ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Obesity May Raise Kids' Allergy Risk
Using Music and Sports to Improve Kids' Asthma
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Fish Oil's Benefits Remain Elusive
Quit Smoking the Holistic Way
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
ANIMAL CARE
Animals Respond to Acupuncture's Healing Touch
Rest Easy. When It Comes to Swine Flu, Your Pet Is Safe
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
BONES & JOINTS
Living Near Major Road May Boost Rheumatoid Arthritis Risk
Hip Replacement Boosts Mobility at Any Age
Chronic Low Back Pain Is on the Rise
CANCER
Green Tea May Help Prevent Oral Cancer
Vitamin D May Lower Colon Cancer Risk
Well Water Might Raise Bladder Cancer Risk
CAREGIVING
Children's Bath Products Contain Contaminants
Caring for Aging Loved Ones Can Be a Catch-22
Baby's Sleep Position May Not Affect Severity of Head Flattening
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Exercise Extends Life of Kidney Patients
Bad Marriages Harder on Women's Health
Walk 100 Steps a Minute for 'Moderate' Exercise
COSMETIC
Health Tip: After Liposuction
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
The Acne Drug Accutane More Than Doubles Depression Risk
DENTAL, ORAL
Gum Disease Might Boost Cancer Risk
Good Oral Hygiene May Protect Against Heart Infections
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
DIABETES
Vitamin K Slows Insulin Resistance in Older Men
Coffee, Tea Might Stave Off Diabetes
Formula Puts Doctor, Patient Glucose Readings on Same Page
DIET, NUTRITION
The Food Irradiation Story
Compound in Berries May Lessen Sun Damage
Heart Disease May Be Prevented By Taking Fish Oils, Study Shows
DISABILITIES
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Hypertension May Hit Black Males Earlier
Global Warming Biggest Health Threat of 21st Century, Experts Say
What's Cookin'? It Could Be Air Pollution
EYE CARE, VISION
Glaucoma Associated With Reading Impairments in Elderly
Gene-Transfer Proves Safe for Vision Problem
Drinking Green Tea May Protect Eyes
FITNESS
Exercise Key Player in Knee Replacement Recovery
Exercise Guards White Blood Cells Against Aging
You Can Get Great Exercise In The Garden
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
New Guidelines Issued for Management of IBS
Bowel Prep Harder on Women Than Men
GENERAL HEALTH
8 Drugs Doctors Would Never Take
Coffee Cuts Liver Scarring in Hepatitis C
More Single Women Are Having Babies
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Psychiatric Drugs Might Raise Cardiac Death Risk
Exercise May Blunt Salt's Effect on Hypertension
Shedding Light on Why Omega-3 Fatty Acids May Help the Heart
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Grapefruit Compound Inhibits Hepatitis C Virus
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Viral Infection Might Trigger High Blood Pressure
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Babies Who Eat Fish Lower Eczema Risk
Breast-Feeding May Protect a Woman's Heart
Babies Cared For In Others Homes Might Become Heavy Toddlers
MEN'S HEALTH
Varicose Veins May Mask Larger Problem
Low Iron Levels Cut Cancer Risk in Men With PAD
Countdown to Hair Loss
MENTAL HEALTH
A Simple 'Thank You' Brings Rewards to All
Breast-Fed Baby May Mean Better Behaved Child
How to Attack Holiday Stress Head-On
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
Alleviating Rheumatoid Arthritis
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Woman in America Are Delaying Motherhood, Study Says
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
For Baby and Mom Alike, Breast-Feeding May Be Best
SENIORS
As You Age, Better Health Means Better Sex
Fitness Fades Fast After 45
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Exercising Throat Muscles May Relieve Sleep Apnea
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
6 to 8 Hours of Shut-Eye Is Optimal for Health
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Iodine in Prenatal Vitamins Varies Widely
Green Tea May Help Treat Uterine Fibroids
Most Women With Osteoporosis Unaware of Raised Fracture Risk
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Study of Everest Climbers Questions Oxygen Use

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- Going to the world's most elevated natural laboratory, Mount Everest, British researchers have found that the established medical rules about the amount of oxygen needed by a body under stress might be wrong.

"Some people can tolerate extremely low levels of oxygen, much lower than we expected," said Dr. Michael P.W. Grocott, from University College London and lead author of a report in the Jan. 8 New England Journal of Medicine.

His team determined their findings on hypoxia, which is low levels of oxygen, from measurements made on 10 climbers as they went up and down Everest, whose peak of more than 29,000 feet above sea level is the highest point on earth.

The report is the first to come from a large-scale project "specifically designed to understand the differences between people and how they react to hypoxia," Grocott said. Those differences are difficult to measure in ordinary hospital laboratories, but the Everest project provided a way for "measurement of unusual people in a strange place," he added.

The researchers, from the Center for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine at the University College London's Institute of Human Health and Performance, wanted to make blood measurements at the very peak of Everest, but the weather did not allow that. Instead, samples were taken at the highest level possible, at an altitude of about 27,559 feet. The blood oxygen readings at that level "are, to our knowledge, among the lowest ever documented in humans," the researchers wrote.

"I don't expect patients to survive in oxygen levels that we saw in these subjects," Grocott said. Yet all of them "were functioning perfectly ably," he added.

The Everest finding could lead to a change in the treatment of the hypoxia often seen in people in emergency rooms, like those suffering heart attacks.

The first rule now in such cases is to keep blood oxygen levels high by whatever means possible, Grocott noted. "But mechanical ventilation can be harmful," he said. "It can cause inflammation in the lungs. The gentler you are, the less damage you do to the lungs."

The data from the Everest study is not nearly enough to be put to use medically, Grocott said. "We are not proposing a change in clinical practice," he said. But he added that it was enough to spur a proposal for a randomized clinical trial of less aggressive oxygen-supplying treatments in some cases.

"We are currently seeking funding for such a trial in the United Kingdom," he said. "We would do the trial in people at lowest risk to hypoxia, not to those with heart attack and stroke. It would be in younger people with no vascular [blood vessel] disease, traumatically injured patients with injured lungs."

But what is seen in Everest climbers might not be true in the emergency room, said Dr. Norberto C. Gonzalez, professor of molecular and integrative physiology at the University of Kansas, who has done research on hypoxia.

The climbers in the study had spent substantial amounts of time at high altitudes, Gonzalez said. "These people are acclimatized," he said. "If you and I were exposed to this level of oxygen, we couldn't take it."

While he expressed marvel at the measurements, "as low in oxygen as you can get and still be alive," Gonzalez expressed doubt that the findings seen in experienced climbers could be extended to ordinary hospital treatment.

"I'm not so sure that you can extrapolate what happens to a healthy individual who is exposed to an extreme to someone who has many problems," he said.

-Ed Edelson

More Information

What hypoxia can do to the brain is described by the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.



SOURCES: Michael P. W. Grocott, M.D., Center for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment Medicine, Institute of Human Health and Performance, University College London, and senior lecturer in intensive care, University College London, England; Norberto C. Gonzalez, M.D., professor of molecular and integrative physiology, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kan.; Jan. 8, 2009, New England Journal of Medicine

Last Updated: Jan. 07, 2009

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Study of Everest Climbers Questions Oxygen Use
NASA

Mt. Everest from International Space Station