Oxygen Bar Review: Brain O2 Effects
An oxygen bar is a place that sells nearly-pure oxygen for public use (no prescription required). Many people believe that oxygen bar can increase oxygen levels in the brain and body cells. This post reviews the real effects. Can breathing pure oxygen in an
oxygen bar increase body and brain oxygenation improving health and well-being?
It was thought "yes" by US scientists in the 1960's, when they were
preparing the first American outer space rockets and astronauts. In fact, pure
oxygen was used during the first three Apollo missions. Thus, first US astronauts
were among primary clients of the "oxygen bar". At this time,
they had not realized yet that pure oxygen is toxic for mammals.
Soviets were much smarter. The effects of an oxygen bar and other air mixtures
were investigated in the 1960's during highly confidential projects led by leading Soviet
physiologist Konstantin Buteyko, MD, PhD, who was the manager of the Respiratory
Laboratory in Novosibirsk.
As a result of his discoveries, Soviets still use for
their spaceships the ideal air composition, which includes about 10-12% O2, 2%
CO2 and 86-88% nitrogen. The ideal air has about twice less oxygen than air at sea level
modeling high altitude, while additional CO2 is the key factor that increases
body and brain O2.
What is the effect of breathing pure oxygen, like
in the case of having an oxygen bar? During
very small and slow normal diaphragmatic breathing at rest, blood oxygenation is
about 98-99%. Therefore, an oxygen bar would not increase O2 levels in the arterial
blood to any significant degree. However, not all oxygen in blood is bound with
hemoglobin cells. About 2% of the total amount of oxygen in blood is dissolved in plasma
in the same way
as it can be dissolved in water as free oxygen.
This is the mechanism of how and why pure oxygen saves lives of critically-ill
people. The problem appears when pure O2 is used for hours or even days. Due to its
highly-reactive chemical nature, pure oxygen destroys cells in the lungs and
blood vessels. This causes oxidative stress, generation of free radicals and
intensification of respiration (heavier or faster breathing, which is called
causes CO2 losses, the immediate spasm of blood vessels, and a suppressed Bohr
effect. These factors dramatically reduce O2 delivery to the brain and all
other vital organs.
The image on the left shows a typical result, while there
are hundreds of other studies that made the same conclusion: lowered CO2 reduces O2
delivery to cells. You can find exact details and references on other pages of
this site (see links at the bottom of this page).
There is also a reference below related to the effect of an oxygen bar on brain
O2 content. It is called the "hyperoxic brain" effect meaning that breathing
hyperoxic mixtures (with more than 21% O2) causes reduced brain O2 levels.
Why oxygen bar idea is popular
Modern people breathe about 2-3 times more air than people breathed
during the first decades of the 20th century. Therefore most contemporary people
suffer from reduced
brain- and body-O2 levels. It is, therefore, logical that many people like the idea of an oxygen
bar and search for similar methods to increase their body and brain oxygenation, but there are simple natural
alternatives that work far better for increasing body and brain O2 and
improving one's health.
Macey PM, Woo MA, Harper RM, Hyperoxic brain effects are normalized by addition
of CO2, PLoS Med. 2007 May; 4(5): e173..
Department of Neurobiology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of
California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.
Hyperoxic ventilation (>21% O2) is widely used in medical practice for
resuscitation, stroke intervention, and chronic supplementation. However,
despite the objective of improving tissue oxygen delivery, hyperoxic ventilation
can accentuate ischemia and impair that outcome. Hyperoxia results in,
paradoxically, increased ventilation, which leads to hypocapnia, diminishing
cerebral blood flow and hindering oxygen delivery. Hyperoxic delivery induces
other systemic changes, including increased plasma insulin and glucagon levels
and reduced myocardial contractility and relaxation, which may derive partially
from neurally mediated hormonal and sympathetic outflow. Several cortical,
limbic, and cerebellar brain areas regulate these autonomic processes. The aim
of this study was to assess recruitment of these regions in response to
hyperoxia and to determine whether any response would be countered by addition
of CO2 to the hyperoxic gas mixture.
METHODS AND FINDINGS:
We studied 14 children (mean age 11 y, range 8-15 y). We found, using functional
magnetic resonance imaging, that 2 min of hyperoxic ventilation (100% O2)
following a room air baseline elicited pronounced responses in autonomic and
hormonal control areas, including the hypothalamus, insula, and hippocampus,
throughout the challenge. The addition of 5% CO2 to 95% O2 abolished responses
in the hypothalamus and lingual gyrus, substantially reduced insular,
hippocampal, thalamic, and cerebellar patterns in the first 48 s, and abolished
signals in those sites thereafter. Only the dorsal midbrain responded to
hypercapnia, but not hyperoxia.
In this group of children, hyperoxic ventilation led to responses in brain areas
that modify hypothalamus-mediated sympathetic and hormonal outflow; these
responses were diminished by addition of CO2 to the gas mixture. This study in
healthy children suggests that supplementing hyperoxic administration with CO2
may mitigate central and peripheral consequences of hyperoxia.
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