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Metabolic health is the cornerstone of overall well-being, impacting everything from energy levels to disease prevention. Recently, emerging research has shed light on the crucial role of metabolic health in cancer treatment and prevention. In this blog post, we'll explore the connection between hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) and metabolic health, delving into the metabolic approach to cancer. 

Understanding Metabolic Health

Before we dive into the world of HBOT and its implications for metabolic health, it's important to grasp the fundamentals of metabolic health. At its core, metabolism refers to the complex set of chemical reactions that occur within the cells of our bodies to maintain life. This intricate network of processes is responsible for converting food into energy, regulating hormones, and supporting essential bodily functions. 

Metabolic health can be defined as the optimal functioning of these processes. When our metabolism operates efficiently, it results in balanced energy production, controlled blood sugar levels, and a healthy body weight. Conversely, metabolic dysfunction can lead to a host of health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer. 

According to the National Diabetes Federation, metabolic syndrome is estimated to affect more than thirty percent of adults in the U.S. 

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) is a medical treatment that involves breathing pure oxygen in a pressurized chamber. This therapy was originally developed to treat divers suffering from decompression sickness, but over time, its applications have expanded to encompass various medical conditions. The increased pressure during HBOT allows the lungs to absorb  more oxygen, which is then delivered throughout the body via the bloodstream. This combination of excess oxygen and pressure has numerous therapeutic effects. 

HBOT and Metabolic Health 

HBOT has been found to have potential benefits for metabolic health. Here are some key ways in which HBOT may impact metabolism: 

  • Improved Blood Sugar Control: Research suggests that HBOT can help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. By increasing oxygen delivery to tissues, HBOT may enhance the body's ability to regulate blood sugar levels, which is crucial for individuals with type 2 diabetes or those at risk of developing the condition. 
  • Reducing Inflammation: Chronic inflammation is a key driver of metabolic dysfunction. HBOT has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, potentially mitigating the low-grade inflammation associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome. 
  • Weight Management: While HBOT is not a direct weight loss treatment, it may indirectly support weight management by improving metabolic efficiency. When metabolism functions optimally, the body is better equipped to utilize energy from food, potentially aiding in weight maintenance or loss. 
  • Enhanced Energy Production: Metabolism is all about energy production. HBOT increases oxygen availability, which can boost the efficiency of cellular energy production processes, potentially leading to increased vitality and reduced fatigue. 


The Metabolic Approach to Cancer 

Cancer is a complex and multifaceted disease, but recent research has shed light on the role of metabolism in cancer development and progression. The metabolic approach to cancer suggests that alterations in cellular metabolism play a significant role in the initiation and growth of cancer cells.

Here are some key aspects of the metabolic approach to cancer: 

  • The Warburg Effect: Otto Warburg, a Nobel laureate, observed in the 1920s that cancer cells tend to rely on a different metabolic pathway for energy production than normal cells. This phenomenon, known as the Warburg Effect, involves a shift towards glycolysis, a less efficient process for energy production. Cancer cells ferment glucose to produce energy even in the presence of oxygen, a phenomenon known as aerobic glycolysis. 
  • Altered Mitochondrial Function: Mitochondria are often referred to as the "powerhouses" of cells because they are responsible for generating most of the cell's energy in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). In cancer cells, mitochondrial function is often impaired, leading to changes in energy metabolism. 
  • Metabolic Targets for Cancer Therapy: Recognizing the metabolic differences between cancer cells and normal cells, researchers have explored various metabolic targets for cancer therapy. These include inhibiting glycolysis, targeting specific metabolic enzymes, and promoting oxidative metabolism within cancer cells. 


HBOT and the Metabolic Approach to Cancer 

The metabolic approach to cancer has opened up new avenues for cancer treatment and prevention, and HBOT is emerging as a potential adjunct therapy in this context. Here's how HBOT may be relevant to the metabolic approach to cancer: 

  • Oxygen Sensitivity: The Warburg Effect in cancer cells often results in lower oxygen levels within tumor tissues. HBOT increases the availability of oxygen in these areas, potentially making cancer cells more vulnerable to treatments like radiation therapy, which relies on oxygen to induce DNA damage in cancer cells. 
  • Anti-Tumor Effects: Some studies suggest that HBOT may exert direct anti-tumor effects by disrupting the metabolism of cancer cells. By altering the metabolic environment within tumors, HBOT may hinder their growth and proliferation. 
  • Sensitizing Cancer Cells: HBOT could sensitize cancer cells to other therapies, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy. By modulating the tumor microenvironment and improving oxygen delivery, HBOT may enhance the efficacy of these treatments. 
  • Reducing Treatment Side Effects: Cancer treatments can often have adverse effects on normal tissues due to their toxic nature. HBOT may help mitigate some of these side effects by improving the oxygenation and healing capacity of healthy tissues and reducing overall inflammation
  • Treating Radiation Tissue Damage: Radiation has been known to damage blood vessels and the lack of blood supply can eventually cause non-healing wounds to form in soft tissue and bone. The use of HBOT to treat radiation tissue damage can heal the tissue by regenerating blood vessels, re-populating the damaged area with new stem cells, and accelerating all stages of wound healing. 
  • Supporting Healing Post-Surgery: Occasionally surgery is needed as part of a cancer treatment plan and HBOT can decrease the recovery time after surgical procedures, and support the healing process.

It's essential to note that while there is promising research on the potential synergy between HBOT and the metabolic approach to cancer, more clinical studies are needed to establish its efficacy and safety as a cancer treatment adjunct. 


Metabolic health is a vital aspect of overall well-being, and its connection to cancer is an exciting area of research. Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) holds promise for improving metabolic health by enhancing oxygen delivery to tissues, reducing inflammation, and promoting efficient energy metabolism. 

In the context of the metabolic approach to cancer, HBOT may play a significant role in sensitizing cancer cells to treatment, reducing treatment-related side effects, and potentially inhibiting tumor growth. While more research is needed to fully understand the extent of HBOT's benefits in cancer therapy, its potential as an adjunct treatment is a promising development in the ongoing battle against cancer.

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HMS Sponsors Metabolic Health Day

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We are proud sponsors of the first ever International Metabolic Health Day.

On October 10, 2023, join us for the first ever International Metabolic Health Day where we will come together to generate awareness and support for metabolic health and research. 

International Metabolic Health Day is October 10th, 2023, and aims to unite metabolic health leaders globally and catalyze a seismic shift toward a healthier future.

The need for awareness and innovative solutions in metabolic health is crucial, given that only 6.8% of American adults are in optimal metabolic health, and noncommunicable diseases, closely tied to metabolic dysfunction, account for 74% of all global deaths, according to the World Health Organization. International Metabolic Health Day is a pivotal platform aimed at mobilizing global support, fostering innovative research, and championing preventive healthcare strategies.



Written by Alan Katz, MD, FUHM, FACEP, FAAEM

Dr. Alan Katz, National Medical Director of Hyperbaric Medical Solutions (HMS), is double board certified in Emergency Medicine and Hyperbaric Medicine. He directs clinical operations, as well as education and research initiatives for HMS, particularly in exploring the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy....

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