The International Institute of Refrigeration (IIR) has formed a new working group focused on whole-body cryotherapy. The group will focus on standardizing both exposure protocols and temperature measurements for all existing WBC devices and developing safety instructions for cold exposure.
General interest in WBC has risen over the last few years, with celebrity and athletic endorsements pushing the procedure into the mainstream. In July 2016, the US Food and Drug Administration responded to this increase, issuing a statement that warned consumers about both the unproven benefits and risks posed by WBC. “Given a growing interest from consumers in whole body cryotherapy, the FDA has informally reviewed the medical literature available on this subject,” says Aron Yustein, M.D., a medical officer in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “We found very little evidence about its safety or effectiveness in treating the conditions for which it is being promoted.” (For more about the WBC process and devices see Agnieszka Piotrowska, “Whole Body Cryotherapy” in Cold Facts, Vol. 32 No. 6.)
The IIR working group will attempt to address this lack of information. Citing information from PubMed, the IIR says that prior to 2010 there were 30 scientific studies on cryotherapy, a number that has only risen by 100 since then. “The two most investigated domains are improvements in mental and physical health and improvements in recovery after physical exercise. The populations studied include patients suffering from traumatic, inflammatory or mental diseases, healthy individuals (no sport and no disease) and athletes.”
The group will first prepare an informatory note on both cryotherapy and cryostimulation, and hopes to move on to multi-centric studies. It has posted its terms of reference online and is currently accepting new members. Membership is open to both low temperature refrigeration and medical experts. Each member must be a researcher, health professional or medical and paramedical personnel such as a physical trainer, coach or kinesiotherapist. More than 15 scientists from 8 countries have already joined.