Dead sea environment helps sufferers of heart conditions, cystic fibrosis

November 08, 2001

HAIFA, Israel and NEW YORK, N.Y., November 8, 2001 - The salts of the Dead Sea have long been thought to have curative properties for various ailments. Now a study by an Israeli researcher from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology has confirmed that the oxygen-rich environment of the sea can help patients with heart problems. In a second study, a Technion graduate found the environment also can provide relief to cystic fibrosis patients.

Prof. Edward Abinader of the Faculty of Medicine examined 24 patients - 12 with heart conditions and 12 without - first in Haifa at 427 feet above sea level, then at the Dead Sea at 1,319 feet below sea level. He found that those with heart conditions showed signs of better overall cardiac performance - for example, they were able to run for a longer period of time on treadmills - at the Dead Sea.

"Patients were able to exert themselves significantly more at the Dead Sea than in other environments," Prof. Abinader said. "I originally set out to prove that the Dead Sea wouldn't harm patients with cardiac problems, but I discovered that it actually helps them."

According to Prof. Abinader, the atmosphere of the Dead Sea is unusually rich with oxygen, magnesium, and bromide, minerals that improve the delivery of oxygen to the heart and lungs, thus improving patients' cardiac performance. His results were published in the July 2001 American Journal of Cardiology and the July 2001 Cardiovascular Reviews and Reports. This month, Prof. Abinader presented his research at an international conference at the Dead Sea Research Center in Israel.

In addition, Dr. Eldar Berkovits, a Technion alumnus, studied the effects of the Dead Sea environment on 73 patients with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that causes mucus to form in part of the lungs and predisposes the patient to chronic lung infections. He found that the patients were helped by the sea's high oxygen levels and its mineral-rich environment after a three- to four-week stay.

According to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (, the disease affects approximately 30,000 children and adults in the United States alone and is the most common cause of recurring lung disease in children and young adults. Dr. Berkovits may have uncovered a key to their relief.

"The Dead Sea's high oxygen level led to the patients having more oxygen in their blood, therefore improving the efficiency of breathing for cystic fibrosis patients. This made them more able to exercise and enjoy daily life," Dr. Berkovits says. "The extraordinarily high concentration of minerals found in the Dead Sea's mud, sulfur pools, thermonuclear springs and surrounding atmosphere also aided the breathing of patients with respiratory problems and pulmonary disorders."

Due to evaporation, Dr. Berkovits explains, the unusually high levels of minerals in the atmosphere at the Dead Sea make the surrounding air not only rich in oxygen, but also free of pollen and the sun's harmful rays.

Dr. Berkovits, who presented his study at an international conference in the Netherlands, calls the Dead Sea a "multi-factor environment" because different properties of the area help people with different ailments. The next step in Dr. Berkovits' research is to evaluate the influence of a longer stay at the Dead Sea on cystic fibrosis patients.
The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology is Israel's leading scientific and technological center for applied research and education. It commands a worldwide reputation for its pioneering work in computer science, biotechnology, water-resource management, materials engineering, aerospace and medicine. The majority of the founders and managers of Israel's high-tech companies are Technion graduates. The Technion's 19 faculties and 30 research centers and institutes in Haifa are home to 13,000 students and 700 faculty members.

Based in New York City, the American Technion Society (ATS) is the leading American organization supporting higher education in Israel. The ATS has raised $868 million since its inception in 1940, more than half of that during the last eight years. A nationwide membership organization with more than 20,000 supporters and 17 offices around the country, the ATS is driven by the belief that the economic future of Israel is in high technology and the future of high technology in Israel is at the Technion. Technion societies are located in 24 countries around the world.

American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

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