Hydrogen water contains hydrogen molecules that can act as powerful antioxidants. These molecules may help neutralize oxygen free radicals that contribute to disease development, inflammation, and aging. Read on to learn about the research investigating the potential benefits of hydrogen water.
As you read through this post, take the research findings with a grain of salt. Many hydrogen water claims are hyped, especially by manufacturers who sell products of unknown quality.
The existing evidence for the benefits of hydrogen water is still extremely limited, inconclusive, and it mostly relies on the work of research teams in Japan. Still, scientific findings point to hydrogen’s wide-ranging potential, and we hope to see some unbiased publications in the future.
What Is Hydrogen Water?
The Power of Hydrogen
Hydrogen (H2) is the most abundant molecule in the universe. It’s an odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas. In 2007, a team in Japan discover that inhaled hydrogen gas could act as an antioxidant and protect the brain from free radicals. This sparked the interest in its potential health benefits worldwide and led to some breakthrough research [1, 2].
Hydrogen water is loaded with hydrogen molecules. It was formulated as the most practical and easy way to get hydrogen into the whole body. But it’s not the only way – hydrogen can also be inhaled, injected, or absorbed through a bath .
Since the Japanese discovery, the effects of hydrogen have been researched in 63 diseases !
Hydrogen is the smallest existent gas molecule. Because of this unique property, molecular hydrogen could penetrate into virtually every organ and cell in the body (including the brain) where it may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, weight-loss, and anti-allergy activity .
Molecular hydrogen seems like the perfect therapeutic the world has been searching for — with few side effects and such wide-ranging action .
Many studies, however, are still in the early stages. It will take more clinical research to uncover all the effects of molecular hydrogen in humans.
The following effects were found in cells, animals or pilot trials in humans:
- Protects organs
- Lowers cholesterol and blood sugar
- May help some conditions
- Non-toxic even at high concentrations
- Has no known side effects, but more research is needed to understand the long-term effects
Health Benefits of Hydrogen Water
1) Antioxidant and Brain-Protective Effects
It was first shown that molecular hydrogen (H2) could protect cells from damage by reducing reactive oxygen species (ROS). Inhaled hydrogen also easily reached the brain to reduce injury in rats with stroke .
In the first pilot study of 38 stroke patients, a hydrogen solution (IV) was safe and had a mild antioxidant effect .
In another small study of 17 patients with Parkinson’s disease, those who drank hydrogen water had improved symptoms. Those who drank regular “placebo” water, however, experienced a worsening. There were also no adverse effects to drinking 1 L of hydrogen water daily for almost one year .
So far no study has looked at the effect of hydrogen water alone on Parkinson’s Disease, though. In the completed studies, patients drank hydrogen water as an add-on to regular medications (L-Dopa) .
In rats, hydrogen water reduced oxidative stress and prevented Parkinson’s Disease. Curiously, hydrogen seems to achieve better results with lower doses. Rats who drank hydrogen water did better than those who constantly received higher amounts of hydrogen intravenously .
Hydrogen water prevented cognitive, learning, and memory problems in mice under stress by acting as an antioxidant. It also protected cells in the brain’s memory hub – the hippocampus – from the detrimental effects of stress .
2) Mood Disorders
Hydrogen water restored the natural growth of brain cells and reversed stress-induced damage in mice. Since this also happens in people who overcome depression (with antidepressants or otherwise), hydrogen water has the potential for improving depression and other mood disorders [11, 12].
3) Suppressing Inflammation
In one pilot study, 20 patients with early rheumatoid arthritis drank 0.5 L/day of hydrogen water for 4 weeks. By the end of the study, all patients entered remission and 20% became symptom-free [13, 14].
4) Muscle Fatigue and Weakness
Drinking 2 L of hydrogen water daily helped 8 cyclists power through sprints with more energy and less exhaustion .
In a study on mice with a serious muscle-wasting disease (Duchenne muscular dystrophy), hydrogen water prevented abnormal weight gain and increased the production of the antioxidant glutathione peroxidase .
Hydrogen water reduced fatty liver in mice with type 2 diabetes, obesity, and those fed a high-fat diet. It also boosted energy use and reduced levels of :
In rats, hydrogen water could prevent hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis .
6) Weight Loss
Long-term drinking of hydrogen water helped lose body fat and weight in rats. It boosted burning fats and sugars for energy, without any change in a diet. In fact, drinking hydrogen water had similar effects on the body as calorie restriction .
Drinking hydrogen water protected mitochondria, the body’s energy powerhouse, in several studies of 41 people with muscle diseases. They drank 0.5-1 L of hydrogen water per day .
Drinking hydrogen water also stimulated energy metabolism in mice .
Drinking hydrogen water (900 mL daily for 8 weeks) decreased cholesterol, improved glucose tolerance and insulin resistance in a study of 36 patients with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes (impaired glucose tolerance) .
Drinking sufficient amounts of regular water alone may be helpful enough; low water intake is linked to high blood sugar .
9) May Alkalize the Body
Metabolic acidosis is when the blood becomes more acidic, which can happen from intense exercise. In 52 active men, drinking 2 L of hydrogen water daily increased the blood pH before and after exercise after 2 weeks with no side effects .
10) Anti-Cancer Potential
So far, only cellular studies point to the potential of hydrogen water to fight cancer.
Hydrogen water combined with increased temperature (hyperthermia) had a strong cancer-killing effect in cells .
In human cancer cells, hydrogen water suppressed tumor growth by reducing oxidative stress .
Hydrogen water also blocked the creation of new blood vessels in human lung cancer cells, preventing cancer from spreading and growing .
11) Side Effects of Chemotherapy and Radiation
In one study of 49 patients on radiation therapy for liver cancer, drinking hydrogen water (1.5 – 2 L/day) improved the patients’ quality of life and appetite. Hydrogen water could reduce oxidative stress and damage from radiation without compromising its cancer-killing effects .
In mice, drinking hydrogen water increased survival, reduced kidney damage and weight loss from a chemotherapy drug (cisplatin) .
12) Skin Health
Hydrogen water given through an IV solution safely improved skin health in 4 patients with skin redness and inflammation, and pain. The skin redness went away after a couple of days of treatment and did not come back .
Bathing in hydrogen water for 3 months noticeably reduced skin wrinkles in 6 people. Hydrogen water could also boost collagen production, reduce UV damage and act as an antioxidant in skin cells. Warm hydrogen-infused baths could be a pleasant, safe way to reverse skin aging .
13) Wound Healing
Hydrogen water intake via tube feeding in elderly patients reduced the wound size of pressure ulcers and enhanced recovery .
14) Bladder Health
In rats with a blockage in the bladder, drinking hydrogen water reduced bladder volume by neutralizing oxidative stress. It also improved the responsiveness of bladder muscles .
15) Heart Health
In diabetic mice, hydrogen water significantly improved heart health and prevented heart disease. It could become a nutritional intervention for preventing heart problems in people with diabetes .
16) Eye Injuries
Hydrogen-loaded eye drops aided the recovery of eye injuries in rats. It protected the nerves in the eye by its antioxidant action .
A hydrogen solution reduced detrimental blood vessel growth in mice with eye injuries from chemicals. Hydrogen solutions could be used as a first-aid rinse to prevent blindness from chemical burns .
17) Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often results from oxidative damage (due to aging, noise, or drugs). Molecular hydrogen protected the ear cells from this damage and increased their survival .
In guinea pigs, hydrogen water prevented the death of sound receptors after noise exposure. Hydrogen water could potentially protect against hearing loss caused by noise or other types of oxidative stress [41, 42, 43].
Hydrogen added to the dialysis solution reduced inflammation and high blood pressure in 21 patients on dialysis because of kidney failure .
20) Liver Health
In 60 patients with Hepatitis B, hydrogen water (added to regular treatment) significantly improved liver function and reduced oxidative stress .
It suppressed liver scarring in mice by protecting liver cells from free-radical damage .
21) Gut Health
23) Radiation Side Effects
Molecular hydrogen may a safe radioprotective remedy. Giving mice hydrogen water before radiation increased their survival and prevented heart damage .
Hydrogen also increased the survival of white blood cells exposed to radiation .
Drinking hydrogen water could reduce neuropathic pain in mice due to its well-known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Clinical trials would need to confirm this success, but hydrogen water holds promise for safely improving otherwise hard-to-treat neuropathic pain .
The ability of molecular hydrogen to protect the DNA and the mitochondria from oxidative damage may help slow down or reverse the aging process. A couple of cellular studies give us some interesting clues [56, 57].
Hydrogen can prolong the life of stem cells by reducing oxidative stress .
A hydrogen-rich environment reduced both oxidative stress and aging in cells. Some scientists think that drinking hydrogen water could increase longevity in humans, but these claims are still unsubstantiated .
26) Oral Health
Drinking hydrogen water 4-5 times daily improved gum health in 13 patients with inflamed gums after 8 weeks. It also boosted blood antioxidants and enhanced the effects of other treatments .
Hydrogen water could kill the bacteria that cause gum disease and cavities and thus improve oral health .
Mechanism of Action and Genetics
Hydrogen has the unique capability of entering cells and even cell components (organelles), such as the mitochondria and nucleus (where DNA is stored). Other molecules cannot penetrate this deep into cells [2, 6].
Hydrogen water may improve your health by:
- Decreasing inflammatory cytokines (TNF alpha and gamma, IL-6, IL-1 beta, IL-10, IL-12, NF-κB) .
- Weakening cancer-causing genes (reducing caspase 3, caspase 12, caspase 8, Bcl-2, BAX) [R, R].
- Increasing the activity of cancer-fighting genes (bFGF, HGF, IFNy).
- Reducing the activity of inflammation-related genes (i-NOS, VEGF, CCL2, ICAM-1, PGE2) .
- Boosting energy metabolism (increasing FGF21) .
- Increasing ghrelin, which can also lower inflammation .
- Activating detox genes (Nrf2 and heme oxygenase-1) .
Safety, Dosage, Side effects
Molecular hydrogen (H2) has no known side effects. It’s not toxic even at high concentrations. In fact, it seems that smaller amounts of molecular hydrogen have a stronger, more beneficial effect than very high amounts .
However, the long-term risks remain unknown until additional studies are carried out.
In most clinical studies, people drank 0.5-2 L of hydrogen water daily. After drinking hydrogen water, about 40% of the H2 is absorbed by the body .
No clear-cut dosing guidelines can be made at this point while the exact hydrogen amounts in many products on the market are unclear. Hydrogen evaporates quickly, so if you add hydrogen to water, it should be drunk within a few minutes for maximum benefits.
Limitations and Caveats
Most studies were conducted only by a couple of research teams, mostly in Japan.
Health benefits of hydrogen water need to be investigated in larger-scale clinical trials.
Since drinking sufficient amounts of regular water is essential for good health, all clinical studies should use equal amounts of regular water as a control group, and this is not always the case in these studies.
Additionally, some health benefits were only researched on animals or cells and it is unknown if they hold true in humans.
Many hydrogen products are sold in the form of pills, but it’s not clear if these products have the same benefits as when hydrogen is added to water.
Where to Get Hydrogen Water
As hydrogen water is becoming more popular, you can now find:
- Hydrogen water in a bottle (around $3 per bottle)
- Hydrogen tablets to dissolve in water yourself
- Small portable hydrogen water makers
- More sophisticated hydrogen water generators for your home
Another reason for skepticism is the quality of expensive products on the market. Are they worth it? It’s unknown how these products compare to the type of hydrogen water used in research studies.
Taking lactulose is another way to naturally increase hydrogen in the body. Although humans can’t produce molecular hydrogen, our gut bacteria can by consuming various fibers. When we take in lactulose, our gut bacteria create a large amount of hydrogen.
Lactulose increased hydrogen in the body similarly to hydrogen water in a study of 65 people .
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Hydrogen water supplies pure hydrogen, which penetrates the entire body and reduces oxidative stress and inflammation. It may thus shield the brain and boost weight loss, metabolism, and physical performance.
According to limited research, hydrogen water may also protect the skin, heart, kidneys, liver, and lungs. It causes no side effects, but long-term safety studies are lacking. The common dosage is 0.5-2 L daily.
You can buy hydrogen water or make it using hydrogen tablets, but most products are expensive and have questionable quality. Consuming lactulose is a natural way to supply your body with hydrogen.
Despite the promising results, the available research on hydrogen water has massive limitations, and it’s far from conclusive. Drinking hydrogen water is probably not dangerous, but we don’t yet know if it’s good either.
Until unbiased, high-quality research comes out, take all the potential benefits of hydrogen water with a good dose of skepticism.