A recent study seems to find a way to stop the forming of new toxic plaques in the brain. The researchers used hyperbaric oxygen therapy first on a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease and then on people with Alzheimer’s to see whether the therapy can halt or slow the disease progression.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a treatment with high-pressure pure oxygen in a pressure room. This therapy has been already used for years to improve brain functions that were damaged by age, stroke or brain injury. It works by forcing increased oxygenation of tissues with low oxygen levels and therefore improves blood flow to the brain to nourish brain cells that are usually deprived of oxygen (carried in the blood) in Alzheimer’s disease.

In the study the hyperbaric oxygen therapy was used for 1 hour a day, 5 days a week for 4 weeks. The results showed that the therapy not only reduced the number and size of plaques in the brain of the mice, but also slowed the formation of new plaques, compared with a control group of mice who did not receive the therapy. In other words, increased blood flow to the brain helped with the clearance of plaques from the brain, and with reduction of inflammation. After the treatment, the mice showed improvements to their cognitive abilities, such as their abilities to remember emotional, social, spacial and temporal circumstances related to an event.

After successful results on mice, the researchers tested the effectiveness of oxygen therapy on 6 people aged 65+ with cognitive decline. They found that 60 sessions of oxygen therapy, over 90 days, increased blood flow in certain areas of the brain and significantly improved the participants’ memory, attention and information processing speed.

Together, the results of the study showed that hyperbaric oxygen therapy may be able to reduce cognitive decline both mice and people with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s. Although the results are encouraging, the researchers highlight that the therapy is not a cure of Alzheimer’s, but a tool to significantly slow down its progression and severity.

It is also worth mentioning that 60 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen therapy with the duration of 1 hour each, is at this moment too expensive for most people. The treatment costs between EUR 45 and EUR 300,- per session. Multiply by 60 and you’ll have an approximate price for the treatment. And, don’t forget that the results are still needed to be confirmed in people with Alzheimer’s in large clinical trials.

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Tatsiana Haponava, PhD

a certified nutrition coach, educator and researcher with a PhD degree

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