to STIs (sexually transmitted diseases), microbe vehicles “. Also, when the protective lining of the rectum or vagina is damaged, one of the body’s normal defense mechanisms is weakened. (2)
In addition to this study, another study also seems quite significant in its ability to document the impact of osmolarity of personal lubricants. This study was published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2012. It was titled “Use and Purchase of Additional Lubricants for Male and Female Condoms.” (3)
According to this study:
- Several articles (13-16) suggest that lubricants with high osmolality can cause vaginal and anal epithelial damage. Confirmation that High osmolality lubricants can cause epithelial damage when applied rectally to humans has been demonstrated in a group of 10 volunteers..
- In turn, epithelial damage could increase the risk of infection, for example, by HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)., particularly when condom use is inconsistent.
- Most commercial personal lubricants have high osmolalities (2000-6000 mOsm / kg). This study reviewed more than 40 personal lubricants.
- Ideally, the osmolality of a personal lubricant should not exceed 380 mOsm / kg to minimize any risk of epithelial damage.
- Do not use oils (or coconut oil) with latex condoms., because “they have a very damaging effect on latex.”
In summary, osmolarity is important for the following easy-to-understand reason:
- High osmolarity = high risk of STIs (sexually transmitted infections)
- Low osmolarity = low risk of STIs
It should also be noted that the components that increase the osmolarity of coconut oil are dramatically different from the ingredients that increase the osmolarity of most commercial personal lubricants.
Conventional non-organic lubricants contain ingredients such as chlorhexidine, petrochemicals, parabens, silicon, glycerin, propylene, and artificial fragrances, colors, or flavorings.
In 2002, during a phase II / III clinical trial, even the most hyped nonoxynol-9 came face to face with the cold and hard truth that, in addition to being a powerful sperm, he was also It damages the cell lining of the vagina and rectum, increasing the risk of HIV infection in those tested.. And yet, nonoxynol-9 is still used in condoms today. (4)
Comparatively, coconut oil’s osmolarity is increased by the presence of natural components such as amino acids, enzymes, minerals, and fatty acids that combine to create a pure and well-balanced source of healthy and hydrating nutrients.
(1) “Studies Raise Questions About the Safety of Personal Lubricants” by Lauren K. Wolfe of Chemical & Engineering News: Volume 90, Number 50, pp. 46-47 (link to full article, listed below).
(2) “The slippery slope: use of lubricants and rectal sexually transmitted infections: a recently identified risk.” Sex Transm Dis. January 2012; 39 (1): 59-64. doi: 10.1097 / OLQ.0b013e318235502b. PMID: 22183849.
(3) “Use and Purchase of Additional Lubricants for Male and Female Condoms: WHO / UNFPA / FHI360 – Advisory Note” from the World Health Organization in 2012 (link to full article, listed below).
(4) “Efficacy of COL-1492, a nonoxynol-9 vaginal gel, on HIV-1 transmission in sex workers: a randomized controlled trial” (Lancet, DOI: 10.1016 / s0140-6736 (02) 11079-8 ).