Acute mountain sickness; prophylactic benefits of antioxidant vitamin supplementation at high altitude

D M Bailey, Bruce Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acute mountain sickness; prophylactic benefits of Free-radical-mediated damage to the blood-brain barrier may be implicated in the pathophysiology of acute mountain sickness (AMS). To indirectly examine this, we conducted a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial to assess the potentially prophylactic benefits of enteral antioxidant vitamin supplementation during ascent to high altitude. Eighteen subjects aged 35 +/- 10 years old were randomly assigned double-blind to either an antioxidant (n = 9) or placebo group (n = 9). The antioxidant group ingested 4 capsules/day(-1) (2 after breakfast/2 after evening meal) that each contained 250 mg of L-ascorbic acid, 100 IU of dl-a-tocopherol acetate and 150 mg of alpha-lipoic acid. The placebo group ingested 4 capsules of identical external appearance, taste, and smell. Supplementation was enforced for 3 weeks at sea level and during a 10-day ascent to Mt. Everest base camp (approximately 5,180 m). Antioxidant supplementation resulted in a comparatively lower Lake Louise AMS score at high altitude relative to the placebo group (2.8 +/- 0.8 points versus 4.0 +/- 0.4 points, P = 0.036), higher resting arterial oxygen saturation (89 +/- 5% versus 85 +/- 5%, P = 0.042), and total caloric intake (13.2 +/- 0.6 MJ/day(-1) versus 10.1 +/- 0.7 MJ/day(-1), P = 0.001); the latter is attributable to a lower satiety rating following a standardized meal. These findings indicate that the exogenous provision of water and lipid-soluble antioxidant vitamins at the prescribed doses is an apparently safe and potentially effective intervention that can attenuate AMS and improve the physiological profile of mountaineers at high altitude.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-9
Number of pages9
JournalHigh Altitude Medicine and Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2001


  • Adult
  • Altitude
  • Altitude Sickness
  • Antioxidants
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mountaineering
  • Oximetry
  • Vitamins
  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial


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