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Hydrogen-Rich Water: Health-Rejuvenating or Just Another Sports Drink?

Hydrogen is the most abundant molecule in the universe. In the field of medicine, hydrogen, usually in gas form, is being used as a safe and effective treatment strategy for numerous diseases including inflammatory, metabolic, cardiovascular, and neurodegenerative disorders. Additionally, the hydrogen strategy also demonstrates efficacy against cancer and COVID-19.

Key takeaways:

Therefore, molecular hydrogen is very promising for broad-range therapeutic applications. Recently, hydrogen is developed into a health drink called hydrogen-rich water (HRW). In this article, we discuss what is hydrogen-rich water rejuvenation and the current evidence on its health benefits.

What is hydrogen-rich water?

Hydrogen-rich water (HRW) refers to water that has been infused with molecular hydrogen, wherein the water is supplemented with free hydrogen molecules. It is also called as hydrogenated water or simply hydrogen water. This new product is now being marketed as a health-rejuvenating drink or sometimes a sports drink, with claims carrying the same purported benefits as molecular hydrogen gas. Although the product is relatively new, there are already mounting evidence on its effectiveness.

HRW rejuvenation explained

HRW rejuvenation refers to the claimed restoration of health and/or promotion of health benefits on people consuming hydrogen-rich water. Taking hydrogen-rich water allows the diffusion of the free hydrogen molecules inside the body. As a general mechanism, scientists propose that this works by ameliorating oxidative stress, a major culprit in many health issues in the body. In effect, it causes an increase in total energy, curbing of fatigue, reduction of inflammation, and improvement of recovery periods after workout bouts. Long-term, HRW rejuvenation is believed to offer more beneficial effects on the body.

How does HRW work?

HRW has been shown to have various health benefits, including antioxidant effects, anti-inflammatory effects, and improved hydration. The mechanisms behind these benefits include:

  • Antioxidant effects. The molecular hydrogen in hydrogen-rich water acts as a selective antioxidant, neutralizing harmful free radicals in the body and reducing oxidative stress.
  • Anti-inflammatory effects. Molecular hydrogen has been shown to reduce inflammation by suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
  • Improved hydration. The small size of hydrogen molecules allows for better diffusion into cells and tissues, leading to improved hydration and better overall cell function.
  • Modulation of cellular signaling pathways. Molecular hydrogen has been shown to modulate cellular signaling pathways, which can help regulate cell function and improve overall cell health.
  • Protection of cells and tissues. Molecular hydrogen has been shown to protect cells and tissues from damage caused by oxidative stress, inflammation, and other cellular stressors.

Benefits of hydrogen-rich water

Hydrogen-rich water has a lot of claims on the market, but what does research show? Here are 11 of the most important health effects and medical applications of HRW rejuvenation:

Anti-aging effects

A six-month randomized controlled trial in older adults aged 70 years and above indicates that hydrogen-rich water exhibits potential anti-aging benefits by combating several hallmarks of aging, including telomere shortening, which is directly correlated with aging, longevity, and cancer.

Atherosclerosis prevention

In a high-fat diet-fed mouse model of atherosclerosis, recent results suggest that drinking hydrogen-rich water can ameliorate vascular aging of heart aorta, which can prevent the development of chronic inflammation that lead to atherosclerosis.

Heart cell death reduction

Notably, hydrogen-rich water treatment can also attenuate cardiac ischemia reperfusion injury in mice. The researchers highlighted that hydrogen water can prevent cardiomyocyte or heart cell death, as compared to a control group.

Enhanced gut microbiota

With hydrogen-rich water, the gut health, function, and barrier integrity can be enhanced through the increase of butyrate-producing bacteria. Butyrate-producing bacteria are very important population of microbes in the gut. It was previously shown that its decrease is associated with aging and inflammatory diseases.

Neurological function improvements

Further evidence demonstrates that hydrogen-rich water is beneficial against ischemic brain injury through its anti-oxidant and neuroprotective effects. In particular, it can reduce infarct size, prevent brain cell death, and improve neurological function after ischemic brain injury.

Better muscle performance

Based on current studies, hydrogen-rich water provides performance-enhancing effects. Short-term seven-day consecutive intake of hydrogen-rich water in trained cyclists led to improved anaerobic performance, physical power, and decreased fatigue index. Similarly, dragon boat athletes who drank hydrogen-rich water for seven days also had shown improvement in power performance and heart rate recovery. However, it appears that there is no beneficial effects when hydrogen-rich water is only consumed for one time in a week as tested in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study assessing uphill running performance.

Glucose metabolism improvements

In a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study of patients with type 2 diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance, hydrogen-rich water was shown to significantly decrease LDL “bad” cholesterol and improve glucose metabolism. Additionally, a separate clinical study also revealed that hydrogen-rich water can improve diabetes-related markers and systemic oxidative injuries.

Lower number and size of cancer tumors

In a randomized, placebo-controlled study, patients with malignant liver tumors undergoing radiotherapy experienced improved quality of life as compared with those that didn't receive the hydrogen-rich water. Another mouse study on NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis) and hepatocarcinogenesis showed that mice treated with hydrogen-rich water had significantly lower number and size of tumors. Also, hydrogen-rich water is effective in ameliorating hyperalgesia or extreme sensitivity to pain during chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain.

Better skin healing

Radiotherapy-induced skin injury is a frequent complication of cancer patients undergoing radiation exposure. A recent study showed that hydrogen-rich water induces an accelerated healing effect on skin injury or wound lesions caused by radiotherapy.

Improved liver health and function

Acetaminophen is a widely-used drug for pain relief; however, hepatotoxicity may result from overdose or adverse effects. Research shows that hydrogen-rich water has protective effects in overall liver health and function in a mice model of acetaminophen-induced liver injury.

Positive impact on anxiety and nerve function

A 2015 study demonstrated that hydrogen-rich water prevents depressive-like behavior in mice. In support, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers reveal that people who drank hydrogen-rich water had improved quality of life and increased nervous system functions with positive impacts on mood, anxiety, and nerve function.

Should I try HRW?

With its history of safe use and history of beneficial effects, hydrogen-rich water is definitely worth a try.

However, note that hydrogen-rich water is marketed as a functional drink supplement and is not intended for therapeutic intervention for existing diseases. The current claims and benefits by commercial products found in the market are not reviewed and approved by the FDA. For any underlying conditions, consult your doctor first for proper medical advice.

How to use HRW?

Using hydrogen-rich water is very simple. As a product, this is available in effervescent tablet forms or readily available as packaged hydrogen water in cans or bottles.

Preparing your own hydrogen-rich water from the effervescent tablets is as simple as putting it in your drinking water and allowing it to dissolve. You will observe small bubbles as the hydrogen molecules infuse with the water. It is available in groceries, convenience stores, and also online.

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