The humorist Dominic Paquet undertook cryotherapy to lose weight in January, in front of the cameras of Julie Snyder’s show. But do we really know if submitting your body to a temperature below -110 ° C makes you lose weight? Verification.
The origin of the rumor
Cryotherapy involves exposing the body to extreme cold for about three minutes. The temperature of this air, cooled electrically or with liquid nitrogen, is usually from -70 ° C to -140 ° C, and can even drop to -160 ° C. Faced with the cold, the body consumes more energy. It starts producing heat by drawing on its energy resources and it could – according to promoters – burn an average of 500 kcal per three-minute session.
The sessions take place in a room whose air is cooled (whole body) or in a box whose only head protrudes (partial body).
While it is true that our body spends more energy when exposed to the cold and that the muscles become more toned, the idea that it burns 500 kcal per 3-minute session has never been proven. No study has shown that cryotherapy causes a change in weight.
Some clinics that offer cryotherapy suggest that when accompanied by a massage, it could firm the skin to the point of causing it to lose a few inches of hip measurement. Again, nothing has been scientifically proven. Health Canada also warns against cryotherapy, saying that the other alleged benefits, such as pain reduction or cellulite, have not been proven either.
Although the body can endure extreme cold for a few minutes, provided the air is cold, dry and there is no wind, cryotherapy is not safe. In 2015, a 24-year-old cryotherapy employee died in a Las Vegas spa. In France, several accidents have been reported, including that of a man with burned feet due to a leak of liquid nitrogen.
A report from the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), published in 2019, points to safety problems and side effects such as local burns at 1 and 2 degrees, headaches, chronic cold urticaria and digestive intolerances. The French Institute concludes that it is important to take stock of the therapeutic effects of cryotherapy with methodologically reliable studies.
This is also the reason why Health Canada advises against the practice: the use of “a cryotherapy device, we read on its site, whether it is approved or not, can endanger your health and safety” . The risks range from frostbite to tissue death, including heart, blood circulation or neurological problems. “If the device fails, it could cause suffocation or make it worse”. Health Canada states that it has not “confirmed the claims” for the devices “because a registration request has not been submitted and the scientific data has not been validated”.
Although the idea of losing weight in the cold is attractive, cryotherapy is unlikely to make your breeches disappear. However, it could have certain beneficial effects, especially on chronic pain and rheumatism. The Rumor detector comes back to this in a future article.
Do not confuse cryotherapy with cryogenization, which consists of freezing the body after death. The blood is then removed from the body and replaced by a cryoprotective to prevent the vessels from crystallizing, in preparation for possible awakening.