In this installment from my 'Ask Me Anything' series, which you can find on my social media channels, I delve into the topic of hydrogen water...
“I've been out of the health loop for a while, but I can't help seeing these recommendations for hydrogen water. What's up with this hydrogen water thing? Is it up to the hype? I particularly need help with fatigue.”
The short answer is yes, hydrogen water lives up to the hype.
You’ll find no shortage on “evidence-based” personas claiming that hydrogen water is bullshit, but the reality is that there is a ton of research documenting its health benefits both in general terms and in specific situations. I have to believe that these individuals have simply never taken any time to actually research the topic they so confidently opine on.
So, what is hydrogen water? It’s literally just water that’s infused with hydrogen gas. This substantially increases the antioxidant potential of the water, it’s primary mechanism of action, and allows for that potential to be transferred into the body.
Hydrogen gas (H2) swiftly and efficiently transforms harmful free radicals, specifically hydroxyl (OH-), into water (H2 + 2 OH – > 2 H2O). This process preserves your body's natural antioxidant defenses by reducing their need in these specific instances, allowing them to focus on other free radicals. Due to its tiny size, hydrogen gas is quickly and passively dispersed across various body tissues and cells.
Molecular hydrogen may also play an important role in cell signaling and gene expression. Like other gasotransmitters (nitric oxide, hydrogen sulfide, etc.), molecular hydrogen has regulatory roles in anti-inflammatory pathways, mitochondrial energy production, cell stress, immune function, and autophagy.
Hydrogen water basically supplies your body with more of a very important molecule that has clear beneficial biological activity within the body.
Clinical trials have shown that drinking hydrogen water reduces levels of oxidative stress and inflammation, enhance athletic performance and recovery, reduce fatigue, improve immune function, and possibly benefit cognitive health (neuroprotective). For those interested, you can read a short systematic review of the literature (PMID: 38256045).
That said, the big question that has yet to be answered is how it impacts long-term health, which remains unknown as far as I'm aware. However, it definitely has health benefits and I recommend it for everyone if they can afford it. Plus, anecdotally the water tastes better so you’re more likely to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Still, some people may use this water as a replacement for eating a healthful diet. This gives them a false sense of security, which completely ignores how the body maintains tissue redox homeostasis—including contributions from exogenous antioxidant molecules such as vitamins C, A, E, glutathione, flavonoids, and polyphenols. You need to get your diet dialed in, and in that case, hydrogen water is a fantastic addition.
You can watch the accompanying video here.