Can antioxidants protect scuba divers?

People scuba dive for recreational and professional purposes. However, only recently has evidence of the different cardiovascular changes that appear after each scuba dive been seen. In most cases those changes are silent or subclinical, posing little or no threat to the health of divers, but is that always the case?

Obad, Dujic and their colleagues at the University of Split School of Medicine, collaborating with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, studied a group of professional scuba divers before and after a moderate load scuba dive (a dive to a depth of 30 meters for 30 minutes, similar to those enjoyed by countless recreational divers). Different cardiovascular parameters were investigated, including endothelial function. A single scuba air dive induced mild changes in cardiac function and a significant decrease in endothelial function. The authors thought that these changes could be influenced by oral ingestion of antioxidant vitamins C and E prior to diving, and that endothelial function, in particular, might be preserved.

This intervention showed a positive effect on vascular endothelial function, whereas other cardiac functional changes were unaffected. Although generally very safe, diving may be associated with serious, and sometimes fatal, consequences, which are usually related to decompression sickness. These new data raise the possibility that pre-dive intake of antioxidant vitamins may prevent some of the negative effects of diving on vascular function. The results of this study are of interest for those involved in all types of recreational and professional diving.

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