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Hydrogen Water: Healthier Skin or Total Hooey?

Hydrogen Fuel
June 15, 2017 Reviewed by TIA Community Member 2 Comments

Here is something pretty basic for you: Water is hydrogen — which, by the way, is the lightest element on the periodic table, a flammable gas and 75 percent of the entire universe — mixed with oxygen. So, if hydrogen is already in water, or in fact is water, why would someone try to sell me a can of hydrogen water? Dr. Perricone, the man behind the can, assures me that hydrogen water will rid the planet of most health issues, as well as melt away my wrinkles. A breakthrough trend or a damp squib? Let’s find out.

Hydrogen water is water that has had extra hydrogen pumped into it. It first made an appearance as a bona fide subject of medical research in 2007. Although there has been a fair amount of studies conducted, not everyone is convinced by the claims made for hydrogen water.

So, let’s start there: The study that everyone quotes is a 2013 review published in the journal Medical Gas Research, which claimed that hydrogen gets into the mitochondria (the energy centers of a cell) and significantly reduces free radicals. Other studies have concluded that hydrogen water can reduce bad cholesterol while increasing the good kind, help with traumatic brain injury and reduce neck wrinkles.

Detractors and skeptics note that most of the studies are short term and/or on animals. For example, one study on rats claimed the hydrogen water cut down periodontal aging, but it should be noted that the rats were only 16 months old by the end of the experiment. A study that concluded that hydrogen water increased superoxide dismutase (an antioxidant enzyme) by 39 percent was based on just 20 people over eight weeks. The neck wrinkle study: a grand total of six people.

I was particularly interested in the idea that hydrogen goes straight for the mitochondria, since we know that this has implications for aging. Disappointingly, the science seems vague — or at best, “preliminary.” Of course, that could simply mean that hydrogen water has potential but more research is needed. Not according to some experts, however. A couple of months ago, SELF magazine asked some nutritionists what they thought of hydrogen water, and the sentiment was pretty much summed up by Ruth Kava, Ph.D., senior nutrition fellow at the American Council on Science and Health: “total hooey.”

Dr. Perricone claims that if all Americans were on hydrogen water, the savings for the health industry would be enormous. This reminded me of the fad for alkanized water that has largely been debunked. I was also reminded of the ionized water idea, which splits water into its component parts, hydrogen and oxygen. A writer on Slate suggests that this is terrible idea because hydrogen is positive (oxygen is negative) and free radicals are a “rogue negative charge looking for some unsuspecting molecule to glom onto and destroy, making you age and get arthritis and gray hair and all the problems that ionization sets out to cure.” So wouldn’t the same be true of hydrogen water?

Theoretically, yes. But Dr. Perricone has an answer for this that’s actually rather interesting. He notes that a portion of the hydrogen molecule is indeed a mild pro-oxidant and when picked up by the cells’ sensors, they up-regulate a messenger called NRF2. NRF2 then goes to the nucleus, attaches to the antioxidant response element on the DNA, and then it up-regulates DNA making antioxidant proteins. 

At the end of all of this, I don’t know if hydrogen will indeed age me, or make me look younger, prevent Alzheimer’s and keep my cholesterol down no matter how chubby I get. But until I see more evidence, I’m going to continue to get my antioxidants from food and good skin care.  

  • June 29, 2017

    by Nancy

    I work with a product line that is the first to market with an Nrf2 Activator(Protandim Nrf2 by LifeVantage Corpsee www.pubmed,gov for clinical studies). To be scientifically precise the abbreviation is Nrf2, not NRF2). There are multiple ways to activate the Nrf2 pathway--some positive and some negative. So being an Nrf2 activator is not necessarily positive.. The pathway of hydrogen water, if it is an Nrf2 activator, needs to be delineated. Further, even if is positive, if may be of such low level of activation that it is not truly significant. This can be measured by T-bar testing, which is the gold standard in laboratory research . If the scientific research a product cannot say it reduces oxidative stress from free radicals by a measurable percentage, then its ability as an antioxidant is not significant.

    Further, if a product is claiming to increase mitochondrial function then there should be measurable outcomes. Does it cause an increase in ATP production(cellular energy)? or does it increase mitochondrial productivity or increase mitochondrial genesis? Does it assist in better regulating cell division? Just because something reaches the cell mitochondria does not mean that it is positive for cellular function.

    Even toxins can trigger an increase in the genes in the DNA that regulate the production of antioxidant enzymes. And these enzymes are very powerful. In fact antioxidant ENZYMES can scavenge 1,000,000 free radicals per second and then recycle themselves, as opposed to direct antioxidants taken as supplements or foods which can only scavenge(neutralize) one free radical and then are spent. But the body responds by making more enzymes to toxins only because it is trying to defend itself from harm--it is not a positive increase. So I agree that more research needs to be done. Measurable benefits need to be documented and biochemical or otherwise pathways identified.

  • June 16, 2017

    by Tom

    You may find this publication helpful in understanding the potential health benefits of hydrogen gas. Clinical Effects of Hydrogen Administration: From Animal and Human Diseases to Exercise Medicine, Garth L. Nicolson, Gonzalo Ferreira de Mattos, Robert Settineri, Carlos Costa, Rita Ellithorpe, Steven Rosenblatt, James La Valle, Antonio Jimenez, Shigeo Ohta. International Journal of Clinical Medicine, 2016, 7, 32-76 Published Online January 2016 in SciRes. Shigeo Ohta was one of he first doctors to identify hydrogen as a safe and effective anti-oxidant. He will be in the US in July and should be interviewed for his take on the subject.

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