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Hydrogen-Rich Water: Is It Just a Health Hoax?

Hydrogen water, also known as hydrogen-rich or hydrogen-infused water, is water that has had hydrogen gas (H2) added. Hydrogen water has gained popularity in recent years with proponents claiming it may improve health.

What is hydrogen-infused water?

Hydrogen-infused water is essentially regular water with additional hydrogen molecules dissolved in it. This is accomplished via a special process where hydrogen gas is infused, creating water with a slightly higher concentration of hydrogen than naturally found in regular water.

Hydrogen water is created using special equipment to manufacture and bottle it. However, recently, companies have been selling tabs to consumers to add hydrogen to water, and portable water bottles designed to enrich water with hydrogen are also sold to consumers.

Hydrogen gas is not very soluble in water, so the actual amount of hydrogen added is quite small. One study reported that “high” manufactured H2 concentrations were only approximately 5 to 7 parts per million (ppm). Typically, for water at room temperature and standard atmospheric pressure, the solubility is around 1.6 ppm.

Does hydrogen water work?

Advocates of hydrogen water claim it can provide numerous health benefits, including improved athletic performance, reduced inflammation, and enhanced brain function. However, the scientific evidence supporting these claims is inconsistent. The variability in study designs and hydrogen water formulations further complicates the ability to draw definitive conclusions.

Are there any benefits of hydrogen water?

While some studies suggest potential benefits, such as reduced oxidative stress and improved metabolic health, these findings are not universally accepted. Many studies have small sample sizes, lack control groups, or have other methodological flaws that limit their reliability.

Vascular function

A randomized clinical trial studied the effects of hydrogen water on vascular endothelial function. Participants in the group receiving hydrogen water did show only minor short-term improvements in vascular function. Unfortunately, this trial only included 16 people in the hydrogen water group and 18 people in the control group. Also, this study did not explore the long-term effects of drinking hydrogen water. It was only designed to measure vascular function 30 minutes after the participants drank water.

Anti-inflammation and chronic diseases

In a randomized, double-blind trial, participants consumed either 1,500 ml of commercially available hydrogen water or 1,500 ml of regular water each day for four weeks, and blood samples were taken to measure levels of antioxidants. The results showed that hydrogen water increased antioxidant potential and reduced inflammation, particularly in adults over 30, but had no significant effect on adults under 30 years old. However, the study had limitations, including a short duration and a small sample size of 38 people. Additionally, the broad range of outcomes measured may introduce potential biases in interpreting the results.

High lipid levels in the blood are associated with a host of chronic diseases. A meta-analysis of data from seven different studies reviewed the impact of hydrogen water on blood lipid profiles. The researchers found that drinking hydrogen water led to reductions in total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels with small to moderate effects, but high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels were not significantly affected.

These results are a good starting point, but they are limited by the small sample sizes, varying study durations, and differences in hydrogen water consumption and manufacturing. Future research with larger, more diverse participants as well as standardized hydrogen water protocols is needed to confirm these benefits and explore possible long-term effects.

A 24-week study including 60 volunteers with metabolic syndrome showed significant improvements in body-mass index (BMI), blood cholesterol levels, glucose levels, and inflammation markers. Unfortunately, the study did not continue to do a long-term follow-up. The study also did not account for potential differences in diet and lifestyle among participants, which could introduce biases. More research is required.

Premenstrual syndrome

Hydrogen water has shown potential in alleviating symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). A randomized study included 33 women who drank 1,500–2,000 ml of hydrogen water each day during the last half of their menstrual cycle for three menstrual cycles in a row. A control group of 32 women was required to do likewise with regular water. Each participant self-reported their PMS symptoms using a validated Premenstrual Syndrome Scale.

According to the results, the women drinking hydrogen water reported a reduction in PMS symptoms. This study, however, was only conducted at a single site and did not include a diversity of women since all participants were students at the same university, as well as used self-reports for symptom evaluation, which are subjective. Additional research using a broader diversity of women at multiple sites is necessary to support these claims.

Mood and anxiety

A four-week study explored the impact of drinking commercially available hydrogen water on mood and anxiety in 26 adults. Participants who drank hydrogen water reported improvements in mood and anxiety compared with those who drank placebo water. The study did not measure long-term effects and included few people, so its generalizability is limited.

Another study examined the effects of drinking hydrogen water combined with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) on women with panic disorder. Over 12 weeks, the 13 women who drank hydrogen water showed a reduction in proinflammatory cytokine scores and improvements in physical health and body pain compared to the 12 women who received only CBT. However, the study’s small size, short duration, and potential lifestyle differences among participants limit the strength of the findings.

Gut health

Dysregulation of gut microbiota has been associated with many conditions. Young female soccer players had enhanced gut flora diversity after drinking 1.5 to 2 liters of hydrogen water daily for two months. Unfortunately, only 10 people were included in the study’s control group.

Similarly, a larger study including 73 people with impaired fasting glucose showed that patients drinking one liter of hydrogen water daily for two months showed a change in gut microbiota and a reduction in fasting blood glucose levels compared to those drinking plain water. First, this study was limited to only patients with impaired fasting glucose. Also, additional lifestyle factors were not controlled between groups, which may have influenced the results.

Hydrogen water vs. regular water

Most scientific comparisons indicate that the primary difference between hydrogen water and regular water is the slightly elevated concentration of hydrogen in the former. No substantial evidence suggests that this difference translates to significant long-term health benefits.

Hydrogen waterRegular water
Hydrogen gas concentrationSlightly higher than regular waterLittle to no hydrogen gas
General health benefitsClaims of various health improvements compared to regular waterEssential for hydration, overall health, and life
HydrationNo research supports hydrogen water is better for hydrationRequired for proper hydration

Should you drink hydrogen water?

Given the current evidence, it's unclear if hydrogen water offers benefits beyond those of regular water. The US Food & Drug Administration does recognize hydrogen water, as well as other flavored drinks, to be generally safe at a level of up to 2.14% H2 by volume. While it might not be harmful, the purported advantages remain unproven and might not justify the additional cost.

In conclusion, while hydrogen-rich water has garnered attention for its potential health benefits, the scientific evidence supporting these claims remains inconclusive. Although some studies suggest possible improvements in conditions such as inflammation, metabolic health, and mood disorders, many of these studies are limited by small sample sizes, short durations, and design flaws. The purported advantages of hydrogen water over regular water are not definitively proven, and more extensive, well-designed research is needed to validate these claims.

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