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Researchers reported using oxygen therapy to treat mild to moderately depressed people using oxygen-enriched air, which had “a substantial beneficial effect” on symptoms of depression in their pilot trial.
51 volunteers did four weeks of placebo vs. oxygen therapy. The study was created to test the idea that giving oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure (“normobaric”) in relatively higher concentrations than found in ambient air may increase brain function and relieve depression symptoms.
Oxygen therapy isn’t meant to be confused with “hyperbaric” oxygen therapy (HBOT), which is used in hospitals worldwide to speed up recovery of gangrene, persistent wounds, carbon monoxide poisoning, and infections where tissue is starved for oxygen.
Oxygen Therapy for Depression Study
People who get hyperbaric oxygen have to enter a special chamber to breathe in pure oxygen at air pressure levels up to three times higher than the normal oxygen levels.
Researchers from the Ben-Gurion University in Israel were co-led by 2007 BBRF Independent Investigator as well as 1996 Young Investigator July Abed N. Azab, Ph.D., and Bersudsky, Ph.D., M.D., had an idea of testing normobaric oxygen therapy for depression after trying a previous trial which involved people with schizophrenia.
In the paper published in Scientific Reports, the researchers noted that studies prior in which enriched or pure oxygen are given at normal atmospheric pressure affected a measure named oxygen partial pressure in the brain tissue, which led to greater mitochondria function. These ever-present energy circuits power our cells.
The scientists looked at whether treating depressed people with moderately enriched oxygen at standard atmospheric pressure may similarly improve their mitochondrial function and affect the brain’s biology in other ways that may be beneficial.
Oxygen Therapy for Depression Study Results
The 51 depressed volunteers who had completed the study trial were randomized to receive either ambient air (21% oxygen) or oxygen-enriched air (35% oxygen) delivered through a nasal tube throughout the night for eight hours a night, for a month straight. Any meds the volunteers were already prescribed continued to take during the study.
29 of the 51 had been given the oxygen-enriched air therapy, and the other 22 received ambient air or known as the placebo. The air was provided in the same equipment for neither group knowing whether they were in the therapy or control group.
Furthermore, the study was also double-blinded, meaning those given the therapy didn’t know who the volunteers were receiving enriched oxygen therapy.
69% of the volunteers in the enriched oxygen therapy group improved over the month compared to 23% in the control group.
In addition, the difficulty of symptoms was measured in all volunteers using a few different types of scales; two of them showed massive improvements, as the others showed no improvements at all.
The benefits were found in anxiety and depressive symptoms as well as in “cognitive disturbance,” which include a decrease in guilt, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts, as well as many other positive therapeutic effects.