Spotting pseudoscience just got 90% easier! All you need to do is look for pointless percentages, misspellings and underpants!
I am officially a traveling gal. It is the beginning of the busy season for my little business and so I have started a road trip, a little tour if you will, mostly throughout cities in California. I display and sell my artwork at different art festivals and as you would expect I come across a virtual crap-load of pseudoscience along the way.
This little gem I bring back from my recent trip to hot-as-hell-Las Vegas, Nevada where I ran across an oxygen bar. I was actually a bit surprised to see an oxygen bar as all the trendy-for-5 minutes O2 bars that had popped up near where I live in Hollywood had gone out of business rather quickly. Seems they couldnâ€™t even sell their sweet smelling nonsense in the land of make-believe, or maybe it was because dispensing oxygen without a permit is illegal in some states. For some reason this classy stand (note the breathe deep underpants for sale) was open for business in Las Vegas and so I snapped a few photos and asked a few questions.
Me: So what does it do?
Guy in tie-dye T-shirt: Oh itâ€™s really great. It will help you if you have a headache. It helps with migraines or if you have a hangover. It gives you energy or it relaxes you depending on the one you choose.
Me: So it smells good?
Guy: It uses aromatherapy mixed with oxygen. It makes you feel better. You should try it.
Me: How much is it?
Guy: Itâ€™s $20 for a 15-minute session.
Well, it sure does sound impressive when you sell it like that (jackass).
I walked around the kiosk and checked out the sign and I quickly realized that aromatherapy at this oxygen bar was 70% more delicious (see photo) and now with breading!
So let me give a quick rundown here:
Aromatherapy smells lovely but has not been proven to cure or treat any specific diseases. It is one of those things that wonâ€™t hurt you but wont save you either. I for one love lavender and so I own a lot of products that say, â€œrelaxingâ€ on the bottle. Will it relax me? Maybe, because I enjoy the smell but that doesnâ€™t mean it will relax my friend Lisa who hates the smell of lavender. Some studies have been done on aromatherapy and they have shown that aromatherapy combined with massage can be temporarily relaxing and may temporarily relieve pain but this is most likely caused by the effects of the massage and the placebo effect.
What about the oxygen and the claim that we need more?
Yes, we are breathing oxygen that is 20.9% of the total atmosphere and that is great! We have evolved for millions of years in a similar atmosphere that only fluctuates slightly. We know this from studying ice core samples. What we should be asking the oxygen bar owner is, do you know that higher than 60% oxygen is considered toxic and prolonged exposure causes direct oxidative damage to lungs?
The remainder of the basic claims from the sign are as follows:
â€¢Natural remedy for headaches and hangovers
No, oxygen is not a natural remedy for headaches or for hangovers. Headaches are complicated and caused from myriad of different issues. A cup of coffee is more likely to cure a headache than a 15-minute treatment of â€œsex on the beachâ€ scented oxygen.
Too much alcohol causes hangovers. You know what cures a hangover? Time.
This again is just a vague suggestive claim that seems logical at first. I couldnâ€™t find any evidence to support the claim that extra oxygen will increase alertness in normally healthy individuals and no; they donâ€™t pump it into the casinos.
â€¢Relieves temporary altitude discomfort
Yes, oxygen would probably relieve altitude discomfort but that is because there is less oxygen in the atmosphere on the top of a very high mountain. ETA there is less atmospheric pressure on the top of a high mountain. Because the pressure is reduced, the little O2 molecules have a harder time getting across the membranes into the blood, so your blood Ox goes down. (thanks ) I assure you, this oxygen bar was not located on the top of Mount Everest and even the people who live on top of mountains adapt to their environment with out the assistance of a scented oxygen bar.
â€¢Alleviates fatigue and muscle stiffness
You may relieve fatigue and muscle stiffness from sitting down and relaxing in a chair for 15 minutes, but not from the â€œchillinâ€ scented oxygen shoved up your nose.
â€¢Naturally increases the bodyâ€™s metabolism
Iâ€™m no doctor so feel free to correct me, but I couldnâ€™t find any evidence that extra oxygen supplied via an oxygen bar Â â€œnaturallyâ€ increases metabolism. From what I understand, arterial blood is fully saturated with oxygen and any extra would simply be exhaled and would have no effect on metabolic rate.
â€¢Promotes healing and recovery from physical exertion
Unless you have a life threatening illness or injury you do not need â€œfreshâ€ scented oxygen to help you feel better. In fact the scented oils filtered though the “nose hose” (eeewwww!) could actually harm you if you have an allergic response or any actual lung problems. I also wonder how well they clean those tubes. One would assume there is some happy “appletini” scented bacteria in there. I know it may seem like we need more oxygen to recover from physical activity since when we run we breathe heavier but that is just our body working effectively. No extra â€œstrawberryâ€ oxygen required.
Iâ€™m still trying to understand how you get the breading up your nose, but that will have to wait for another blog post.
Well, time for me to hit the road! Next stop Atlanta for Dragon*Con and Skeptrack and then I’m off to Pleasanton, California. I will report back with anything I run across from the wacky world of woo. Woohoo!