Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Monday, September 26, 2005

Experts savage oxygen booster

Experts savage oxygen booster
25 September 2005

A "super-oxygenated" bottle of water being peddled to athletes and racehorse trainers as a performance booster is a load of hogwash, say experts.

Oxy-Shot, costing $200 for one litre - more expensive than most Champagnes - is said to have been developed using Nasa technology to provide huge amounts of additional oxygen to the bloodstream.

It has been embraced by two leading racing trainers - South Island galloping trainer Michael Pitman and greyhound trainer Dave Fahey - and has sporting icons Martin Crowe and Grant Fox batting for it.

But none of the exercise physiologists and veterinarians consulted by the Sunday Star-Times had a good word to say about it.

Harness Racing New Zealand veterinary consultant Andrew Grierson said Oxy-Shot's claims were "absolute crap, a load of hogwash".

"If this stuff is so good why aren't the girls at Mermaids (a strip bar) all on it. They wouldn't have to come up for air."

Former All Blacks first five-eighths Fox was introduced to Oxy-Shot spokesman Tony Brigstock by former New Zealand cricket captain Crowe.

Fox wasn't shy about praising Oxy-Shot, saying it had given him an extra zest for life.

"If I was an athlete I'd be right among this," Fox said. "The science went right over my head, I'm just going on what I feel. You don't get a buzz or anything, but I find I've got more energy and my sleep patterns are better."

Pitman, who finished second on the national premiership last season, started using it in February.

"I'm sure it's helped me. Ten or 12 horses, who were going nice races without winning, won within a short time of being on Oxy-Shot.

"I'm happy because I've had results. Whether the horses would have won without it I don't know, but whenever I use it, the horses seem to race a little bit better.

"Horses who are a little bit light, and lack a bit of natural strength, seem to get more energy at the right time."

Pitman agreed it was expensive for what it was, "but nothing's expensive if it works".

Yet some of the claims made by Oxy- Shot, launched in Great Britain last week, where it costs about $100 for 250ml, were outrageous, one expert said.

While vets laughed about the product, concern is spreading in other quarters about Oxy-Shot's aggressive marketing campaign.

By sponsoring big races in all three racing codes this weekend, it appeared to be gaining tacit credibility.

Grierson said he and industry analyst Geoff Beresford checked out Oxy-Shot last year when HRNZ got wind that some trainers were using it.

"There's nothing in it that would make it a prohibited substance under the rules and in my opinion it would have no effect on a horse. I wouldn't recommend anyone uses it."

But Fox, who has been recovering from two knee operations, said that in the two months he had been taking Oxy-Shot he had felt like he could "go just a bit harder" in training.

And he noticed the difference on the golf course, caddying for son Ryan.

"Walking 72 holes in two days is tiring but I now take a bottle of water, with this stuff in it, sipping constantly, and I don't feel so tired any more."

Fox said that, unlike supplements, which didn't make him feel any better, Oxy-Shot gave him an energy lift.

Experts cast wet blanket on 'super' water claims

On its website, www., promoters call it a super-strength concentrate, containing at least 150,000 parts per million usable oxygen compared with tap water's 6-10ppm.

Made without the use of chemicals, through "bio electrical manufacture", it comprises "84 per cent deionised water, 15 per cent dissolved diatomic oxygen and 1 per cent sodium chloride (Atlantic sea salt)".

The website claims that in a world breakthrough, Oxy-Shot is able to provide a pH-balanced oxygen supplement that can be syringed behind the tongue.

It says the stabilised oxygen molecules are then absorbed into the bloodstream through the digestive system. Once in the bloodstream the oxygen is said to make its way into the cells of the body.

Oxy-Shot spokesman Tony Brigstock says Oxy-Shot is a revolutionary way to achieve peak performance and conditioning, and was best given 30 minutes before training.

"Oxygen debt is now regarded as a major issue for peak performance in elite athletes and racing animals are no different."

Brigstock says a string of Australian sports stars who have endorsed Sports Oxy-Shot, taken in 10ml doses, prove its effectiveness. They include rugby league's David Peachey, Craig Gower and Robbie O'Davis, rugby international Mat Rogers, hockey Olympian Brent Livermore and Olympic athlete Tamsyn Lewis.

The Australian website,, lists testimonials from leading golfers, kickboxers, swimmers, triathletes, bodybuilders, dancers, cricketers and coaches.

Brigstock says Oxy-Shot is a "proven, safe, clean product" that achieves the same objective as illegal techniques, such as the synthetic hormone EPO.

The trouble is, says Mike Hamlin, senior lecturer in exercise physiology at Lincoln University, EPO (erythropoeitin) and hypobaric chambers acted by stimulating the production of more red blood cells, and hence a greater oxygen-carrying capacity.

He questions how Oxy-Shot could work with the existing number of cells, when 98 per cent of them were already saturated with oxygen.

"If you gave the horse 100 per cent oxygen, you'd still only give it another 2 per cent at the most."

Hamlin said he knew of no physiological explanation of how oxygen could get into the bloodstream through drinking water.

Humans and horses were not fish, with specialised gills for exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide.

One internet observation read: "The concept of obtaining significant amounts of oxygen through the digestive system makes as much scientific and physiological sense as quenching your thirst by inhaling a glass of water into your lungs."

Hamlin: "You are bypassing the normal systems (lungs) going to the digestive system.

"It has to go all the way down the oesophagus, into the stomach, the small intestine, and then be absorbed into the bloodstream.

"But there's no specific structure for oxygen to get across those tissues."

Even if some small amount of extra oxygen got into the blood from the gut, it would make no difference, he says.

The amount of oxygen transferred to the blood in the lungs would be reduced and the final saturation would still be only 98 per cent.

"So what do you gain? Nothing."

Hamlin said it was "quackery" to suggest Oxy-Shot could improve performance.

Andrew Kilding, senior lecturer in exercise physiology at AUT, said oxygenated water was a gimmick.

"It's not new. A lot of the original work on oxygenated water for humans was done in the late 1990s. There were quite a few in the US but they were quickly dismissed.

"On what I know of physiology and previous work done, this Oxy- Shot would have absolutely no effect. The amount of oxygen from one litre of oxygenated water is equivalent to only one breath.

"Oxygen available through water would not get into the bloodstream at all. It would be absorbed into the cells of the gut."

Anyone who bought a 500ml bottle would probably find by the time they came to the last few 50ml doses, there might be no oxygen left at all, if the bottle had been opened repeatedly.

As with carbonated water, each time the bottle was opened, it got flatter.

"Are they saying they've somehow modified the structure so oxygen stays within the fluid?"

Kilding said he was sure that if the NASA-based technology was so successful, NASA would have commercially developed it itself.

HRNZ veterinary consultant Grierson said test results on the website, under letterheads of the University of Sydney and the Australian government, were laughable.

One, which described a rise in the partial pressure of oxygen in one resting horse administered a 100ml of Oxy-Shot, was an absolute joke.

"In any clinical trial, you need at least 20 subjects to show any statistical effect. And it doesn't show any standard deviations or variance.

"A trial like that would always be discredited it's not peer reviewed."

Grierson said he would at least have expected another horse to have been given a saline solution as a control.

Just putting a catheter into the horse's artery and introducing a stomach tube would create a flight- or-fright response, causing the the spleen to contract and pump out extra red blood cells.

By simply hyperventilating, the horse would increase its cardiac volume, output and respiration rate.

Grierson said effectiveness aside, it would certainly be illegal for anyone to administer Oxy-Shot on race day giving anything, especially by syringe, would be classified as a serious racing offence under the rules.

Brigstock said his company was not suggesting people used the product on race days it was a training aid designed to get an animal into peak condition.

"The scientists say this does not get you a free lunch but it allows you to work harder if you want to.

"It's all about training and recovery. Horses are smart animals and if they're feeling better, they'll find another gear.

"We're seeing improvement in horses' health over time, they're overcoming small injuries faster."

Unlike word of mouth with athletes, horses couldn't tell you how good they felt on Oxy-Shot.

But Hamlin, who has a special interest in human and equine performance, says that if horses are pushed harder, even with pure oxygen, more break down, so there's no point.

When challenged on the lack of scientific studies on Oxy-Shot, Brigstock said the technology was so new they were only now being done.

Brigstock referred the Star- Times to Oxy-Shot's Tasmanian distributor, Rick Cazaly, a personal health and fitness coach, for specifics on how Oxy-Shot works.

But when Cazaly's explanations were put to Hamlin, he destroyed each in turn, replying: "This guy is trying to baffle you with bullshit. He is using some big scientific terms but has no conception of what they mean or what actually happens."

Brigstock said he could not release details yet but he "had something special" from a study just completed in the United States.

"We have some of the world's top sports physiologists doing clinical trials and last week we had a breakthrough with the most influential sports doctor in New Zealand."

Brigstock would not name the doctor, nor would he name any of the Australian trainers he claimed had been using Oxy-Shot with success for the last 12 months.

"Trainers aren't into telling people what's working for them."

South Island galloping trainer Michael Pitman said he had been influenced into trying Oxy-Shot after seeing a testimonial from Australian trainer Johnny Tapp saying his team was firing on all cylinders.

Pitman said Oxyshot had certainly not done his team any harm but like chiropractic treatment or magnetic blankets or iron tonics or an extra dipper of oats it was difficult to measure success.

Fahey said he had been using Oxy-Shot for the last couple of months on his two best dogs, this year's greyhound of the year Willy What and stayer of the year Superstitious.

"It seems to make them a bit stronger at the end of a race and they recover quicker, which helps if they're racing closely together."

Leading greyhound trainer Dave Fahey said he planned to use Oxy-Shot on the rest of his team now that it was becoming more freely available.

Fahey, in third place on the premiership, said he was sure the product was helping him achieve better results.

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