The chemistry of oxygen therapy for weight loss sounds very straightforward. Human body fat is a combination of three elements – hydrogen, carbon and oxygen molecules (plus other substances that are stored within the fat cells).
Add extra oxygen to the body fat, and in theory it should break down into two well known substances:
- Hydrogen & oxygen molecules (H2O – water, which enters the blood stream, goes through the kidneys and is then excreted via urination); &
- Carbon & oxygen molecules (CO2 – carbon dioxide, which is excreted via respiration).
Oxygen or Ozone Therapies are used by a number of alternative medicine practitioners around the world. It is more popular in Europe than in the USA. Practitioners are also found in Canada and Mexico.
Despite being banned in some countries and certainly debunked by large sections of the “conventional” medical profession (read: drug therapists trained and influenced by multinational pharmaceutical manufacturers whose patent-lead approach to medicine finds low cost natural therapies a threat to their multi billion dollar per annum profit base), there is plenty of evidence that oxygen therapy produces health benefits for many conditions far cheaper, much faster and without the side effects of patent drugs.
Oxygen therapy is usually administered in one of two ways:
- A facial mask attached to an oxygen tank, so that the patient breaths in oxygen for many hours of the day; or
- Daily sessions of diluted hydrogen peroxide administered via an intravenous drip.
Oxygen Therapy For Weight Loss
Given the straightforward chemical composition of body fat discussed above, does Oxygen Therapy actually work for weight loss? I decided to contact a number of practitioners in various parts of the world and ask them if, when treating patients for other ailments using oxygen therapies, weight loss was ever seen as a side-effect of their treatment.
All the doctors who replied responded that no such weight loss factor has ever been observed that they could credit to the oxygen therapy itself, and not the condition they were treating.
It seems there is no empirical evidence to support the theory that oxygen therapy could reduce body fat into the easily excreted H2O and CO2.
Still, not everyone is convinced – and nor am I. The chemistry appears fine on paper, so something is missing in the implementation. Finding that missing factor could be crucial in the battle of the bulge, the quest for weight loss, and conquering obesity.
Books have been written promoting special breathing techniques for weight loss. Although there are sceptics, there are also many people around the world who swear by the success they have achieved in losing weight via these breathing techniques.
It doesn’t take a book to explain. Go outside into an open area with clean air (away from car fumes and other obvious pollutants). Stand with your legs apart and hands on your hips. Take a deep breath through your nose, as deep as possible, filling your lungs with air (which at sea level is approximately 21% oxygen in most places – lower in congested cities, higher in the middle of a forest).
Then, through your mouth, breath it out. Breath it all out, thoroughly emptying your lungs all you can – to the point of discomfort. You usually find yourself buckling at the waist to expel every last bit of air in your lungs and may even end with a cough the first few times.
Repeat this process for 15 to 20 minutes. Do it each morning, and each evening.
(That summary just saved you spending $30 or so on a book.)
The theory behind that breathing technique is not merely due to the intake of the oxygen, but the human body’s metabolic process expels waste matter, including carbon dioxide, when we breath out. Our air intake is higher in oxygen than what we expire, and we breath out more carbon dioxide than we breath in.
The breathing technique therefore seeks to encourage and maximize the expulsion of carbon dioxide from our bodies – carbon dioxide that is the waste matter created when the oxygen dissolves body fat.
The technique has its critics, as can be expected with anything that produces health benefits without lining the pockets of the medical and pharmaceutical industries.
Personally, I must admit to being impressed though not thoroughly convinced. It is quite reasonable to assume that the people who are disciplined enough to follow this breathing technique diligently for several weeks or months are probably motivated enough to also be doing other things (dietary, psychologically, etc.) that will be causing the weight loss.
Still, it fits the basic (unproven) theory that somehow adding oxygen to body fat should result in weight loss. Furthermore, it is harmless. Whether the actual results are from the technique itself or of a more psychosomatic nature is immaterial if it works, is free and available to all, and has no adverse side effects.
By all means, add this breathing technique to your overall toolbox of weight loss treatments.
Still, there is one more form of oxygen therapy (not usually recognized as such) that even the sceptics would have trouble disputing.
It is more commonly called exercise. More accurately, aerobic exercise. (Aerobic simply means “air breathing”.) It is exercise that makes you huff and puff, deepening your breathing and accordingly raising your oxygen intake. Exercise is and always has been one of the two most fundamental parts of the weight loss “formula”.
The chemistry offered up by proponents of oxygen therapy does appear to be straightforward. Fat + O2 -> CO2 + H2O + energy. The problem is that this reaction would never occur spontaneously because a great deal of energy is required to break the bonds between atoms within fat molecules and to get the reaction started.
So you’d have to add a great deal of heat. The reaction described above is, in fact, the combustion reaction, which occurs when you burn practically anything containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
The heat required to start the reaction is the reason why a candle or a piece of wood, both containing a great deal of stored energy, must be lit with a flame from another source before that energy can be expressed. There is not nearly enough heat present in the body to accomplish this, and if there was, weight loss would be the least of your worries because you’d be on fire.
So adding oxygen to human fat, even in a test tube, would accomplish nothing, because there is not enough energy for the reaction to proceed. It’s clear that this reaction does not describe the way fat is broken down in the human body; the body does not burn fat at high temperatures (obviously). In fact, in the body, fat is broken down chemically under a complex metabolic process that liberates the energy stored in the fat.
The reaction starts with fat and oxygen, and ends with carbon dioxide and water, but the process is completely different and involves many intermediate steps. The rate at which it proceeds is directly tied to your overall metabolic rate, as are your rate of respiration and heart rate.
When you exercise, this process goes into overdrive so more energy can be obtained from fat, which is why your breathing rate and heart rate increase – to supply more oxygen. In simple terms, the body tends to take in what it needs.
But even if you managed to get extra oxygen into your bloodstream, it’s unlikely that it would ever even come into contact with fat. Fat is stored in special adipose cells, and oxygen is not present in the bloodstream as oxygen itself, but as oxygen molecules bound to the hemoglobin in our red blood cells. These things cannot act directly on each other like the fat and oxygen in our hypothetical reaction.
The oxygen has to be purposefully removed from the bloodstream and carried into the cells that need it, and each individual cell takes in oxygen only when it is required (for example, during exercise). This sort of inert storage is a very common theme in the design of the human body.
Most potentially reactive materials are stored in a different form, and some of the most complex systems we have (the lungs, the kidneys, the digestive system) exist to convert molecules between their natural, free form and our metabolically active form.
So taking in more oxygen will probably not increase your ability to burn fat, in the same way that taking 50 times the recommended daily dose of vitamin B12 will probably not give you extra energy. Taking in more of either one will only help if you are deficient. Oxygen deficiency is basically slow suffocation, and it’s usually the result of serious – and obvious – cardiopulmonary diseases.
The saturation of oxygen in the bloodstream of a healthy person does vary, but usually only within 5% of 100%. If you decide to get that extra few percent by taking deep breaths, go for it. As I discussed above, the mere presence of more oxygen will not cause fat loss; you have to increase your metabolic rate. But performing a deep breathing exercise can reduce your stress levels, and that will benefit nearly every aspect of your health, weight loss included.
The most important warning I can pass along is to those who would seek to take in more oxygen by breathing a mix richer in oxygen than normal air. Some proponents of oxygen therapy actually appear to be doing this.
Beware! Normal air is about 21% oxygen, and breathing richer concentrations of oxygen (usually 50% and up) can actually cause lung damage through a sort of “overload.” Another fact that’s commonly overlooked is that oxygen, giver of life, is also the source of the harmful “free radicals” that are believed to cause serious damage to the body. That’s why certain foods are praised for being high in “antioxidants.”
Breathing oxygen-rich gas has been shown to cause increased formation of free radicals. And as I’ve said, in order to use that extra oxygen to burn fat, you’d still need to exercise to increase your metabolic rate.