Recent research at Memorial University of Newfoundland might breathe new life into weight loss in the future - literally. Led by Dr. Fabien Basset, a team of researchers from the School of Human Kinetics and Recreation examined the effects of breathing air with a lower concentration of oxygen (called hypoxia) on overweight, unfit individuals.
Three hours a day, for seven consecutive days, 11 men between the ages of 19 and 25 inhaled hypoxic air. (All but one of the participants was considered moderately overweight and unfit.) The results were encouraging.
"They increased their basal metabolic rate," says Dr. Basset. (Basal metabolic rate is a measure of how many calories we burn while doing absolutely nothing.) "Meaning that they have increased their energy expenditure to a certain extent."
While this might sound like an easy way out for those who desire to lose weight - but hate to exercise, Basset insists it is no "magical cure."
With further study, Basset says, treating obese individuals with hypoxic air won't replace a healthy regimen of diet and exercise - but it could complement it.
"The most tricky thing with obese people is that they can't exercise intensely enough to trigger the exercise benefit," says Basset. Imagining how hypoxic air could one day be used to treat those battling weight, Basset says, "At the early stage of their program they may be subjected to hypoxia, helping them to lose weight, and then after a while they will be able to train as normal people."
Basset says it is important to remember that a healthy diet and regular exercise is the only solution to weight loss. And while this pilot study has shown promising results, Basset says much further research is required before such a treatment could be administered clinically.