These People Like To Chill At 200 Degrees Below Zero – BuzzFeed News

Ryan Howard is no stranger to freezing temperatures, having
lived through winters in New Hampshire. But standing in a tank
chilled to -210 degrees Fahrenheit — while naked, save for
socks and gloves — was new even for him.

Howard was dabbling in “whole-body cryotherapy,” a new
biohacking trend that involves self-immersing in very cold, dry
air at dozens of spas and wellness centers nationwide. Howard’s
session in a liquid nitrogen-refrigerated tank wasn’t cheap:
three minutes of being a human popsicle cost $55.

“It’s so cold you feel alive,” Howard, who has founded two
health technology startups in San Francisco, told BuzzFeed
News. “It’s like jumping in a cold pool.”

Cryotherapy devotees say the practice is worth the expense
because it can treat all kinds of conditions that, depending
where you look on the internet, include Alzheimer’s, anxiety,
asthma, chronic pain, migraines, and stress. Other sites claim
that a blast of cold reduces inflammation and cellulite,
improves skin, and increases metabolism.

But in a
consumer alert issued this month, the U.S. FDA warned that
there is no evidence to support these claims, at least not yet.
(Although researchers are beginning to
study it.) And the potential health risks from exposure to
extreme cold include asphyxiation, frostbite, burns, and eye
injuries, according to the agency.

“Based on purported health benefits seen in many promotions for
cryotherapy spas, consumers may incorrectly believe that the
FDA has cleared or approved [cryotherapy] devices as safe and
effective to treat medical conditions,” said Dr. Aron Yustein,
a medical officer in the FDA’s Center for Devices and
Radiological Health, in the alert. “That is not the case.”

In October, a 24-year-old woman made
national headlines after she froze to death in a chamber at
the Nevada spa where she worked.

Yet people remain enthusiastic about the practice, which
originated in Japan in the late 1970s, was introduced to Europe
in 1982, and has made its way to the US over the last decade.

View this image ›

Goalkeeper Celine Deville
stands in a cryotherapy chamber at the French national
football team training base as part of the preparation for
the FIFA 2015 World Cup. Franck
Fife / AFP / Getty Images

ID: 9339355

Howard isn’t afraid of experimenting with the human body: His
latest startup, iBeat, is developing a heart-monitoring
wearable that alerts 911 in the case of an emergency, and he’s
tried out floating in a sensory deprivation tank. So he decided
to try cryotherapy this month after an intense weight-lifting
session left his muscles sore.

At CryoSF, a San Francisco cryotherapy center, he walked into
the chamber unclothed. His head remained above the top of the
tank, so as to avoid breathing in air low in oxygen, and he
said he still had control of his limbs and could leave through
the chamber’s door if he wanted.

“You’re obviously not going to freeze and break off,” Howard
said. “You’re fine, you’re just really effing cold. Think about
the coldest you’ve ever been outside in a storm in the
Northeast — it’s that bone-chilling cold and you warm right
back up.” And the experience seemed to have the intended effect
as soon as he warmed up again: “The muscle soreness seemed to
be gone very quickly.”

As for the concerns raised by the FDA, Howard isn’t rattled.
Just because cryotherapy is new and unstudied, he says, doesn’t
mean it’s dangerous.

He’s not alone, especially among Silicon Valley biohackers.
George Burke, who runs a group called SF Peak Performance in
San Francisco, took members to a cryotherapy chamber this year
and thinks that exposing the body to extreme conditions makes
it more resilient. He summed up his feelings about the risks
this way: “I’m pretty sure I’ve done a lot worse to my body
than three minutes of cold.”

“Three or four minutes, exposed to an environment of -200
degrees, we don’t know what that does to circulation, to
organ function, to neurologic function.”

ID: 9339629

Afag Shukurova, who opened the CryoSF clinic this spring, said
that the center requires customers to fill out a waiver, and
will not treat them if they have conditions like hypertension,
cardiovascular disease, or pregnancy. But the center’s website
makes several unproven claims, such as that the practice “helps
to reduce inflammation throughout the body and relieves pain in
joints and muscles,” burns “400 to 800 calories” in a session,
and “helps boost immunity and metabolism.”

“This therapy hasn’t been approved by the FDA,” Shukurova told
BuzzFeed News, but added that there is “little to no risk

Dr. Daniel Vigil isn’t so sure. As an associate clinical
professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine and a team
physician for UCLA Athletics, he routinely has athletes cool
their sore muscles with ice packs and soak them in 35-degree
water. But whole-body cryotherapy, he says, is something else

“Three or four minutes, exposed to an environment of -200
degrees Fahrenheit, we don’t know what that does to
circulation, to organ function, to neurologic function,” Vigil
told BuzzFeed News.

“I’m not aware of any proven benefits, I have no reason to say
it’s good for you,” he added. “The flip side is because of the
potential risks, I would advise against it.”

The FDA worries that people may be doing cryotherapy in lieu of
proven and effective health treatments. According to its
consumer alert, they “may experience a lack of improvement or a
worsening of their medical conditions.”

Or they may feel nothing at all. Sue Zhou, a pianist in Los
Angeles, recently went to a center in Beverly Hills after she
read about cryotherapy online. She hoped to relieve her sore
muscles after a bruising game of soccer. Plus, she had a

Which may have been a good thing, because “I absolutely did not
see any effects of it, good or bad, afterward,” Zhou said.

But she’d do it again, just to see what would happen — if it
were free.

“It’s like $60, that’s ridiculous,” she said. “I can just buy
some ice. Or go to a cold place and run around naked.”

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