Uric acid and glutathione levels during short-term whole body cold exposure

Werner G. Siems, Frederik J.G.M. van Kuijk, Ralph Maass, Rainer Brenke

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70 Scopus citations


Ten healthy subjects who swim regularly in ice-cold water during the winter (winter swimming), were evaluated before and after this short-term whole body exposure. A drastic decrease in plasma uric acid concentration was observed during and following the exposure to the cold stimulus. We hypothesize that the uric acid decrease can be caused by its consumption after formation of oxygen radicals. In addition, the erythrocytic level of oxidized glutathione and the ratio of oxidized glutathione/total glutathione also increased following cold exposure, which supports this hypothesis. Furthermore, the baseline concentration of reduced glutathione was increased and the concentration of oxidized glutathione was decreased in the erythrocytes of winter swimmers as compared to those of nonwinter swimmers. This can be viewed as an adaption to repeated oxidative stress, and is postulated as mechanism for body hardening. Hardening is the exposure to a natural, e.g., thermal stimulus, resulting in an increased tolerance to stress, e.g., diseases. Exposure to repeated intensive short-term cold stimuli is often applied in hydrotherapy, which is used in physical medicine for hardening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-305
Number of pages7
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1994

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements -- This work was supported by grants from the Charite Hospital Research Commission to W. G. S. and R. B., and by the Kneipp-Werke, Wuerzburg & Bad Woerishofen, Germany. F. J. G. M. vK. was supported by grant #EY-08818 from the National Institutes of Health.


  • Erythrocytes
  • Free radicals
  • Glutathione
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Hypothermia
  • Oxygen radicals
  • Uric acid


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