Hydrogen has numerous benefits for our health. These benefits are mainly based on the anti-oxidant property of hydrogen.
An antioxidant is a substance that inhibits oxidation of other molecules. The oxygen metabolism can form oxygen free radicals. These are able to steal electrons from other molecules thereby damaging them. Oxygen free radicals or reactive oxygen species are considered harmful as they can destroy the important constituents in our body such as DNA, lipids and proteins. Especially they can damage the mitochondria and disturb their function in the energy supply for the body.
Normally the oxygen species produced by the physiological oxygen metabolism are eliminated by the endogenous redox system. If the free radical number is high, it predisposes to many diseases such as metabolic diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases and degenerative diseases in general. Therefore antioxidants which can neutralize these free radicals are increasingly being used to prevent diseases, to maintain health and also for cosmetics to preserve a young appearance. This is where hydrogen comes into play.
There are various antioxidants found in our food and supplements. However they may contain substances that can become harmful when metabolized. The researchers have found vitamin supply can increase the mortality in clinical studies. Vitamin intake such as vitamin E and A in special doses not only reduces the reactive oxidant species but also affects the important molecules used in the signal transduction of the cells.
How hydrogen act as an antioxidant?
Hydrogen is a diatomic molecule which is naturally found as a gas and it is the most common element in our body. For a long time scientist have thought hydrogen gas to be physiologically inert, but meanwhile it has attracted attention as an antioxidant. There are many scientific studies which have been done to test its ability, efficacy and safety. We have provided some of these studies.
2007 hydrogen has been demonstrated by Oshawa et al. from Japan to reduce oxidative stress by scavenging selectively for most toxic free radicals such as hydroxyl group (OḢ) and peroxy nitrite (ONOO-). It selectively neutralizes these substances ensuring that normal cell signalling and other important metabolic processes are not disturbed.
New research has shown that hydrogen is able to modify gene expression. As a part of this action, it can increase the amounts of antioxidants, such as glutathione, and antioxidant enzymes inside cells. Glutathione is probably one of the most potent direct antioxidant inside cells. So the antioxidant action is assumed as an indirect effect of hydrogen. It can modulate transcription by important mediators like Nrf2. Nrf2 or Nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)- like 2 is important in starting molecular processes to fight against the reactive oxygen species.
In simple terms it means, when you take antioxidants from outside in special amounts, it only acts directly and destroys the free radicals. It doesn’t lead to activation of the body’s natural fighting mechanisms as hydrogen does it; rather it may inhibit the natural pathways of destroying free radicals.
Hydrogen also has a good bioavailability. When helpful substances are ingested from whatever method, it needs to reach the location where oxygen free radicals are forming. Usually these oxygen free radicals are formed inside the cell, in an organelle called mitochondria. Most externally supplied antioxidants have difficulty in reaching there and even when they do, only a little amount of the antioxidant will do so.
This is particularly true when considering what the body allows to cross the blood brain barrier. However, hydrogen is able to cross this barrier. It can easily diffuse and reach cell organelles such as mitochondria with good penetration making it highly effective. This is because hydrogen is the smallest and the lightest antioxidant anyone can ever find.
Vitamin C is like 88 times more than what hydrogen weights. Non polar and neutral molecules tend to enter cells more easily and hence have a good bioavailability. Hydrogen can easily pass through the cell membranes because it is nonpolar. The highest diffusion rate among gases is found in hydrogen making it one of the efficient antioxidants available.
How to administer hydrogen?
Hydrogen can be administered by inhaling it through a nebulizer. It is a very safe gas with no known adverse effects and when inhaled at concentrations less than 4 % air it is not flammable. Inhaling hydrogen gas for special durations has been known to produce long term health benefits although hydrogen may be removed from the body within 30minutes of stopping inhalation. This is due to secondary effects of hydrogen by activating useful pathways which are still under research.
Hydrogen for breathing is most easily obtained by electrolysis of water. Hydrogen gets also dissolved in water and you can drink it within a span of 4 hours. Although it dissolves only a small amount of hydrogen in water, it is a healthy water for drinking.
Is hydrogen safe as an antioxidant?
There are no known adverse effects when using hydrogen at the recommended doses in the clinical studies conducted. It does not disturb the normal metabolic processes occurring in your body.
The future of hydrogen as an antioxidant
If you search for scientific literature, you will find numerous studies done on the effect of hydrogen as an antioxidant. It has shown great promise to be used as a medical treatment in the future. In fact most studies have suggested it to be used for many diseases.
Japanese particularly have been using electrolyzed reduced water which contains hydrogen also known as alkaline ionized water for a long time.
However electrolyzed reduced water has been in the market for a long time meaning the therapeutic effect of hydrogen has been tested long before it was actually researched. Therefore hydrogen should be named as one of the safest antioxidants found up to this date.
- Akhavan, O., et al., Hydrogen-rich water for green reduction of graphene oxide suspensions. International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, 2015. 40(16): p. 5553-5560.
- Berjak, P., et al., Cathodic amelioration of the adverse effects of oxidative stress accompanying procedures necessary for cryopreservation of embryonic axes of recalcitrant-seeded species. Seed Science Research, 2011. 21(3): p. 187-203.
- Hanaoka, K., Antioxidant effects of reduced water produced by electrolysis of sodium chloride solutions. Journal of Applied Electrochemistry, 2001. 31(12): p. 1307-1313.
- Hanaoka, K., et al., The mechanism of the enhanced antioxidant effects against superoxide anion radicals of reduced water produced by electrolysis. Biophysical Chemistry, 2004. 107
- Hiraoka, A., et al., In Vitro Physicochemical Properties of Neutral Aqueous Solution Systems (Water Products as Drinks) Containing Hydrogen Gas, 2-Carboxyethyl Germanium Sesquioxide, and Platinum Nanocolloid as Additives. Journal of Health Science, 2010. 56(2): p. 167-174.
- Kato, S., D. Matsuoka, and N. Miwa, Antioxidant activities of nano-bubble hydrogen-dissolved water assessed by ESR and 2, 2?-bipyridyl methods. Materials Science and Engineering:, 2015. C 53: p. 7-10.
- Ohsawa, I., et al., Hydrogen acts as a therapeutic antioxidant by selectively reducing cytotoxic oxygen radicals. Nat Med, 2007. 13(6): p. 688-694.
- Ohta, S., Molecular hydrogen as a novel antioxidant: overview of the advantages of hydrogen for medical applications. Methods Enzymol, 2015. 555: p. 289-317.
- Settineri, Zhou, Ji, Garth L. Nicolson et al., Hydrogenized Water Effects on Protection of Brain Cells from Oxidative Stress and Gutamate Toxicity, American Journal of Food and Nutrition 2018, Vol. 6, No. 1, 9-13