The Science of Hydrogen and Health

Introduction to the Scientific Study of
Hydrogen Rich Water

The purpose of this website is to provide easy, understandable access to recent scientific developments related to hydrogen rich water. Since journal articles in scientific and medical publications are usually written in technical language that can be difficult to understand, we provide short, easy-to-understand descriptions of each study along with a link to download the actual, original article. 

Below you will find descriptions and links for articles related in general to hydrogen rich water.  For articles related to the brain and nervous system, metabolism and diabetes, kidneys, or other body systems, please click on the page links on the right side of this page.


Hydrogen acts as a therapeutic antioxidant by selectively reducing cytotoxic oxygen radicals
This was the breakthrough paper that first introduced the antioxidant potential of molecular hydrogen to the scientific community.  The "oxygen radicals" referred to in the title are free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS).  Not all oxygen radicals are "cytotoxic" (harmful to cells.)  While the strongest oxidants, hydroxyl radicals are dangerous, other ROS must be left alone to do their work in the body.  This study shows how hydrogen protects cells by neutralizing hydroxyl radicals, while leaving other ROS alone to fulfill their necessary physiological roles. 

Hydrogen has another advantage over other antioxidants because it is such a tiny molecule: it is able to penetrate cell membranes, and can easily enter deep into cell components, such as mitochondria and the nucleus, where other antioxidants are not able to reach. 
Download this article from Nature Medicine  (Ohsawa et al 2007)


Molecular Hydrogen as an Emerging Therapeutic Medical Gas for Neurodegenerative and Other Diseases
The effects of molecular hydrogen on various diseases have been documented for 63 disease models and human diseases (at the time this article was written.)  Most studies have been performed on rats and mice, however the lack of any adverse effects of hydrogen have enabled clinical studies in humans even in the absence of animal studies.  Important effects of hydrogen are observed especially in diseases caused by oxidative stress including
  • Neonatal cerebral hypoxia  (reduced supply of oxygen to the brain at birth) 
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Ischemia/reperfusion of spinal cord, heart, lung, liver, kidney, and intestine                (ischemia is the restriction of blood supply to tissue, reperfusion is the damage caused when blood supply returns to the tissue after a period of ischemia)
  • Transplantation of lung, heart, kidney, and intestine 
Six human diseases have been studied to date:
  • Diabetes mellitus type 2
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Hemodialysis  (treatment for kidney disease)
  • Inflammatory and mitochondrial myopathies  (muscle disease)
  • Brain stem infarction  (stroke of the brain stem)
  • Radiation-induced adverse effects  (due to radiation therapy for tumors)
Two enigmas remain to be solved.  First no dose-response effect is observed.  Rodents and humans are able to take a small amount of hydrogen by drinking hydrogen-rich water, but marked effects are observed.  Second, intestinal bacteria in humans and rodents produce a large amount of hydrogen, but an addition of a small amount of hydrogen exhibits marked effects.  Further studies are required to explain the molecular mechanisms of hydrogen effects and to determine the optimal frequency, amount, and method of hydrogen administration for each human disease. 
Download this article from Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity  (Ohno et al 2012)


Recent Progress Toward Hydrogen Medicine: Potential of Molecular Hydrogen for Preventive and Therapeutic Applications
Persistent oxidative stress is one of the major causes of most lifestyle-related diseases, cancer and the aging process.  Acute oxidative stress directly causes serious damage to tissues.  Despite the clinical importance of oxidative damage, antioxidants have been of limited therapeutic success.  Molecular hydrogen has potential as a novel antioxidant in preventative and therapeutic applications.  Hydrogen has a number of advantages as a potential antioxidant: it rapidly diffuses into tissues and cells, and it is mild enough neither to disturb metabolic redox reactions nor to affect reactive oxygen species (ROS) that function in cell signaling, thereby, there should be little adverse effects of consuming hydrogen.  Hydrogen shows not only effects against oxidative stress, but also various anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effects. 
Download this article from Current Pharmaceutical Design  (Ohta 2011)


Recent advances in hydrogen research as a therapeutic medical gas
Recent research has revealed that hydrogen is an important factor in the regulation of physiology.  It has protective effects on cells and organs including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-apoptotic (protective against cell death) effects.  Therapeutic hydrogen has been applied by different delivery methods including straight-forward inhalation, drinking hydrogen dissolved in water, and injection with hydrogen saturated saline.  This review summarizes currently available data regarding the protective role of hydrogen, provides an outline of recent advances in research on the use of hydrogen as a therapeutic medical gas in diverse models of disease and discusses the feasibility of hydrogen as a therapeutic strategy. It is not an overstatement to say that hydrogen’s impact on therapeutic and preventive medicine could be enormous in the future. 
Download this article from Free Radical Research  (Huang et al 2010)


Hydrogen as a Selective Antioxidant: a Review of Clinical and Experimental Studies
Oxidative stress is implicated in the development of many diseases; however, currently used antioxidants have high toxicity.   This means they can only be taken in small amounts which limits their therapeutic effectiveness.  There is a clear need for more effective and safer antioxidants.  Recently, many studies have reported that molecular hydrogen (inhaled or taken as hydrogen-rich water) can exert beneficial effects in animal models of human diseases.  Promising results have also been obtained in clinical studies with humans.  These studies suggest that hydrogen has selective antioxidant properties, and can also protect against inflammation, allergies and cell death.  This review summaries recent research findings and mechanisms concerning the therapeutic potential of hydrogen.
Download this article from The Journal of International Medical Research  (Hong et al 2010)


A hypothesis on chemical mechanism of the effect of hydrogen
Many studies have shown that hydrogen can an play important role in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and other protective effects.  It has been shown that hydrogen can selectively scavenge hydroxyl radicals, however the mechanisms of other recent experimental results have not been explained.  This article presents the hypothesis that hydrogen may act as a ligand by binding to metal ions in some proteins, thus regulating the metabolism of ROS and signal transduction.  It's important to note that no study was done to test this hypothesis.  The article merely presents the possible mechanism and suggests further study.
Download this article from Medical Gas Research  (Shi et al 2012)


The 2011 Medical Molecular Hydrogen Symposium: An inaugural symposium of the journal Medical Gas Research
Meetings were held in Japan in 2009, 2010, and 2011 to provide the opportunity for scientists and doctors researching the medical uses of molecular hydrogen to share their rapid scientific progress.  At the 2011 symposium, a new peer-reviewed journal was launched, Medical Gas Research, to promote and exchange the dissemination of the latest scientific findings in this area.  This article lists the topics discussed by speakers at the symposium, as well as the 38 diseases and physiological states for which hydrogen effects are reported.
Download this article from Medical Gas Research  (Ohta et al 2011)

 
 

Vocabulary:

  Here are a few definitions that might be helpful in your reading.

Free radicals are produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke or radiation.  A free radical is a molecule that is missing an electron.  Since electrons are always supposed to come in pairs, free radicals take electrons away from other molecules.  This process is called oxidation or an oxidation reaction, and free radicals are sometimes called oxidizing species.  

Oxidation reactions (sometimes called redox) are chemical reactions that happen inside cells of your body.  They occur when a free radical or ROS (reactive oxygen species) remove an electron from another molecule.  Usually, these oxidation reactions are a normal part of cell function, necessary for metabolism and life. 

Reactive oxygen species (often abbreviated ROS) are free radicals that contain oxygen. They are formed as a normal part of biological processes.  However, because of their reactivity, they can also participate in unwanted side reactions, which cause cell damage.  Excessive amounts of free radicals or ROS can lead to cell injury and death, which may contribute to many diseases.  There are several kinds of ROS.  The two most important ROS are superoxide and hydroxyl radical.

Oxidative stress:   When too many free radicals or ROS build up, or if the body is unable to neutralize them, they can cause cell damage or cell death.  This is called oxidative damage or oxidative stress.  Oxidative stress is believed to contribute to the aging process, and is involved in the development of many human diseases including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, atherosclerosis, heart failure, heart attack, stroke, diabetes mellitus, chronic fatigue syndrome, alcohol-induced liver damage, emphysema, and many others. 

Hydroxyl radicals are one type of ROS.  As the strongest oxidizing species, they are the most reactive and dangerous ROS.  They are sometimes referred to as cytotoxic, meaning they are toxic to cells.  The body does not have any known system to detoxify hydroxyl radicals, so scavenging and removing them is an important function of antioxidants.  

Antioxidants are substances that protect your cells from oxidative stress and inflammation by removing free radicals and reactive oxygen species.  It’s important to remember that free radicals and ROS play an important role in a number of necessary biological processes.   However, the amount of free radicals and ROS in the body must be in balance for proper health.  Because of this, the body has a number of mechanisms to maintain this balance and to repair damage that does occur.   Antioxidants play a key role in these defense mechanisms.
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