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Q

Need More Oxygen?

Is taking vitamin O the same as receiving oxygen from a tank?

A
Answer (Published 1/23/2007)

Absolutely not. There is no such thing as "vitamin O." Bogus products by that name have been heavily promoted by marketers who have made unsubstantiated and untrue claims for them. The sales pitches I’ve seen on-line these days generally suggest that vitamin O can boost energy and often include testimonials from customers who laud the products. These are pretty tame claims compared to earlier ones that shamelessly peddled vitamin O as a remedy for cancer, high blood pressure, lung disease, headaches, colds, flu and other illnesses. In 1999, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated two companies, Rose Creek Health Products, Inc., and The Staff of Life, Inc., of Kettle Falls, WA, and found that the vitamin O they were selling was actually bottled salt water priced at $10 an ounce.

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As a result of the FTC action, the companies agreed to stop making the claims that vitamin O or any substantially similar product prevents or effectively treats cancer, heart disease, lung disease or any other life-threatening illnesses. The FTC action also barred the companies from making other false or unsupported statements about vitamin O. While supplements called vitamin O are still on the market, you can be sure that you will not get any oxygen from them – aside, perhaps, from the oxygen in H²O.

You also can be sure that as long as you do not have lung disease you don’t need additional sources of oxygen. We get the amount we need from the air (the oxygen content of the air is an unvarying 21 percent regardless of pollution or weather). The oxygen we inhale first goes to our lungs and then into the bloodstream. When your body needs more oxygen, your breathing rate changes to increase the supply.

If you have an illness such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis, occupational lung disease, lung cancer, or cystic fibrosis that limits the oxygen you get by breathing, your physician will determine exactly how much oxygen you require and prescribe an oxygen delivery system that fits your needs. Please do not try to substitute an over-the-counter supplement for the oxygen your physician prescribes.

The promotion of vitamin O also demonstrates the challenges we face in the absence of a regulatory agency devoted to ousting companies that falsely advertise these ridiculous products. It makes it difficult to identify good vitamins and supplements that have been properly made and have good research to back them up, and makes it necessary to rely on a trusted advisor, preferably a physician trained in integrative medicine, to help you navigate the confusing claims.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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