Depressed patients who received oxygen-enriched air treatment for a month found their symptoms improved, according to a new proof-of-concept study by Ben-Gurion University of the Negev researchers.

Their findings were reported recently in Scientific Reports.

Fifty-five patients were divided into two groups: The first was treated with 35 percent oxygen-enriched air and the other with regular air (21% oxygen) for seven to eight hours per night over the course of a month.

After treatment, depressive symptoms in the enriched oxygen group were reduced on several measurement scales.

“As a proof-of-concept, our results are promising. Increasing the fraction of oxygen in the inhaled air reduces symptoms of depression,” said lead researcher Abed N. Azab, a pharmacologist in the university’s department of nursing.

He noted that the treatment was administered safely under normal atmospheric conditions – not in a hyperbaric chamber — and did not cause adverse effects.

“Of course, there is much more to discover. Would longer treatments be even more beneficial? Would higher oxygen concentrations better improve symptoms or not?” added Azab.

He called for further studies to answer those questions and to see whether the treatment would be effective also on in-hospital patients with severe depression.

The study was funded by a National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia & Depression Independent Investigator Award won by researcher Prof. Yuly Bersudesky.

Additional researchers on the study were Yehudit Bloch, Prof. R. H. Belmaker, Prof. Pesach Shvartzman, the late Pnina Romem and Arkady Bolotin.