As we get older, things change in the body – most often, not for the better.
For instance: The genetic material in every cell of the body can shift its activity in ways that are harmful and make you more vulnerable to disease. And old or damaged cells can lead to chronic inflammation that can result in a number of health problems.
But now, scientists in Israel claim they’ve found a way to dodge some of the woes of aging by using a technique that allows older cells to behave like healthy young cells once again.
Research at Tel Aviv University and the Shamir Medical Center reveals that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can reverse the aging process in immune cells that circulate in the blood.1
I’m not surprised. I’ve been fascinated by HBOT ever since I first heard about it some 30 years ago. It can often restore function to stroke victims and in addition it’s now part of mainstream medicine’s toolkit for healing stubborn wounds that won’t heal on their own. More controversially, it’s recommended by some practitioners of alternative cancer medicine.
So HBOT’s ability to reverse aging fits in with its other known benefits.
In their recent tests, the Israeli researchers took 35 people over the age of 64 who were not suffering from significant health issues and gave them 60 hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions over the course of three months.
What is Hyperbaric Oxygen?
The hyperbaric oxygen therapy sessions entail being in a chamber with a pressurized atmosphere—with the pressure on your body the equivalent to what you’d experience if you went scuba diving. But instead of being like “normal” air, the air in the chamber is 100 percent oxygen.
Analyses of blood tests performed on the study subjects after treatment showed that the DNA of their immune cells was better protected from the damage that can occur when the cells reproduce. This was reflected in the cells’ telomeres – the protective structures that keep DNA from breaking, fraying or warping.
In the study, participants’ telomeres were 20 to 38 percent longer (depending on the type of immune cell) after hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This may contribute to better health and longer life, because, when telomeres get too short, cells often stop functioning and die. In fact, researchers have long pointed to telomere length as an indicator of one’s biological age (as distinguished from chronological age, the one we measure by the number of candles on the birthday cake).
Along with cells that grew longer telomeres, the researchers also found hyperbaric oxygen therapy reduced the number of senescent immune cells in the blood. Senescent cells are aged, non-functioning cells. Those dropped by 11 to 37 percent, again depending on the type of immune cell. This finding may be more significant than the one about telomeres, although telomeres are better known to the public.
Better Brain Performance
There’s also evidence that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can help support better brain health and memory function as you age.
Another Israeli study, this one involving about five dozen people over the age of 64, demonstrates that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can improve your ability to focus, speed up processing of information, boost executive function (the ability to plan and carry out complicated tasks) and improve general thinking power.
The scientists carrying out these tests believe that when hyperbaric oxygen therapy significantly increases the availability of oxygen in the body, it helps stem cells accelerate their activity and healing abilities, limits inflammation, stimulates the generation of new blood vessels and aids the body in being better able to repair its tissues.
The researchers also believe that the beneficial effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy in the brain are likely to occur in other organs, too.
“We found that HBOT (hyperbaric oxygen therapy) induces a significant increase in brain blood flow, which correlates with cognitive improvement,” says researcher Shai Efrati. “One can conjecture that similar beneficial effect of HBOT can be induced in other organs of the aging body.”
More Widespread Use
From what I’ve been able to find, a lot of researchers around the world are enthusiastic about the future of hyperbaric therapy.
For example, tests at Louisiana State University demonstrate it’s useful in dealing with brain injuries—such as from stroke— and reducing the risk of suicide in people suffering PTSD.2,3
Meanwhile, researchers in Italy believe the therapy can help treat gum disease more effectively.4
And a study involving scientists in Florida and Brazil suggests that hyperbaric oxygen therapy could even be useful for treating COVID-19.5 The researchers studying hyperbaric therapy at LSU concur and also believe it can probably help people suffering from COVID-19 recover.6
And, if the Israeli research pans out in further studies, hyperbaric oxygen therapy may soon become a standard way to fight aging.
As researcher Amir Hadanny notes: “Until now, interventions such as lifestyle modifications and intense exercise were shown to have some inhibiting effect on telomere shortening. But in our study, only three months of HBOT was able to elongate telomeres at rates far beyond any currently available interventions or lifestyle modifications. With this pioneering study, we have opened a door for further research on the cellular impact of HBOT and its potential for reversing the aging process.”
I believe that hyperbaric oxygen therapy is probably among the most effective anti-aging therapies that exist today, at least when it comes to cardiovascular aging and brain aging or injury. It’s not easy to get access to HBOT though. It’s mostly available via conventional medicine providers who will let you have it only for “approved” applications – which do NOT include goofy, crazy alternative stuff like reversing stroke damage and aging or controlling cancer.
As the Israeli study suggests, it takes a great many HBOT sessions to achieve the desired results. I can confirm this from my other investigations of this therapy for stroke, cancer and wound healing. Think of it as you would a sauna – something you need to do several times a week for life.
There are home units which cost a few thousand dollars and those are worth looking into. But these small, inexpensive ones are nothing like the big chambers in hospitals in which several people can sit comfortably and chat or read a book. Still, the potential benefits make the home units sound pretty darned attractive.
Certainly as more evidence for hyperbaric oxygen therapy comes out, I’ll keep you posted.