New research reveals the benefits of oxygen restriction for longevity

Researchers have demonstrated, for the first time, that limited oxygen consumption or “oxygen restriction” is interconnected with increased longevity in laboratory mice, thereby accentuating its prospective as an anti-aging agent.

Robert Rogers and his colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston presented their research findings in an open access journal named PLOS Biology on May 23rd [1].

Research has discovered several chemical compounds and interventions, like metformin or dietary restriction, that display positive outcomes in mammalian lab animals for extending a healthy lifespan. Restricting oxygen has been associated with a prolonged lifespan in yeast, nematodes, and fruit flies, but its impact on mammals has remained unknown.

To investigate the effects of oxygen restriction on aging in mammals, lab experiments were conducted by Rogers and colleagues using mice that were genetically predisposed to age faster and display typical signs of aging throughout their bodies. 

The study involved comparing the lifespans of two groups of mice. One group lived in a normal atmosphere with 21 percent oxygen. In contrast, the other group was moved to a lower oxygen environment (11 percent) at 4 weeks of age, similar to an altitude of 5000 meters.

Researchers discovered that mice living in an oxygen-deprived environment had a 50% longer lifespan than those living in normal oxygen levels. The mice in the restricted environment had a median lifespan of 23.6 weeks, while those in the normal environment lived for only 15.7 weeks. The mice with limited oxygen also experienced a slower onset of aging-related neurological problems.

Previous studies have revealed that restricting diet can prolong the lifespan of fast-aging mice like those used in this recent research [2].

As a result, the researchers questioned whether limiting oxygen intake caused the mice to eat more, ultimately extending their lifespan. Nonetheless, their study discovered that oxygen restriction did not impact food consumption, indicating that other factors were involved.

Limiting oxygen intake may have anti-aging effects in mammals, possibly even humans. Nonetheless, more research is necessary to fully understand its potential advantages and how it works on a molecular level.

According to Rogers, subjecting mice to chronic continuous hypoxia (with 11% oxygen, similar to the conditions at Everest Base Camp) can extend their lifespan by 50% and delay the onset of neurologic debility. 

This is the first time that such oxygen restriction is beneficial in a mammalian aging model. However, caloric restriction remains the most widely studied and effective method for increasing lifespan and health span.


Photograph: fentonroma/Envato
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