The Science of Hydrogen and Health

Inflammation & Allergies

Consumption of water containing a high concentration of molecular hydrogen reduces oxidative stress and disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: an open-label pilot study
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic inflammatory disease.  It can be painful and disabling, leading to loss of functioning and mobility.  Its exact cause is unknown, but the hydroxyl radical has been suggested to be involved in its development.  Since molecular hydrogen has been demonstrated to be a selective scavenger for the hydroxyl radical, this study tested whether hydrogen rich water could complement conventional therapy for rheumatoid arthritis. 

Twenty patients with RA (ages 40 to 86) drank 18 ounces of water containing a high concentration of hydrogen every day for four weeks.  The next four weeks, they did not drink any hydrogen rich water.  Then they repeated a second four week course of drinking the same amount of hydrogen rich water daily.  Doctors used two tests to determine the severity of their rheumatoid arthritis, once before the study, and again at the end of each four week period. 

Testing for 8-OHdG (8-hydroxydeooxyguanine, an indicator of oxidative damage to DNA) in the patients' urine showed that drinking hydrogen rich water significantly reduced the amount of this biomarker.  The doctors also used a test called the DAS28, which is a common assessment of RA disease activity and response to treatment.  At the end of the study, 16 of the 20 patients showed significant improvement in their DAS28 scores, the other four did not experience improvement in symptoms.  Nine of the patients achieved a score low enough to be considered "remission" and four of those reported being symptom-free at the end of the study. 

An important thing to note about this study is that it was "open-label."  All the patients knew they were drinking real hydrogen rich water.  There was no control group drinking a placebo, or normal water.  This means that some or all of the improvement the patients experienced might have been due to the placebo effect rather than the hydrogen rich water.  Placebo effect is the tendency of any treatment, even an ineffective one, to exhibit results simply because the recipient believes it will work. 
Download this article from Medical Gas Research  (Ishibashi et al 2012)

Molecular hydrogen suppresses FcεRI-mediated signal transduction and prevents degranulation of mast cells
Before this study it was believed that the beneficial effects of hydrogen were solely due to hydrogen's ability to scavenge hydroxyl radicals.  This study was important to scientists because it showed for the first time that hydrogen has a beneficial effect on allergic reactions due to a different mechanism inside the cell.  The hydrogen molecule makes changes in a cell's "signal transduction." 

Signal transduction occurs when a molecule (like hydrogen) outside of a cell attaches to a receptor protein on the surface of the cell.  This causes a physiological response inside the cell, and a series of chemical reactions occur that change how the cell is functioning. 

In this case, the cells that were affected by hydrogen were mast cells in mice.  Mast cells are part of the immune system.  They release histamine (a process called degranulation) when they are stimulated by an allergen (a substance that causes allergies.)  The histamine causes inflammation, swelling, and increased mucus production. 

The scientists found that when mice drank hydrogen rich water for four weeks, they had lower levels of histamine in their blood than mice that drank regular water.  When they did more studies to investigate how hydrogen functioned inside the body, they discovered that hydrogen prevents the degranulation of mast cells, which prevents histamine from being released into the body.  Thus, drinking hydrogen rich water may be effective against a wide range of allergic diseases such as bronchial asthma, rhinitis and conjunctivitis in humans.  However, the authors caution that this will need to be validated by large-scale clinical trials in humans. 
Download this article from Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications  (Itoh et al 2009)

Open-label trial and randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of hydrogen-enriched water for mitochondrial and inflammatory myopathies
Background: Molecular hydrogen has prominent effects on more than 30 animal models especially of oxidative stress-mediated diseases and inflammatory diseases. In addition, hydrogen effects on humans have been reported in diabetes mellitus type 2, hemodialysis, metabolic syndrome, radiotherapy for liver cancer, and brain stem infarction. Hydrogen effects are ascribed to specific radical-scavenging activities that eliminate hydroxyl radical and peroxynitrite, and also to signal-modulating activities, but the detailed molecular mechanisms still remain elusive. Hydrogen is a safe molecule that is largely produced by intestinal bacteria in rodents and humans, and no adverse effects have been documented.
Methods: We performed open-label trial of drinking 1.0 liter per day of hydrogen-enriched water for 12 weeks in five patients with progressive muscular dystrophy (PMD), four patients with polymyositis/dermatomyositis (PM/DM), and five patients with mitochondrial myopathies (MM), and measured 18 serum parameters as well as urinary 8-isoprostane every 4 weeks. We next conducted randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial of 0.5 liter per day of hydrogen-enriched water or placebo water for 8 weeks in 10 patients with DM and 12 patients with MM, and measured 18 serum parameters every 4 weeks.
Results: In the open-label trial, no objective improvement or worsening of clinical symptoms was observed. We, however, observed significant effects in lactate-to-pyruvate ratios in PMD and MM, fasting blood glucose in PMD, serum matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP3) in PM/DM, and serum triglycerides in PM/DM. In the double-blind trial, no objective clinical effects were observed, but a significant improvement was detected in lactate in MM. Lactate-to-pyruvate ratios in MM and MMP3 in DM also exhibited favorable responses but without statistical significance. No adverse effect was observed in either trial except for hypoglycemic episodes in an insulin-treated MELAS patient, which subsided by reducing the insulin dose.
Conclusions: Hydrogen-enriched water improves mitochondrial dysfunction in MM and inflammatory processes in PM/DM. Less prominent effects with the double-blind trial compared to the open-label trial were likely due to a lower amount of administered hydrogen and a shorter observation period, which implies a threshold effect or a dose-response effect of hydrogen.

Download this article from Medical Gas Research  (Ito et al 2011)

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