Oxygen blasts do little harm, but probably do little good
From Medical Correspondent Rhonda Rowland
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Move over, multivitamins and bottled water. The newest trend for health aficionados who want to feel better is a blast of good, old-fashioned oxygen.
Oxygen bars and oxygen clinics have been springing up since the late 1980s from Tokyo to Toronto. While oxygen therapy has traditionally been used to help patients with lung problems breathe easier, perfectly healthy people are taking up the oxygen craze.
Why do they do it?
"Energy. It clears up their sinuses. They feel like they've had a short nap," says Sharon O'Connor, a nurse who works at the Oxygen Zone, an oxygen clinic in Atlanta.
But those conclusions come from anecdotal testimony, not scientific study. Indeed, most doctors say there is no reason healthy people need extra oxygen.
"In a normal individual at sea level or near sea level, most of the oxygen is carried by hemoglobin in your blood, and it's already 97 percent saturated," Dr. Robert Johnson of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center says. "You can't get much more oxygen in your blood."
Oxygen therapy can also be pricey -- at the Oxygen Zone, $20 for 20 minutes.
However, there is some scientific evidence to support the use of oxygen therapy for cluster headaches, according to the National Headache Foundation.
And, though there's no hard evidence to support it, many exhausted athletes think a quick hit at the sidelines can help them get back into the game. That concept is being taken one step further.
A new "superoxygenated" bottled water will soon come to market. The company that produces it says it did a study showing that drinking the water shaved an average of 31 seconds off a runner's 5-kilometer time.
However, experts at an Olympic training center told CNN they were skeptical. They say that while running, you would have to guzzle up to 200 bottles per minute to get any benefit.
But whether or not oxygen therapy actually works, there is one thing that might help you breathe a sigh of relief. Inhaling these small amounts of oxygen may not do you any good, but they probably won't do you any harm.
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