For centuries, people have spent their Friday nights looking for the hottest watering hole, now many are bellying up to an oxygen bar for the chance to sniff oxygen. Is it healthy or just hype?
We have become a society of shallow breathers, causing us to become oxygen deprived.
Research has shown this habit of shallow breathing affects us in many ways. Some may notice an increase in fatigue, loss of concentration, and even muscle cramps, caused by our shallow breathing. Focusing on your breathing can have a significant impact on your stress level and can create physical changes such as lowering your blood pressure. You can also try practicing deep abdominal breathing techniques and occasionally check yourself for muscle tension. Another alternative is the recreational use of oxygen. Oxygen starvation has become so prevalent that oxygen bars have become a popular hot spot.
Oxygen Bars making a comeback
Oxygen bars were introduced in the United States in the late 1990s and the trend has made a comeback. Oxygen bars sell “hits” of 40% oxygen that is delivered through a mask worn over the face or a plastic cannula that is placed under your nose. And while there are no long-term studies that support the supposed benefits of oxygen for healthy people, proponents of this oxygen “therapy” say it boosts energy levels, increases endurance during exercise, decreases recovery time from physical exertion, provides relief from stress and pollution, increases concentration, increases relaxation, and eases headaches and hangovers.
The standard experience at an oxygen bar can last from 5 minutes to about 20 minutes, depending on customers’ preferences and how much they are willing to pay. For about a dollar a minute, many could be gasping for air but others say it’s worth it. Most oxygen bars offer scented sessions, where they can choose from a selection of aromas to enhance the experience.
ALA and FDA’s take on Oxygen Bars
The American Lung Association says that inhaling oxygen at oxygen bars is unlikely to have any beneficial effect but states that there is no indication that oxygen at the low flow levels used at the O2 bars can be hazardous to a normal person’s health.
Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, any type of oxygen used by people for breathing and administered by another person is a prescription drug. “It doesn’t matter what they label it,” says Melvin Szymanski, a consumer safety officer in the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). Although oxygen bars that dispense oxygen without a prescription violate FDA regulations, the agency applies regulatory discretion to permit the individual state boards of licensing to enforce the requirements pertaining to the dispensing of oxygen.
Jason Turowski, MD, a pulmonologist with the Cleveland Clinic Respiratory Institute in Ohio said the truth is that healthy people just don’t need the extra oxygen. “Humans have evolved to live in an atmosphere with 21 percent oxygen”. “Once your blood gets enough oxygen, you can’t load any more onto your red blood cells,” Dr. Turowski says. He compares it to trying to squeeze more people onto an already-packed New York City subway car.
We would love your opinion. Do you think oxygen bars are a fad or the next big thing?