Researchers claim cold water therapy’s overall benefits remain uncertain

Cold therapy has become a trend among health-conscious individuals looking to reduce inflammation in recent years, but researchers are not entirely sold on it.

“Medical researchers from the University of Warwick in the U.K. conducted a review of nine different studies of the Wim Hof Method (WHM), a health and wellness discipline that combines cold therapy, breathing, and meditation,” Fox News reported.

“Although the method was found to reduce inflammation, the researchers concluded that the ‘quality of the studies [done on the method] is very low’ and that ‘all the results must be interpreted with caution,'” the media outlet added.

The researchers also pointed out that the studies conducted had small sample sizes. That means they don’t represent the general population. The results of the review were published on March 13 in the journal PLOS.

(Video Credit: Fox News)

The cold therapy routine is called the Wim Hof Method after the Dutch athlete of the same name. It’s based on his practices and overall philosophy entailing three pillars that include cold plunging, breathing, and a person’s mindset.

Prior studies have shown that the method has a number of physical and mental health benefits. Many swear by it including athletes, military members, and those who believe inflammation is the root cause of many illnesses.

“Nicknamed ‘the Iceman,’ Hof himself previously told Fox News Digital in an interview that a chief benefit of his method is reducing inflammation — which is a leading cause of most ailments and autoimmune diseases,” Fox News wrote.

“I’m bringing my knowledge from nature through science to global healthcare, showing that through science — no speculation — we are able to do so much more within our physiology,” Hof declared.

(Video Take: Bloomberg Quicktake)

Hof contends that cold therapy also improved his mental health when he was going through a rough patch in his life.

Using cold water plunging, “you open up to peace inside — and that inaugurates the healing,” he asserted. “I began to have control over my emotions.”

Although Hof truly believes in the therapy as do many others, researchers are still skeptical.

“The key takeaways from the review indicate [the] promising use of WHM in the inflammatory response category,” Omar Almahayni, the study’s lead researcher at Warwick Medical School, told Fox News Digital in an interview. “However, it’s crucial to note that all studies included exhibit a high concern for risk bias, indicating the early stages of investigation into the Wim Hof Method.”

“While some positive effects are observed, such as attenuation of inflammation, the overall benefits remain uncertain,” the skeptic further noted claiming that many limitations of previous studies concerning the method were found.

“All the trials had a very high risk of bias due to the lack of a prior published protocol, small sample size, and complexity of blinding the participants and outcome assessors to the intervention,” he stated.

The researcher claimed that since the participants in the studies were not blinded, it was hard to determine if their answers were honest and valid.

“Mark Palchak, CEO of Silient, a South Carolina-based chilled water company, was not involved in the systematic review but noted that the findings show the clear anti-inflammatory properties of cold therapy,” Fox News said.

“The simple fact that inflammation-related diseases kill 3/5 of people worldwide, combined with the anti-inflammatory results from this study, suggests that the cold therapy discipline works,” Palchak adamantly stated.

“One of the main benefits from cold therapy our customers experience that wasn’t mentioned in the study is related to the ability to get hard things done throughout the day,” he elaborated.

Those who believe in the practice praise the method for reducing inflammation by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the affected body area. It can help speed up muscle recovery. Cold plunges can also increase the production of white blood cells. They also potentially reduce stress and anxiety.

The researchers and physicians who reviewed the method all agree that a person considering ice baths should consult with their doctor first and stress they aren’t a cure-all for medical conditions.


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