Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry

, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 289–304 | Cite as

Usefulness of combining intermittent hypoxia and physical exercise in the treatment of obesity

  • Aritz Urdampilleta
  • Pedro González-Muniesa
  • María P. Portillo
  • J. Alfredo MartínezEmail author
Mini Review


Obesity is an important public health problem worldwide and is a major risk factor for a number of chronic diseases such as type II diabetes, adverse cardiovascular events and metabolic syndrome-related features. Different treatments have been applied to tackle body fat accumulation and its associated clinical manifestations. Often, relevant weight loss is achieved during the first 6 months under different dietary treatments. From this point, a plateau is reached, and a gradual recovery of the lost weight may occur. Therefore, new research approaches are being investigated to assure weight maintenance. Pioneering investigations have reported that oxygen variations in organic systems may produce changes in body composition. Possible applications of intermittent hypoxia to promote health and in various pathophysiological states have been reported. The hypoxic stimulus in addition to diet and exercise can be an interesting approach to lose weight, by inducing higher basal noradrenalin levels and other metabolic changes whose mechanisms are still unclear. Indeed, hypoxic situations increase the diameter of arterioles, produce peripheral vasodilatation and decrease arterial blood pressure. Furthermore, hypoxic training increases the activity of glycolytic enzymes, enhancing the number of mitochondria and glucose transporter GLUT-4 levels as well as improving insulin sensitivity. Moreover, hypoxia increases blood serotonin and decreases leptin levels while appetite is suppressed. These observations allow consideration of the hypothesis that intermittent hypoxia induces fat loss and may ameliorate cardiovascular health, which might be of interest for the treatment of obesity. This new strategy may be useful and practical for clinical applications in obese patients.


Obesity Body weight loss Intermittent hypoxia Treatment Physical exercise 



We are grateful to fellowship research training at the University of Basque Country (UPV-EHU), to the EXPLORA Subprogramme, MICINN, Spain (SAF2010-11630-E) for grants, to the University of Navarra for financial support through the linea especial of Nutrición, Obesidad y Salud (LE/97), as well as to BIOLASTER for technical support on the hypoxic systems and RETICS (PREDIMED) and CIBERobn from the Ministry of Health of Spain.

Conflicts of interest

The authors declare not having any personal or financial support or involvement with organizations with financial interest in the subject matter or any actual or potential conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© University of Navarra 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aritz Urdampilleta
    • 1
    • 2
  • Pedro González-Muniesa
    • 3
  • María P. Portillo
    • 1
  • J. Alfredo Martínez
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacy and Food SciencesUniversity of Basque CountryVitoria-GasteizSpain
  2. 2.Department of NeurosciencesUniversity of Basque CountryVitoria-GasteizSpain
  3. 3.Department of Nutrition, Food Sciences, Physiology and ToxicologyUniversity of NavarraPamplonaSpain

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