Can the Wim Hof ​​Method cure cancer

Wim Hof ​​method: does the ice cream man strengthen the immune system?

The only randomized controlled study on the Wim Hof ​​method dates from 2014 and was carried out on 24 healthy young men [1]. Twelve trained for ten days under the guidance of Wim Hof: They meditated in the snow, dived in ice water, went up a mountain in shorts, did breathing exercises, yoga and strengthening exercises. The twelve participants in the control group did not undergo any training.

The test subjects were then given a certain dose of a bacterial toxin. This is not dangerous, but it does cause the immune system to react for a few hours with flu-like symptoms and an increase in blood readings, which are typical of inflammation.
In the participants in the training group, some of these values ​​changed less than in the control group without training. This is scientifically interesting, but to what extent this actually brings health benefits such as a reduced risk of infectious diseases is completely speculative. The administration of the toxin cannot be compared with a bacterial or viral infection.

It is not possible to determine from the published data whether individual complaints were weaker in the training group. The fever seems to have risen similarly in both groups.
In addition, the study is subject to other restrictions: Twelve participants per group are very few, the differences found could be pure coincidence; the statistical methods are not well documented and so many factors have been measured that it is very likely that some of them will differ.

Even if the randomized study were given some meaningfulness, it would still have one glaring weakness: It cannot clarify which part of the training program has an effect. Even if she were methodically better, she couldn't answer whether it is the cold that does anything. The team of authors themselves assume that most of the results are related to the breathing techniques. Wim Hof's cold records are sometimes impressive, but this study cannot even begin to prove whether cold training has any health benefits.

In 2019, a study was carried out with 24 patients [4] suffering from chronic inflammation of the vertebral joints (axial spondyloarthritis). The sole question was whether the Wim Hof ​​method can be used safely in such a patient group. There were no unexpected dangerous side effects.

Since some values ​​of the immune system were also measured here, some presented the study as proof of the effectiveness of the Wim Hof ​​method for relieving joint problems. But there can be no question of that: there is no comparison with an untreated control group and the whole structure of the study is not suitable for testing the effectiveness.

Cold as a marketing tool

Wim Hof ​​uses his records and impressive pictures from his training in the ice to promote his teaching. What influence cold actually plays as part of his method is therefore a central question.

Twin studies are always exciting when the question arises whether a skill or characteristic is largely due to genes or largely to the influence of the environment. Wim Hof ​​has a genetically identical twin brother who has never trained to get used to the cold. This offers the chance to test whether he owes his ability to cope with the cold to his training or to his genes.

In 2014 the brothers were tested under the mild influence of cold and compared with regard to numerous values ​​[2]. For example, both differed in the activity of brown adipose tissue from young men studied earlier, but there were no differences between the two brothers. The special resistance to cold could well be in the genes of Wim Hof ​​(and his brother).