Molecular hydrogen has amazing properties to fight against many diseases. The commonly known properties of molecular hydrogen include anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, anti-apoptotic and anti-allergic properties.
The first research identifying molecular hydrogen as a therapeutic gas was conducted in 2007. After it was identified as a medical gas, many researches have been done to see its effects on various diseases. Some of them include cancers, neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, lung and cardiovascular diseases and many more. In this article, let us see how hydrogen gas helps in diabetes disease.
What is diabetes and how does it occur?
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the world. It can lead to many other diseases such as cardiovascular diseases. Nearly every organ of the patient can be damaged by an increased blood sugar level, such as eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and others. In advanced staged it can cause death. Diabetes can predispose to infections by weakening the immunity. This may result in poor wound healing what can lead to loss of limbs.
So how does diabetes occur?
There are several types of diabetes, but two are the most common: In type 1 diabetes there is a loss of pancreatic beta cells producing insulin. As insulin is the only hormone reducing the blood glucose level. Loss of beta cells results in uncontrollable blood sugar levels. These patients need lifelong insulin replacement. On the other hand, type 2 diabetes is the most common type of all. It is believed to occur due to combination of genetics and environmental factors. In this type, the insulin production is even increased in the initial stages. However, the peripheral tissues in the body which take up glucose to metabolize, doesn’t respond to insulin. This resistance occurs because the receptors for insulin become insensitive. They can be treated with oral drugs but they may need insulin later as beta cells can lose their ability to produce insulin.
Diabetes is associated with many other diseases. When it is associated with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, elevated uric acid level it can be called as metabolic syndrome. When all these abnormalities occur, the person is at high risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
How does molecular hydrogen help diabetes patients?
Molecular hydrogen is the smallest gas molecule. It can thus diffuse well in the body and reach intracellular organelles and exert its effects. Hydrogen has been used in the treatment of many diseases as mentioned before and scientists are still discovering its new uses each day. Let us see what the scientific basis for these claims is.
The scientists have discovered, hydrogen can protect the beta cells from damage in type 1 diabetes and it can act similar to insulin.
In a mice model hydrogen promoted glucose uptake into cells via the translocation of glucose transport protein Glut4 through activation of special kinases. Hydrogen significantly increased skeletal muscle membrane Glut4 expression and markedly improved glycemic control in type 1 diabetic mice after chronic intraperitoneal and oral administration. But long-term oral administration of hydrogen had least effect on the obese. The study demonstrates that hydrogen exerts metabolic effects similar to those of insulin and may be a novel therapeutic alternative to insulin in type 1 diabetes mellitus, it can be administered orally.
There have been two further Asiatic researches which focused on diabetes treatment with molecular hydrogen.
In one study, the scientists used mice models that had type 2 diabetes and obesity. These mice were given hydrogen rich water to drink each day as they wanted. They did not change the diet or any other thing. After some time, the scientists discovered that these mice had reduced levels of glucose in their blood than before and insulin function has improved. The effect on hyperglycemia was similar to diet restriction. Triglyceride levels were also decreased. There was also a significant reduction in their weight and fat content.
There are fatty changes in the liver in patients with metabolic syndrome due to accumulation of free fatty acids. Hydrogen significantly alleviated fatty liver.
The scientists further studied why this happens at molecular level. They discovered that hydrogen enhances the secretion of a hepatic hormone called fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21) at genetic level. This hormone is able to influence fatty acid delivery and also glucose expenditure (so called gluconeogenesis). Hydrogen also stimulated energy metabolism. The study suggests the potential benefit of hydrogen in improving obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
The same scientists extended their study by using mice that were being fed a fatty diet. Despite having an unhealthy diet, these mice had relatively good triglyceride levels and therefore they had a longer life span. It was found that hydrogen gas can stimulate PPARα pathway, which regulates the fatty acid metabolism pathways.
A short clinical study was made with 30 diabetes type 2 patients, which drank one litre of hydrogen enriched water for 8 weeks. The patients that consumed hydrogen-rich water have shown a reduction of insulin-resistance and of oxidative stress biomarkers, such as serum concentrations of oxidized LDL (5%, p < 0.05). LDL is the main factor in development of arteriosclerosis. These patients have also shown increased levels of adiponectin (2%, p ❮ 0.1), a hormone which inhibits the feeling of hunger, and extracellular-superoxide dismutase (2%, p ❮ 0.05), an endogenous antioxidant enzyme.
Molecular hydrogen as a treatment for diabetic complications
Molecular hydrogen is also helpful in treating complications of diabetes. There are mainly 3 types of complications seen in diabetes; retinopathy which affects the eyes, nephropathy which affects the kidneys and neuropathy which affects the nerves.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the leading causes of blindness. It is due to increased oxidative stress which leads to toxicity to the surrounding neurons and result in changes in blood vessels. Since hydrogen rich water contains anti-oxidative as well as anti-inflammatory properties, scientists tried treating mice that had diabetic retinopathy with molecular hydrogen. They were injected with hydrogen rich saline for one month and their eye changes were assessed. The scientists found that the oxidative stress was reduced and there was increased anti-oxidative enzyme activity in these mice. Therefore hydrogen can be considered a valuable treatment option in treating diabetic retinopathy patients.
In a similar study with a rat model researchers found a decrease of caspase activity, a reduced retinal apoptosis and vascular permeability. The hydrogen saline could also prominently attenuate the retinal parenchyma thickening that resulted from diabetic retinopathy. They also concluded that hydrogen saline may have potentials in the clinical treatment of diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetes mellitus can also lead to erectile dysfunction. This may be partly due to increased oxidative stress. Nitric oxide plays an important role in the physiological process of erection. The enzymes that form this can get disrupted due to oxidative stress.
In a study to examine this diabetic rats were divided into 2 groups and one was given hydrogen rich saline while others received normal saline during 8 weeks. The group with hydrogen had increased nitric oxide levels by an increased nitric oxide synthase (the synthesizing enzyme) activity. This resulted in improved erectile function in these animals, assessed by measuring of the intracavernous (penis venous system) pressure after cavernous nerve electrostimulation. Maximum intracavernous pressure increased significantly compared to untreated diabetic rats after hydrogen-rich saline treatment. It has been concluded that hydrogen may also be useful in erectile dysfunction in diabetic patients too.
It is evident from all these researches that hydrogen in fact can have a future in diabetes treatment.
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