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The market for canned and bottled oxygen in Japan is picking up amid increased inquiries from stressed-out office workers.

Oxygen products sell well at convenience stores, but because they are treated as nonmedical items, manufacturers aren’t allowed to provide information on their effectiveness.

In fact, some people may inadvertently worsen existing medical conditions or develop new illnesses, depending on how the oxygen is administered and what’s mixed in it, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA also says that the only effect of drinking products with added oxygen is likely to be increased burping as it reacts with stomach acids. Additional information can be found at www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2002/602_air.html

Major convenience store chain Seven-Eleven Japan Co. became the first company in the industry to market a canned oxygen product, stocking O2 Supli at more than 10,000 stores nationwide.

Buyers of the 600 yen cans are instructed to place a plastic mask over their mouth and inhale oxygen for two to three seconds, with each can good for about 35 doses.

Hiroshi Kobori, who is in charge of the development of canned oxygen merchandise at Seven-Eleven, said the company spent two years developing the product in the belief that oxygen would be the next big thing after bottled water.

He appears to have guessed right. For now.

Seven-Eleven said it sells 15 or 16 cans a day, most to men, at its convenience stores in central Tokyo.

Lawson Inc., another convenience store chain, has come out with oxygen-enriched water as a competing product.

It is selling a limited number of 500-ml bottles of O2 Natural Water at its Natural Lawson stores this month. Each bottle is said to have 12 times the oxygen content of regular tap water.

Priced at 189 yen per bottle, O2 Natural Water has already become popular with young female office workers and is the best-selling water product at its stores, according to Lawson.

Oxygen water products gradually gained in popularity last year, especially imported merchandise.

Major companies, including Asahi Soft Drinks Co. and Suntory Ltd., which put their products on sale in May and June, respectively, report buoyant sales.

Body Tuning Salon O2+, located near the Omotesando subway station in Tokyo’s Kita-Aoyama district, has four oxygen capsules, each about 2 meters long.

British soccer player Wayne Rooney underwent treatment for a fractured metatarsal in an oxygen capsule.

In the high-pressure oxygen chamber, oxygen dissolves into the bloodstream, improving circulation and speeding up the healing process.

Japanese athletes are prominent among those visiting the body-tuning salon, which charges 6,300 yen an hour in the capsule. But it is popular with salaried workers as well.

“A growing number of ordinary company employees have been coming recently. Sixty percent of them are men and many make repeated visits,” said Shoji Yamazaki, a spokesman for the salon. “(Their comments) about shaking off fatigue are spreading through word of mouth.”

He said the salon has taken the concept of high-pressure oxygen treatment as used in the medical field and applied it as a health treatment.

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