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While water is an essential element to life that can be found for free most everywhere you look, that does not stop business from turning it into a profitable commodity. There is a whole aisle at the store dedicated to bottled water in a variety of forms. While some of us are too cheap to splurge on fancy water, it still manages to be a $283 billion global industry. With that in mind, it was only a matter of time before we circled fully around and went full Spaceballs by selling air in a can.
Boost Oxygen is the most popular brand of OTC pure oxygen in a can. I have noticed these popping up at a variety of retailers during Covid. Compressed pure oxygen is available in a variety of flavors and is small enough to fit in your purse.
Oxygen as a medical treatment has been around forever and is incredibly effective in patients who have trouble breathing or maintaining their oxygen saturation on room air. Normally a prescription is needed to supply Oxygen tanks which can be large and obtrusive and also a fire hazard. To improve access, modern portable oxygen concentrators have been developed and are now small enough to fit in a backpack. Monitoring of your oxygen saturation can be accomplished quickly and easily by using a pulse oximeter or smartwatch. This is an excellent tool to use, especially when sick at home with a respiratory illness and wondering when to seek professional care. Being unable to maintain a steady oxygen saturation is your “seek medical care now” sign.
Like all therapies, under the proper conditions, oxygen makes a ton of sense, but how about just as a supplement or to enhance athletic performance? Oxygen supplementation is routinely used by mountain climbers when exploring extreme elevations, so if it’s good enough for them, why not for you? One man’s stairs are another man’s mountain, and oxygen supplementation increases the V02 Max for a brief period.
Still, the human respiratory system is designed to match your oxygen supply with demand. If you need more oxygen, your respiration rate increases to provide it and auxiliary oxygen should only be necessary in extreme environments. For the average healthy person, oxygen concentration is not the rate-limiting step and if the athletic benefits were that great, we would see it all over the sidelines of professional sports. They are missing a big marketing angle here, and a NASCAR sponsorship practically writes itself.
The reality is, if you truly need supplemental oxygen, the concentrators are your best bet, but these O2 cans are a perfectly safe and interesting product. They may have a diagnostic function as well, to help identify elderly patients who are not currently receiving therapy but may benefit from it. Hyperbaric Oxygen therapy has always had a place in the training regimen for world-class athletes, but recent studies are showing its effectiveness against a variety of age-related cognitive concerns.
Jacob Hyatt Pharm D.
Father of three, Husband, Pharmacist, Realtor, Landlord, Independent Health, and Medicine Reporter
Further reading and references