While many of us associate the word “hydrogen” with high school chemistry or the Hindenburg, people of the future will likely know “hydrogen” as a medical breakthrough.
Scientists are just beginning to discover how molecular hydrogen can be used to treat serious diseases – including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes – and to delay common signs of aging like wrinkles and grey hair.
No matter how you look at it, the potential for molecular hydrogen’s use in the medical field, as well as the sporting and health food industries, is massive.
What is hydrogen?
Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. It’s also the smallest and lightest, with the size of a single hydrogen atom estimated at just 120 picometers (one picometer = one trillionth of a meter).
Hydrogen is sometimes referred to as the “original element” because the discovery of hydrogen is what led to the creation of the periodic table.
Molecular hydrogen or “H2 gas” is a bioactive molecule formed when two hydrogen atoms bond with each other. H2 gas is colorless, tasteless, and is not diluted by water.
Thanks to its tiny size and neutral charge, H2 gas can easily slip through a cell’s membrane and into the nucleus, where it is believed to protect DNA and boost mitochondrial health.
Primary health benefits
One of H2’s most celebrated properties is its ability to convert free radicals into water. H2 can also boost the body’s natural antioxidant system by activating specific cell-signaling pathways that are believed to regulate cell survival genes and facilitate detoxification.
As I mentioned before, H2 has the rare ability to access the mitochondria – which are potato-shaped power generators located inside a cell’s nucleus.
Contact with the mitochondria may have a positive effect on cell metabolism, cell signaling, and healthy gene expression – benefits that could result in considerable anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-obesity, and anti-aging effects.
Research suggests H2 can help battle autoimmune diseases, fight cancer, and reduce joint pain caused by arthritis. There is also evidence suggesting H2 can boost production of the ghrelin hormone – which protects the vascular system, brain, and liver.
“Although the research on hydrogen looks promising in the cell or animal models, more long-term clinical trials are required to confirm its efficacy in humans,” explains Tyler LeBaron, director of the Molecular Hydrogen Foundation.
How does H2 fight free radicals?
All this talk about free radicals can be confusing.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that form when oxygen molecules break down into single atoms. Free radicals are missing an electron, and they cause oxidative stress when they steal an electron from one of your body’s healthy cells.
Oxidative stress is associated with signs of aging, cancer, central nervous diseases (like Alzheimer’s), clogged arteries, inflammatory diseases (like arthritis), vision decline, diabetes, and degenerative diseases (like Parkinson’s).
H2 carries two electrons, meaning it has an extra one it can give to free radicals. When this happens, the free radical is neutralized and a tiny drop of water is produced.
The effect of H2 inside the human body is sort of like cleaning up a factory that regularly produces smoke, explains Ed Wunder, a researcher with the Molecular Hydrogen Foundation.
“Molecular hydrogen will not only clear up the black smoke by neutralizing the free radicals, but it will also go into the factory and fix what is wrong so that the black smoke will not be produced.”
In Wunder’s analogy, the black smoke represents free radicals and the factory itself represents the mitochondria.
How can I try H2?
There are a variety of ways to get H2 into your body, but the easiest and most convenient methods are by drinking hydrogen-infused water or by using hydrogen-generating tablets to create hydrogen-infused water.
The most important thing to know about any hydrogen product is the H2 concentration – which is measured in ppm (parts per million).
Hydrogen-infused water, sold mainly online, is a ready-to-drink product that provides an H2 concentration between 1 and 2ppm. Hydrogen-infused water costs about $3 per can.
Touted benefits of hydrogen water include:
• Improves athletic performance and decreases recovery time
• Boosts energy and improves hydration
• Reduces oxidative stress
• Improves mental clarity
• Supports healthy organ functioning, including the skin
• Reduces cholesterol
• Reduces risk of heart disease and stroke
There does not appear to be an upper limit on H2 consumption and there are no known side effects.
Hydrogen-generating tablets require a small reaction time (between 1 and 6 minutes), but offer H2 concentrations of up to 10ppm. Tablets consist of organic acids and magnesium. When dropped into water, they break into a cloud of H2 bubbles and magnesium ions. A bottle of tablets costs between $15 and $60 – a small price to pay for a clean nucleus!