In this article you will learn:
What hydrogen water is and what some research has said about it
What research has said/says against using hydrogen water
What other (cheaper) options there are to keep your body healthy
Hydrogen water is water that’s been infused with hydrogen gas (H2) and supposedly has strong antioxidant powers with a wide-ranging application for nearly everything under the sun. The first time I had learned anything about hydrogen water was several years ago while watching a brief documentary on places like Lourdes (France), Tlacote (Mexico) and Nordenau (Germany) and their healing natural springs.
All of these real-life fountains of youth had a robust history of miracle healings, and it’s
interesting that what they all had in common, upon analysis, was an increased presence of hydrogen in the water.(1) I didn’t do much with that information at the time, and hydrogen water was barely making it to the mainstream. A few years later, I saw a Facebook ad for a hydrogen water tablet with, of course, some hot girl smiling off in the distance as she guzzled her liquid Success and optimism for the day.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I remember saying to myself.
This event didn’t do much to pique my interest in hydrogen water until I was compiling the research for my big book, Dance Your Way Through Life. In truth, there has been some promising work done with hydrogen water and it is definitely interesting, although it’s not without its share of considerations and skepticism.
My goal in this article will be to present you with the relevant research, as well as the objections, so that you can decide for yourself if it's bullshit or not. The following is a brief summary of some of the work that’s been done on hydrogen water:
1. Bacteria produce hydrogen gas (H2) as a byproduct in the gut. This was seen as an
inert substance up until recently, when research proposed that the antioxidant
properties of hydrogen gas may help with inflammation in the colon.(2) Other
research looking at the gut microbiomes of Parkinson’s patients, who were out of
balance and had reduced hydrogen production, concluded that providing therapeutic
hydrogen may be a novel way to treat parts of the disease.(3)
2. The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of H2 have been studied in a
variety of areas in the body using several important markers.(4,5,6) H2
supplementation for 4 weeks through hydrogen water even appeared to boost the
effect of the body’s natural antioxidants, glutathione and superoxide dismutase.(7)
3. Because of its small size, H2 may be able to permeate into hard-to-reach places like
your mitochondria and provide powerful and much-needed antioxidant support.(8,9,10)
4. The skin pigment, melanin, may be involved in creating excess H2 for use in the
5. H2 has been studied as a novel therapy for everything from infections and sepsis, to
heart disease, depression and psoriasis.(13,14,15,16,17)
6. For athletic performance, hydrogen water seemed to improve qualitative measures,
as well as objective markers like blood pH before and after exercise, lactate levels and
7. Some limited human research shows benefits on triglycerides and insulin resistance.(22)
So, are you convinced yet?
I almost was, after pouring through all of this research. I mean, with all of these benefits, was I missing something critical in my "Everyday Basics" approach? Was this boron all over again? Should I invest in a water ionizer or hydrogen tablets, and if so, which ones?
Despite the relatively limited (although intriguing) human trials, the science didn’t quite measure up to my standards for implementing a new intervention. Before you go dropping some cash on this kind of magic water, here are a few other things to consider:
1. The H2 molecule is produced in your body when magnesium comes into contact with
water. This is how modern “hydrogen tabs” are formulated, except they also come
with other crap in them besides the magnesium. Magnesium is one of your Basics because of its role in facilitating hundreds of enzymatic reactions. Your body is mostly water. What do these two facts have to do with each other? If it’s not yet obvious, the
simple conclusion is that your body has natural mechanisms to produce its own
hydrogen accordingly — so long as you supply it with what it needs. Magnesium is an
essential building block that most people are deficient in, and you’ve already got
plenty of hydrogen in your body because it’s the most abundant molecule in the
Universe. Conclusion? Worry less about dissolving expensive pills and chemicals into
your water and give your body adequate tools to do the job itself, like a high quality chelated magnesium supplement.
2. So far, most of the research has been done on animals, with a decent amount on
humans. Yet, despite the existing body of promising work, many of these studies
are not longitudinal in nature. They also do not account for nutritional
deficiencies and genetic SNPs. Considering what we know about magnesium and
water alone, and how most people are deficient, it’s likely that hydrogen water
therapy isn’t needed in someone doing a complete nutrition program. There is no study that has looked at comparing hydrogen therapy long term versus just following a complete nutrition and supplementation program. But my opinion is that hydrogen
probably provides these otherwise deficient people with a quick Band-Aid by
circumventing the problem of mineral deficiency. It may get some immediate
results, but it doesn’t correct the actual deficiency of minerals for the long run.
3. Despite the marketing claims, hydrogen gas does not dissolve well in water.
Hydrogen water is like carbonated water, but instead of the carbon dioxide you get
H2 gas. This means several important things. First, gas evaporates and you will lose
some of the concentration as the water is exposed to air. Unless you plan on drinking
your water immediately after hydrogenating it, you’re not really going to get what
you see on the label. Second, how much of it actually dissolves can be highly variable
based on several factors. Humidity in the container can cause your tablets to lose
some reactive potential, and even during the dissolution process some of it can be
hampered for chemical reasons, meaning you’ll often get between 25%-75% of the
amount on the label.(23)
4. As with all magic waters, it is expensive. A can of hydrogen water will cost you about
$3, and a nice ionizer will be upwards of $1,500. There are several different options to
make hydrogen water, but many of them utilize pretty bogus claims and
pseudoscience in the hopes of getting your attention and standing out. Magnesium
tablets are common, and you have ionizers that use an electric current to do the same
thing. Because these products aren’t regulated, it’s difficult to test the consistency of
what they produce at home.
5. Regarding testing, how would you know if your magic water is doing you any good?
You could run some expensive tests, like urine malondialdehyde or 8-OHdG (a DNA damage marker in urine or serum), but even this goes back to point #2: between placebo and a complete nutrition program, how would you know what part of your results were directly from the extra hydrogen? It’s impossible to say for sure, unless you would run complex trials of several weeks at a time with these expensive tests and try one period of hydrogen therapy and another with a complete nutrition program. Interesting, but also expensive and pretty pointless.
6. The proper dosage has not been established for hydrogen water. Most research
suggests about 2-3mg per day, but it was in short periods of observation and this
concentration is difficult to establish with commercial tablets or machines. Some
argue that we produce lots of hydrogen in our guts, as previously mentioned, and that
there is little evidence of hydrogen toxicity, with a prime example being it’s
incorporated in much higher concentrations for deep sea diving.(24)
These claims are accurate, but looking at some of the supplements readily available, you will also see wildly varying dosages without any research to back them up one way or another. For example, a product by the famous Dr. Mercola offers 8ppm in 480mL for every tablet you dissolve. Another random product on Amazon, by Quicksilver Scientific, claims that it’s the “highest potency hydrogen supplement on the market” and much better than those silly old generation tabs, with a dose of 10ppm in 500mL available.
It is notable that both of these supplements, which I chose indiscriminately out of the dozens available, retail for about a dollar per tablet. To ingest 2mg of pure hydrogen with these products, you’d have to consume over 15 tablets a day. At a dollar a pop, my question as an avid BodyHacker is: what else could I be investing in with my $450 a month?
Another issue is the longterm impact of these high amounts. If molecular hydrogen does in fact raise the pH of your blood, based on the research, that’s not a process you want to be fucking with by hijacking it artificially from your body. Remember that your body keeps super tight controls on your blood pH and “more alkaline” doesn’t always mean a good thing. You can die if it’s too alkaline, and what “too” means here is a
very small decimal range. When you eat, exercise or have stress of any kind, this produces acidic byproducts in your body and various pathways ensure that the blood stays in its ideal pH range.
Minerals are shuffled around to neutralize acids, and as long as you are taking in quality nutrition, you shouldn’t have any problems maintaining alkalinity in the tissues of your body or balancing the acidic effects of stress.
The problem I see with this magic water, until further large-scale clinical research is done, is that people are going crazy with the idea of alkalinity and pushing their bodies to do something rather than supporting it with The Basics. If your blood is too alkaline, it will bring acids in place to get back to normal, and this could potentially cause other deficiencies and issues long term.
People love some new hack that provides all the benefits of discipline without the cost, but there is no such thing and there never will be. So, what’s my verdict? Hydrogen water is a waste of your money until proven otherwise. Grab yourself some quality magnesium and stay hydrated instead.