I heard the hype (haven’t we all) about Hydrogen water, so I went and bought myself a machine to produce it at home. Better late than never, I’m now doing the research to see whether there’s actually anything to it!
- Almost all supposed benefits are captured by the claim that hydrogen water is antioxidant, which means that it reduces inflammation and all of the supposedly linked health concerns.
- I couldn’t find any substantive risk claims so, provided you start out with purified water, there is unlikely to be any downside,
- except for the cost…
- Very little hard science to back up any health claims.
Hydrogen water – overview
Hydrogen water is plain old water (H2O) with extra hydrogen (H2) dissolved into it. The H2 does not bond to the water to change it at a molecular level, it’s simply dissolved in the water in “micro bubbles”.
Hydrogen water can be made in two ways: by dissolving tablets in the water, or through electrolysis. It can also be bought, but beware of the cost, and also the quality – hydrogen can quickly diffuse out of the water and most containers, including plastic and glass.
I’ve gone for a home electrolysis machine, which works by splitting some of the water molecules (H2O) into H2 and O. The H2 bubbles up through the water and dissolves into it as it goes.
As with most of these health fads (see apple cider vinegar), the list of health claims that can be built with a quick Google search is as long as it is far-fetched. For hydrogen water, these include:
- weight loss,
- healthier skin,
- better mood,
- reduced depression,
- boosts brain health and fights Parkinson’s,
- healthier bones,
- increased longevity,
- fights cancer.
But is there any substance to these claims, and what is the supposed mechanism?
Ultimately, all of these supposed benefits are driven by the claim that Hydrogen water is antioxidant.
Oxidative stress is probably a real thing, and is not good. Not a very strong statement that, and I should probably explore that claim in more detail, but for now let’s take it as axiomatic.
Having a load of oxidants (O2, H2O2, and the like) whizzing around your body, with their unpaired electron looking for a mate amongst the cells of your body, is likely to cause damage to cells and DNA; causing all sorts of problems like bodily inflammation, cell destruction, and DNA mutation.
The claim is that pumping a load of H2 into your tissues (in this case by drinking it dissolved in water, but it can also be inhaled or infused intravenously) soaks up these oxidants, or free radicals as they’re otherwise known.
Reducing oxidation and resultant inflammation in your body is good for everything including your brain, cell walls, arterial walls, skin, bones, DNA, and mitochondria – so it’s no wonder “antioxidants” claim such a lengthy list of benefits.
This is all good in theory – it stands to reason that having some excess H2 in your tissue would provide ample “mates” for the free radicals to bond to and neutralise themselves so that they don’t have to plunder our cells – but is there any strong evidence that it actually works?
Sadly not. As is so often the case with these fads, evidence is limited to rodent trials and very small and non-robust human trials. That’s not nothing though, and what evidence there is from these trials does point in the direction of consumption of hydrogen water reducing the markers for “oxidative stress” in the subjects.
So, the jury is still very much out on this one.
There is a risk that performing electrolysis on water containing chlorides (salts which can be found in tap water) will oxidise into chlorine – which you don’t really want to be drinking. This risk can be mitigated by using purified water.
Aside from that, the very real risk is that drinking water with H2 dissolved into it does bugger all to reduce oxidative stress in your body; so you’re simply wasting your time and money.
However, and especially having already invested in the means of production, it’s something that I will continue to casually make a part of my life. There’s some evidence to back up the claims and no suggestion of any downside. So, if all it does is encourage me to drink more water and potentially create a placebo effect, it’s better than nothing!