Flexing our muscles from all the hiking and getting fresh air along the way are two of the known benefits of trekking the mountains, but a new study finds that something else is happening inside our body in high altitude.
A study called AltitudeOmics conducted by group of students in the University of Oregon aims to find out the effects of altitude on the human body.
It has been known to scientists that the body can adjust to the oxygen-deprived conditions of high altitudes.
Robert Roach, lead researcher and director of the Altitude Research Center at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus said that for 50 years it has been believed that low supply of oxygen in the surrounding can cause the body to build new red blood cells.
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But the mountaineering enthusiasts know that isn't all there is or something is off about such explanation.
This new study that examines the blood of people as they trek up and down the mountain discovers that the body begins adapting to elevation as soon as overnight.
The participants of the study trekked the summit of the top of Mount Chacaltaya in Bolivia which has a 5421-meter elevation. After two weeks the group completed the 3.2 kilometers climb.
After 1 or 2 weeks, the volunteers climbed back up again but this time their bodies seemed to remember the climb which made them fare well on the activity this time than they had the last time.
For sure something was happening in the participants' blood that contributed to how they managed to do well on their second climb they took after 1-2 weeks from the first one.
When the participants' blood were examined, their hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying proteins in red blood cells, was found to have had multiple changes affecting how tightly it hung onto its oxygen load. This effect on the blood lasts just as long as the red blood cells live which is around 120 days.
Robert Roach explained the phenomenon as something like when baseball players loosen the grip on a mitt. “If I relax my hand, it will let go of the ball,” he adds.
This findings can help find solutions on how oxygen can be kicked off in the body in emergency situations like after a car accident or gunshot wounds.
Roach also adds that this may also help tourists get well-adapted to high altitudes should medications be developed to enhance oxygen load in the blood in those conditions.
The study is published in Journal of Proteome Research
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