NMU – 184 Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments Reverse Key Aspects of Aging – Especially Immune Cells
Lifestyle Medicine Update No 184 (Dec 2, 2020)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments Reverse Key Aspects of Aging – Especially Immune Cells
Source: Journal “Aging” (2020)
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) involves lying in a sealed chamber that usually has big windows so you can see out, and the ability to watch TV or movies on a large television screen. The chamber is pressurized with pure oxygen. Normally the air with breath in from the earth’s atmosphere is 21% oxygen. With HBOT you are breathing in air that is 100% oxygen, and the therapist can increase the pressure of that oxygen from 1 atmospheric pressure up to 3 or 4 atmospheric pressures, depending on the health condition be treated. A treatment usually lasts an hour or so, and you normally require 40-60 treatments in a row (often daily), to see the therapeutic benefit. In Ontario, where I live, the provincial government health plan pays for HBOT for 14 different health conditions, where it has proven to be highly efficacious. Some of the conditions include chronic anemia, chronic non-healing wounds, delayed radiation injury, gangrene, osteomyelitis, and thermal burns. But researchers have been studying HBOT to see if it is helpful for other conditions.
Professor Efrati of the Sackler School of Medicine, a renowned hyperbaric oxygen researcher, stated that using hyperbaric oxygen therapy our achievements over the years have included the improvement of brain functions damaged by age, stroke, or brain injury. So, that is very encouraging indeed. In a 2020 anti-aging study, published in the journal Aging, Dr. Efrati and fellow researchers exposed 35 healthy individuals aged 64 or over to a series of 60 hyperbaric sessions over a period of 90 days. Each participant provided blood samples before, during, and at the end of the treatments as well as some time after the series of treatments concluded. The researchers then analyzed various immune cells in the blood and compared the results.
The results showed two stunningly important anti-aging effects:
- The telomeres at the ends of the DNA grew longer by 20-38%. Telomere shortening usually occurs with age, which eventually results in immune cells and other body cells becoming inactive or senescent as we say. Lengthening telomeres at the ends of the immune cell’s DNA reverses the aging of the cell, making it potentially much more efficient at killing viruses, bacteria, other pathogens as well as any emerging cancer cells. Lengthening telomeres is thought to be one of the “Holy Grails” in anti-aging biology and research, and here we see HBOT able to lengthen telomeres by up to 38% in some types of immune cells. We have seen that omega-3 fats, exercise, other lifestyle modifications, and even some supplements like the herb Astragalus, can also lengthen telomeres to some degree, but a 20-38% reversal via HBOT is quite astonishing and noteworthy.
- The second finding was that number of senescent or inactive immune cells was reduced by 11-37%, meaning that after HBOT the individual now had a greater number of functioning immune cells to fight viruses, bacteria, other pathogens, and emerging cancer cells. This makes for a much stronger and more efficient immune system. These findings are very impressive because our immune system usually declines after the age of 50-60 quite significantly, which increases our risk of cancer, as well as making us more prone to more virulent-life-threatening infections.
Certain dietary and lifestyle behaviors, and the use of certain supplements, have been shown to slow or reverse certain aspects of immune system decline. But this new research suggests that HBOT may also be a consideration for older patients who wish to boost their immunity. It’s doubtful that we will see HBOT covered by health plans for this purpose, anytime soon. Considering that you probably need about 60 consecutive, one-hour treatments, which are not inexpensive, it may not be convenient or affordable for many people. But for real anti-aging enthusiasts, who can afford the time and the expense, HBOT may be one more proactive intervention that can be used to help keep your body and mind highly functioning as you age.
I have included the reference for this study in the text below.
1. Main Reference: Yafit Hachmo, Amir Hadanny, Ramzia Abu Hamed, Malka Daniel-Kotovsky, Merav Catalogna, Gregory Fishlev, Erez Lang, Nir Polak, Keren Doenyas, Mony Friedman, Yonatan Zemel, Yair Bechor, Shai Efrati. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy increases telomere length and decreases immunosenescence in isolated blood cells: a prospective trial. Aging, 2020. https://www.aging-us.com/article/202188/text
2. Dr Efrati Interview and Study Summary: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201120150728.htm
3. Astragalus and Telomeres (2019): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6755196/
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