Fact Check: Otto Warburg Did NOT Invent 'Oxygen Therapy' -- EWOT NOT Proven To Cure 'Top 200 Diseases In The World'

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: Otto Warburg Did NOT Invent 'Oxygen Therapy' -- EWOT NOT Proven To Cure 'Top 200 Diseases In The World' Not A Cure

Can exercise with oxygen therapy (EWOT) "cure the top 200 diseases in the world ... by using oxygen and raising people's heart rates," as was discovered by chemist Otto Warburg? No, none of that is true: Warburg was a German scientist who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1931 for his findings that cancer cells can survive in the absence of oxygen. Warburg did not invent oxygen therapy nor did he recommend it as a way to cure disease. An expert in oxygen's impact on human physiology told Lead Stories that while supplemental oxygen may treat symptoms associated with respiratory conditions like severe asthma or pneumonia, there is no evidence that it can "cure" any disease.

The claim originated in a 44-second video posted to YouTube on April 28, 2023, (archived here) by the account BRAD LEA TV titled, "1930's Exercise You Need To Know About | Motivational Video." A caption with the video read:

Brad Lea and podcast guest talk about exercise oxygen therapy that dates all the way back to the 30's! See what you can learn about today with Brad in this motivational video shorts.

Thanks for watching!

An unidentified man wearing a shirt with a logo that read "10X Health" said the following:

So, you're gonna wake up alkaline, you're gonna walk down the hall, you're gonna put an oxygen mask on and an oxygen concentrator's gonna take 21% O2 from the ambient air and it's gonna fill a bag full of 95% O2. You're gonna put an oxygen mask on, you're gonna walk on a treadmill or you're gonna cycle on a bike for 10 minutes. That's it. Exercise with oxygen therapy EWOT. The only two-time Nobel laureate Prize winner in the world. Two Nobel Prizes in medicine. Dr. Otto Warburg. Won both Nobel Prizes for his work in exercise with oxygen therapy. He was able to cure -- and I'm using his words -- cure the top 200 diseases in the world at the time by using oxygen and raising people's heart rates. A lot of his research was actually required and then retired and actually taken out of the public domain ...

Below is how the post appeared at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-05-11 at 2.33.34 PM.png

(Source: YouTube screenshot taken Thu May 11 21:33 34 UTC 2023)

Lead Stories identified the man in the video as Gary Brecka, co-founder and "chief human biologist" for the self-described "alternative health technology" company 10X Health System. Brecka also shared the same concepts in an earlier video titled "Dropping Bombs with Brad Lea x Gary Brecka," posted to YouTube on January 4, 2023, (archived here). During that segment, Brecka advertised 10X Health's oxygen tank product, "Hypermax O2 System" which was listed for sale on the company website for $4,995.

Brecka's claims, both about Warburg's "discovery" and the effects of EWOT, are false.

Warburg won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1931 "for his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme," not, as Brecka stated, for his ability to "cure the top 200 diseases in the world ... by using oxygen and raising people's heart rates."

Brecka did not identify the "200 diseases" that oxygen therapy could supposedly "cure," nor did he specify by what mechanisms. There is no evidence that supplemental oxygen given to average athletes has any additional benefit over exercise alone and, in fact, there are instances in which too much oxygen may be harmful to human health.

No evidence oxygen therapy cures disease

Lead Stories spoke by phone on May 11, 2023, with Stephen Cheung, a professor in the Department of Kinesiology at Ontario's Brock University whose research expertise lies in understanding the effect of oxygen on human physiology. Cheung said EWOT is not a recognized term in the field of sports science and confirmed that there is no evidence oxygen therapy can cure disease.

"Hyperoxia, or more oxygen than normal in the atmosphere, can have exercise benefits for high-level athletes," he said. "If you have higher than normal oxygen, theoretically, you have more oxygen going to your muscles and therefore you can work harder. Higher levels of oxygen are not going to do much more for the average person than just exercising itself."

There are also downsides to higher-than-normal oxygen in the body. In exchange for carrying oxygen to muscle cells, the molecule hemoglobin carries carbon dioxide away from these cells and back to the lungs for exhalation.

"If you breathe too much oxygen at too high of a fraction in your body for too long -- yes, you may have more oxygen going to the muscles -- but you also have less carbon dioxide being removed from the muscles."

This excess of carbon dioxide can make human cells acidic and eventually lead to their dysfunction, Cheung said.

Warburg was awarded one -- not two -- Nobel Prizes

Brecka also claimed Warburg "won both Nobel Prizes for his work in exercise with oxygen therapy." Warburg was a German chemist and medical doctor who studied the process of oxidation in the human body, according to his biography on the Nobel Prize website. He didn't prove that cancer was caused by a lack of oxygen but rather showed that "cancerous cells can live and develop even in the absence of oxygen" by increasing glucose, or blood sugar, consumption. Today, this process is known as the Warburg effect:

Oxygen therapy treats symptoms of some chronic conditions, does not cure disease

EWOT is not to be confused with oxygen therapy, which is defined by the National Library of Medicine as "a treatment that provides you with extra oxygen to breathe in" that is "only available through a prescription." Oxygen therapy employs tanks of liquid or gas oxygen to treat -- not cure -- conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, COVID-19, severe asthma, late-stage heart failure, cystic fibrosis and sleep apnea, according to the American Lung Association.

Research suggests that oxygen supplementation during exercise in some patients with COPD may be beneficial. However, in otherwise healthy people, studies show that supplemental oxygen during exercise training does not appear to have any additional benefits when compared to exercising by itself.

Lead Stories has also reported that cancer is not caused by acidity in the body, that there is no evidence that folic acid causes depression and that professional athletes have lived to be 100 years old.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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