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Scuba Diving Increases Erythrocyte and Plasma Antioxidant Defenses and Spares NO without Oxidative Damage


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: June 2009 - Volume 41 - Issue 6 - p 1271-1276
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181951069
Basic Sciences

Purpose: The aim of the present work was to study the effects of a single scuba diving immersion to high depth on erythrocyte and plasma antioxidant defenses, on erythrocyte cellular damage, and on nitric oxide (NO) production.

Methods: Seven male preprofessional divers performed an immersion at a depth of 40 m for a total time of 25 min. Blood samples were obtained before the diving session after overnight fasting, immediately after diving, and 3 h after the diving session was finished. Erythrocytes and plasma fractions were purified.

Results: No significant differences were found in circulating erythrocytes, bilirubin, and hemoglobin concentration attributed to diving. Hematocrit levels were reduced after diving because of the reduction of erythrocyte size that was maintained after 3 h of recovery at the surface. Leukocyte counts significantly increased at recovery (38 ± 4%). In erythrocytes, glutathione peroxidase activity significantly increased (18 ± 4%) at recovery. A rise in plasma catalase activity (38 ± 6%) immediately occurred after diving, returning to basal values after recovery. Plasma superoxide dismutase activity significantly increased (58 ± 7%) during recovery. Markers of oxidative damage in both erythrocytes and plasma such as malondialdehyde and protein carbonyl derivates remained unchanged after diving. Nitrite levels significantly rose in plasma and erythrocytes (85 ± 8% and 52 ± 6%, respectively) at recovery.

Conclusion: Scuba diving session induced an antioxidant response in plasma and erythrocytes without the appearance of cellular damage and an increase in NO, which can be related with its vasodilator role.

1Laboratory of Physical Activity Sciences, University of the Balearic Islands, Palma de Mallorca, Balearic Islands, SPAIN; and 2MEDISUB, Alcúdia, Balearic Islands, SPAIN

Address for correspondence: Antoni Pons, Laboratori de Ciències de l'Activitat Física, Universitat de les Illes Balears, Ctra. Valldemossa, km 7.5, E-07122 - Palma de Mallorca, Balears, Spain; E-mail:

Submitted for publication February 2008.

Accepted for publication November 2008.

©2009The American College of Sports Medicine