Study Suggest Breathing Less Oxygen Helps You Live Longer
Recent research conducted by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital suggests that living in a state of hypoxia, characterized by low levels of oxygen in bodily tissues, can lead to a longer lifespan.
The study, published in PLOS Biology, examined fast-aging mice, with results showing that mice living in “chronic hypoxia” - an environment with only 11% oxygen instead of the usual 21% - had a lifespan 50% longer than those living in normal oxygen levels.
Additionally, the study found that mice in hypoxic environments also experienced delayed neurologic decline. This groundbreaking study marks the first investigation of its kind into oxygen restriction and its potential to increase lifespan in mammals. Past studies have found that oxygen restriction has extended the lifespan of organisms like yeast, worms, and fruit flies.
“While caloric restriction is the most widely effective and well-studied intervention to increase lifespan and health span, this is the first time that oxygen restriction has been demonstrated as beneficial in a mammalian aging model,” co-author of the paper Robert Rogers said.
Testing On Mice
In a study involving mice bred for accelerated aging, researchers divided the subjects into two groups at four weeks old. One group was exposed to 11% oxygen, which caused hypoxia, while the other group was exposed to the normal level of 21% oxygen. The results showed that the mice who lived with reduced oxygen had a lifespan of 23.6 weeks, which was significantly longer than the group who breathed the normal amount of oxygen, whose lifespan was only 15.7 weeks.
While these findings are promising for rodents, scientists caution that it cannot be assumed that humans would have the same results. It is hypothesized that oxygen-restriction therapy would need to be initiated at a young age in order to be effective.
The researchers acknowledged more research will be needed before the potential benefits of oxygen restriction are known.
“Our initial findings establish oxygen restriction as a potential aging intervention, motivating the search for underlying mechanisms and generalizability to other mammalian models,” they stated.
The importance of exploring a practical approach to inducing hypoxia, such as intermittent hypoxia or moderate hypoxia with 17% oxygen, was emphasized. This approach could potentially be effective in slowing down the aging process in humans, as suggested by past epidemiological evidence that demonstrates significant enrichment for nonagenarians and centenarians at high altitudes.
The evidence is not without potential confounders, but a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2011 found that men in higher altitude states, like Utah and Colorado, lived 1.2 to 3.6 years longer than those living close to sea level, while women gained 0.5 to 2.5 years in comparison to their counterparts.