They were sported by successful swimmers at the Olympics. They are used by professional rugby players. They can even be found on the conks of famous football players, and increasing amounts of runners are showing up with the devices stuck on their
snouts for races.
Of course, the 'Breathe Right External Nasal Dilator' is what we're referring to.
It is only a thin strip of plastic but, when slid into place, is supposed to allow more air into the respiratory system by flaring the nostrils during exercise. And that's supposed to be good, of course, since it would seem to supply a little more oxygen.
But just how effective is this little contraption? The findings of researches who recently put it to the test were not pretty.
Basically, the olfactory-organ opener appears to expand but doesn't actually inflate your capacity to exercise at all.
For example, the effects of the Nasal Dilator were tested on five cyclists during high-intensity exercise by researchers at Illinois State University.
The athletes first cycled without anything on their noses, next with the Nasal Dilator in place, and on a third
occasion with only a flesh-coloured piece of tape, applied while the subjects' eyes were closed to ensure they did not know what was attached to their noses.
The Dilators were found to not actually pull more air into the lungs at all, with a trend for the cyclists to ventilate better with nothing on their noses. In addition, the number of breaths taken per minute and the actual oxygen usage were totally equivalent between all three conditions.
The Breathe-Right proponents still argue that because it makes you feel better about your breathing it is still worth using, even though it might not have any direct physiological effects. The bad news is, the Illinois Scientists checked that possibility as well by asking the athletes how they felt while exercising.
Two cyclists preferred having nothing at all, two chose the simple piece of tape, and only one preferred the Nasal Dilator.
That doesn't mean, however, that the Dilator makers are out of the hunt. They claim that this tiny plastic strip and aid in recovery as well, by ensuring that more oxygen can be brought into the lungs through the nose.
The Illinois State researchers decided to test the idea by putting their athletes through
the same exercise as before while attired again in the Dilator, tape, or
nothing at all - and then monitoring respiratory activity for three
minutes of activity followed by three minutes of passive recovery.
Oxygen consumption, ventilation rate, amount of air per breath, and breaths per minute, it turns out, were the same under all three conditions, with no improvement at all.
In related investigations, the effects of the Breathrite Aid, a similar nose device, were examined by scientists at Adelphi University in New York.
Nine individuals were tested for anaerobic capacity in this research, with
and without the Breathrite Aid, which is really a type of nasal band aid. Anaerobic
power, oxygen consumption, fatigue, and ventilation in the two conditions were identical. The only real difference, in fact, was that total work carried
out without the Breathrite Aid during the test was actually greater!
In conclusion, attaching a thin strip of plastic or a band aid to your nose won't actually improve your competitions or workouts.