MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

The new kid on the SCAM block seems to be hydrogen-rich water (HRW). It is pure water infused with hydrogen molecules and can be purchased in pouches and cans or made at home using special, commercially available devices. Health writers and entrepreneurs have been everything but timid in publishing claims about HRW. This is from one of thousands of sites promoting it:

1. Antioxidant And Anti-inflammatory Properties

Studies show that consuming hydrogen-rich water for a few weeks at a time can reduce reactive oxygen metabolites (ROMs) in the bloodstream, which can damage cells while sustaining blood oxidation levels needed to ensure health. The result is a reduction in and inflammation, which effectively reduces cell damage and leads to an improved quality of life. Decreased oxidative stress is also a valuable factor which helps prevent metabolic syndrome and soften the impact of neurodegenerative disease. Hydrogen-rich water, through its power to combat oxidative stress, is a promising remedy for these and other diseases. Its anti-inflammatory properties are already used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, one of the most prominent and debilitating conditions caused by high levels of inflammation in the body.

2. May Treat And Prevent Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome, which includes obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and often causes a range of cardiovascular illnesses, is a rapidly growing problem among American adults. Early studies show that hydrogen-rich water health benefits include staving off metabolic syndrome and reversing negative metabolic symptoms because of its ability to reverse the effects of oxidative stress on the body. In fact, studies have shown that consuming hydrogen-rich water decreases the “bad” cholesterol, also known as serum-LDL cholesterol while improving HDL function — the “good” cholesterol.  This effect, in turn, prevents against the development of a number of debilitating cardiovascular issues.

3. Slows The Development Of Neurodegenerative Diseases

By fighting in important brain tissues, hydrogen-rich water fights a key cause of conditions like Parkinson’s disease and , both of which feature cognitive and behavioral impairment and decline. Because it consumes a high level of oxygen, the brain is prone to oxidative stress. Hydrogen-rich water elicits effects in the brain that counter the ability of oxidative stress to kill dopamine cells and damage proteins that maintain cognitive functioning. When used daily by patients of Alzheimer’s, hydrogen-rich water has been shown to restore neural proliferation, thereby inhibiting cognitive decline. Especially promising is the demonstrated ability of H2-rich water consumption to combat cognitive impairment even in its latest stages and to alleviate the harm of brain injury — again, because of its ability to ameliorate oxidative stress on brain tissue. In fact, some researchers recommend daily consumption of hydrogen-rich water as a long-term preventative treatment against dementia and neurodegenerative disease and as a part of a recovery program for brain injury from stroke or surgery.

4. May Treat And Prevent Insulin Resistance And Type 2 Diabetes

Recent studies demonstrate that hydrogen-rich water health benefits include having a normalizing effect on glucose in the body. In combination with powerful antioxidant properties, hydrogen-rich water improves insulin circulation and sensitivity, while also increasing levels of certain compounds that build insulin resistance. The end product is improved glucose metabolism, which can both prevent and slow the development of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and insulin resistance.

5. Improves Dental Health

As shown above, oxidative stress causes a number of ailments. One of the most common is dental decay. Fortunately, consuming hydrogen-rich water has been proven to treat conditions associated with dental deterioration, such as periodontal disease, because of its ability to fight oxidative stress, in addition to its effective anti-inflammatory properties. Drinking water containing molecular hydrogen targets periodontal disease at the source by suppressing inflammation in the oral tissue.  Hydrogen-rich water also prevents age-related oxidative damage to oral tissue, thereby offsetting dental decay.

6. Combats Muscle Fatigue

One compelling study of male soccer players found that, by consuming hydrogen-rich water before exercise, these athletes could reduce blood lactate levels and improve muscle function during exercise. After exercise, these athletes experienced lower levels of muscle fatigue and were able to recover faster. Because it also treats exercise-induced dehydration, hydrogen-rich water is a promising remedy for athletes. According to Biethan, “more and more athletes are picking up on it” to improve their athletic performance and recovery.

And how does HRW work? What is its mode of action? Nobody seems to know! During the last months, there have been several controlled clinical trials of HRW. Regardless of what condition they address, they all arrived at positive conclusions:

  1. In conclusion, these results suggest that supplementation with hydrogen-rich water may have a beneficial role in prevention of T2DM and insulin resistance.
  2. HRW significantly attenuates oxidative stress in CHB patients, but further study with long-term treatment is required to confirm the effect of HRW on liver function and HBV DNA level.
  3. Two weeks of HRW intake may help to maintain PPO in repetitive sprints to exhaustion over 30 minutes.
  4. Thus, hydrogen-rich water appeared to alleviate the mFOLFOX6-related liver injury.
  5. appears that orally administered H2 as a blend of hydrogen-generating minerals might be a beneficial agent in the management of body composition and insulin resistance in obesity.
  6. Although preliminary, the results of this trial perhaps nominate HRW as an adjuvant treatment for mild-to-moderate NAFLD. These observations provide a rationale for further clinical trials to establish safety and efficacy of molecular hydrogen in NAFLD.
  7. To conclude, acute pre-exercise supplementation with HRW reduced blood lactate at higher exercise intensities, improved exercise-induced perception of effort, and ventilatory efficiency.

Aprart from producing uniformly positive results, these studies have another common feature: they are methodologically flimsy. Probably the most rigorous trial of HRW was published earlier this year. Perhaps it is worth having a look at it:

An international team of researchers conducted a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial in 60 subjects (30 men and 30 women) with metabolic syndrome. An initial observation period of one week was used to acquire baseline clinical data followed by randomization to either placebo or high-concentration HRW (> 5.5 millimoles of H2 per day) for 24 weeks.

High-concentration HRW was prepared via hydrogen-producing tablets (HRW Natural Health Products Inc., New Westminster BC, Canada) while the placebo was prepared as a placebo drink similar in taste, dissolution, and appearance to HRW. Placebo capsules, also donated by HRW Natural Health Products Inc. (New Westminster, BC, Canada), contained identical ingredients to the hydrogen supplement, but instead of metallic magnesium the placebo contained various forms of magnesium salts (i.e. tartrate, malate, chloride) and similar organic acids to prevent any pH buffering effect from the conjugate bases of the alkaline salts.

The participants consumed 1 tablet 3 x daily in 250 mL of 12-18°C water. They were advised to drink the product in one gulp as soon as the tablet finished dissolving on an empty stomach/morning. This method of H2 administration would provide >5.5 millimoles H2/day.

Supplementation with high-concentration HRW significantly reduced blood cholesterol and glucose levels, attenuated serum haemoglobin A1c, and improved biomarkers of inflammation and redox homeostasis as compared to placebo. Furthermore, H2 tended to promote a mild reduction in body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio.

The authors concluded that the results from our study suggest that supplementation with high-concentration HRW produced via H2-producing tablets improves body composition, favorably modulates fatty acid and glucose metabolism, and improves inflammation and redox homeostasis in subjects with metabolic syndrome. Therefore, long-term treatment with high-concentration hydrogen-rich water may be used as an adjuvant therapy to decrease the features of metabolic syndrome. However, a larger prospective clinical trial is warranted to further determine the biological effects of HRW in this subject population.

The authors of this study, which was conducted in Moradabad India and supported by Slovak Research and Development Agency; Scientific grant agency of the Ministry of Education of the Slovak Republic, and by HRW Natural Health Products Inc., have the following affiliations:

  • Centre of Experimental Medicine, Institute for Heart Research, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovak Republic.
  • Molecular Hydrogen Institute, Enoch, UT, USA.
  • Hospital and Research Institute, Moradabad, India.
  • Era Medical College, Lucknow, India.
  • Applied Bioenergetics Lab, Faculty of Sport and PE, University of Novi Sad, Novi Sad, Serbia.
  • Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pécs, Pécs, Hungary.
  • Medical Faculty, Pharmacobiochemical Laboratory of 3rd Medical Department, Comenius University Bratislava, Bratislava, Slovakia.
  • Laboratory of Pathophysiology, Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Kyushu University, Fukuoka, Japan.
  • Third Internal Clinic, Faculty of Medicine, Comenius University, Bratislava, Slovakia.
  • Center of Nutrition Research, International College of Nutrition, Moradabad, India.

In the last two years, the 1st author of this new trial has published over a dozen expeimental papers on HRW; all of them report positive findings. Whenever I see a treatment that never fails to produce positive results, regardless of the conditions it is applied to, I start asking myself, are these findings not too good to be true?

Am I the only one to smell a rat?

11 Responses to Hydrogen-rich water: the new wonder drug?

  • Has anyone done an ADME study with HRW? You would have to spike water with tritium and see where it goes in the body. My guess is that very little reaches any target organs.

  • Tyler W. LeBaron, the 1st author of the trial, is the Executive Director of the Molecular Hydrogen Institute (MHI). Its mission is:
    “advance, promote, and publicize hydrogen research
    educate governmental, medical, scientific, and political professionals/organizations.
    orchestrate the hydrogen movement and maintain the integrity of hydrogen research and hydrogen products”

    Tyler W. LeBaron has Masters in Exercise and Sports Conditioning and a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry.

    http://www.molecularhydrogeninstitute.com/tyler-lebaron

    Well, I smell a snake-oil peddler and SCAM(*) artist.

    (*) Ambiguity is intended.

  • According to my data source 0.0000016g of Hydrogen dissolves in 1g water. Ie 1.6ppm
    These are homeopathic quantities and this dilution equates approximately to a 6x dilution.
    I never would have guessed that Hydrogen in 6x homeopathic potency would save the world!
    Thank you Edzard but I personally will not be rushing to buy this product.
    I would advise has to refrain from all temptation to purchase.

    • Parts-per-Million is “homeopathic quantities” now? Please.

      Homeopathic potions may start out at PPM, which is more than enough for various substances to generate entirely conventional physiological effects; e.g. see its notoriously smell-destroying Zicam (with toxic levels of zinc), not to mention its even more atrocious baby-killing teethers (because they can’t even do simple dilution right).

      But what actually distinguishes “homeopathic quantities” from the rest of reality is that they actually increase in potency† as concentration decreases towards Avogadro and below. (Which would be news to botulinum toxin, I’m sure.)

      Tell us again about these “science qualifications” of yours. Are they written in crayon, perchance?

      † Humpty Dumpty says so, so it must be true.

      • I wouldn’t take Humpty Dumpty as a reliable reference source has.
        Humpty Dumpty has had no citations as far as I know.
        Please support your Humpty Dumpty claim with evidence.

        • “Humpty Dumpty has had no citations as far as I know.”

          LOL. Dana has no need for your puny citations. Words mean just what he chooses them to mean, and they mean that homeopathy works.

    • You have misapplied the concept of homeopathy. If there is truth to your supposition of hydrogen solubility – and as any student of homeopathy will contest that is probably not the case – you are talking about the “mother tincture/solution” not a homeopathic potentiation!
      I am not sure who actually is in the right, as I have frequent trouble doing decimal exponents in my head… But after careful arithmetic a 6X potentiation of hydrogen would correspond to 0.0000000000016 g hydrogen per equal unit water.
      Thankfully I live in a country where homeopathic ‘hydragyrum aq.’ isn’t an issue at all (no registered medicinal products!) and any claims regarding its health benefits would be contrary to laws regarding dietary supplements.

  • Internet has made it easier to make connection with like-minded researchers, whether good or bad. Author lists of papers of any quality thus can display a dazzling set of co-authors from all over the planet. It says absolutely nothing about the quality of the paper. Apart from this, as a chemist I am very sceptical about any health benefits of molecular hydrogen (H2).

  • I believe it is possible to buy a gadget for your car that will electrolyse water and inject the hydrogen into the engine along with the fuel. Amazing claims are made for it in terms of improvements in performance and fuel economy. This sounds like much the same idea.

  • Fun fact: Hydrogen of the volume which is higher the than volume produced by these tablets (produced, not dissolved in the water) is usually produced in our large intestine.
    https://gut.bmj.com/content/32/6/665 (I know, this article is not about main production, but…)

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