Plain water is the healthiest choice to keep your body hydrated.
However, some beverage companies claim that adding elements like hydrogen to water can enhance health benefits.
This article reviews hydrogen water and its purported health effects to help you decide whether it’s smart.
What is hydrogen water?
Hydrogen water is simply pure water with extra hydrogen molecules added to it.
Hydrogen is a colorless, odorless, non-toxic gas that binds to other elements like oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon to form various compounds, including table sugar and water.
Water molecules consist of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, but some assert that infusing water with additional hydrogen produces benefits that plain water cannot deliver.
It’s thought the body can’t effectively absorb the hydrogen in plain water, as it’s bound to oxygen.
Certain companies claim that when extra hydrogen is added, these hydrogen molecules are “free” and more accessible to your body.
The product infuses hydrogen gas into pure water before packing it into cans or pouches.
Hydrogen water can be pricey — with one popular company selling a 30-pack of 8-ounce (240-ml) cans for $90 and suggesting consumers drink at least three cans daily.
Additionally, hydrogen tablets meant to be added to plain or carbonated water are sold online and in health food stores.
Hydrogen water machines can also be purchased by those wanting to make it at home.
Hydrogen water is marketed to decrease inflammation, boost athletic performance, and even slow aging.
However, research in this area is limited, so many health experts are skeptical of its supposed benefits.
Summary: Hydrogen water is pure water infused with extra hydrogen molecules. It can be purchased in pouches and cans or made at home using special machines.
Does hydrogen water benefits health?
Though human studies on the benefits of hydrogen water are limited, several small trials have had promising results.
Hydrogen water may provide antioxidant benefits
Free radicals are unstable molecules that contribute to oxidative stress, a major cause of disease and inflammation.
Molecular hydrogen fights free radicals in your body and protects your cells from the effects of oxidative stress.
In an eight-week study of 49 people receiving radiation therapy for liver cancer, half were instructed to drink 51–68 ounces (1,500–2,000 ml) of hydrogen-enriched water daily.
At the end of the trial, those who consumed the hydrogen water experienced decreased levels of hydroperoxide — a marker of oxidative stress — and maintained greater antioxidant activity after radiation treatment than the control group.
However, a four-week study of 26 healthy people demonstrated that drinking 20 ounces (600 ml) of hydrogen-rich water per day did not decrease oxidative stress markers, such as hydroperoxide, compared to a placebo group.
More studies are needed to confirm if drinking hydrogen decreases oxidative stress’s effects in healthy people and those with chronic conditions.
Hydrogen water may benefit those with metabolic syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by high blood sugar, increased triglyceride levels, high cholesterol, and excess belly fat.
Chronic inflammation is suspected to be a contributing factor.
Some research shows that hydrogen water may effectively reduce markers of oxidative stress and improve risk factors related to metabolic syndrome.
One 10-week study instructed 20 people with signs of metabolic syndrome to drink 30–34 ounces (0.9–1 liter) of hydrogen-enriched water daily.
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At the end of the trial, participants experienced significant reductions in “bad” LDL and total cholesterol, increases in “good” HDL cholesterol, greater antioxidant activity, and reduced levels of inflammatory markers, such as TNF-α.
Hydrogen water may benefit athletes
Many companies promote hydrogen water as a natural way to enhance athletic performance.
The product may benefit athletes by reducing inflammation and slowing lactate accumulation in the blood, which is a sign of muscle fatigue.
A study of ten male soccer players found that athletes who drank 51 ounces (1,500 ml) of hydrogen-enriched water experienced lower blood lactate levels and decreased muscle fatigue after exercise compared to a placebo group.
Another two-week study of eight male cyclists demonstrated that the men who consumed 68 ounces (2 liters) of hydrogen-enriched water daily had greater power output during sprinting exercises than those who drank regular water.
However, this is a relatively new area of research, and more studies are needed to understand how drinking hydrogen-enriched water may benefit athletes fully.
Summary: Some studies suggest that drinking hydrogen water may decrease the effects of oxidative stress, improve metabolic syndrome, and boost athletic performance.
Should you drink hydrogen water?
Though some research on the health effects of hydrogen water shows positive results, larger and longer studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn.
Hydrogen water is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA, meaning that it’s approved for human consumption and not known to cause harm.
However, you should be aware that there’s currently no industry-wide standard on the amount of hydrogen added to water. As a result, concentrations can vary widely.
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Plus, how much hydrogen water needs to be consumed to reap its potential benefits remains unknown.
If you’d like to try hydrogen water, experts suggest purchasing products in non-permeable containers and drinking the water quickly to obtain maximum benefits.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding this beverage — but until more research is conducted, it’s best to take the purported health benefits with a grain of salt.
Summary: Though drinking hydrogen water won’t hurt your health, large research studies have yet to validate its potential benefits.
Small studies show that hydrogen water may reduce oxidative stress in people undergoing radiation, boost performance in athletes, and improve certain blood markers in those with metabolic syndrome.
Still, extensive research confirming its health effects is lacking, making it unclear whether the drink is worth the hype.