Molecular Hydrogen Gas: Novel Therapeutic Frontier

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Having fueled distant stars before nurturing primordial life, molecular hydrogen turns over a new leaf as a leading-edge therapeutic modality

In recent years, there has been increasing demand from patients and healthcare providers alike for safe, natural alternatives for preventing and treating disease. Pharmaceutical drug often come with side effects and safety concerns that can negatively impact health and quality of life. Additionally, many chronic conditions such as autoimmune disorders, dementia, and metabolic disease lack effective pharmaceutical treatments altogether.

In this context, molecular hydrogen (H2) has emerged as a promising therapeutic modality. With antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cytoprotective mechanisms, hydrogen therapy may meet the growing need for safe alternatives to conventional drugs. Molecular hydrogen is attractive as a medical gas because it selectively reduces destructive reactive oxygen species without impacting essential signaling pathways. It has no known toxic effects even at high concentrations.

As the smallest molecule with neutral charge, H2 can readily diffuse into cells, tissues, and across the blood-brain barrier. This allows versatile administration through inhalation, ingestion via hydrogen-rich water, infusions, baths, and other methods. H2 is economical as well, able to be generated on-site through simple electrolysis. With burgeoning clinical research revealing therapeutic potential across disease states, molecular hydrogen represents an ideal candidate to fill the present need for affordable, natural prevention and treatment options with minimal side effects.

Comprehensive Analysis Reveals Therapeutic Potential of Hydrogen Therapy

This meta-analysis published in Molecules titled "Molecular Hydrogen Therapy--A Review on Clinical Studies and Outcomes" aimed to assess the current findings of hydrogen therapy from 81 identified clinical trials and 64 scientific publications on human studies.1 The study was an open access review that focused on evaluating the safety, efficacy, and therapeutic potential of molecular hydrogen (H2) across a range of disease states.

The authors utilized a systematic search methodology using specified search terms related to "hydrogen therapy," "medical use of hydrogen," and "hydrogen gas" in combination with "human study" and "clinical trial" across medical literature databases. Inclusion criteria encompassed clinical trials or scientific publications related to molecular hydrogen therapy in humans published in English. Exclusion criteria included non-English papers and studies solely focused on alkaline ionized water.

The study compiled data from 47 clinical trials registered on cliniclatrials.gov and 34 clinical trials registered on the University Hospital Medical Information Network (UMIN) database in Japan as of August 2023. Additionally, 64 scientific publications reporting data from human studies were included for qualitative review and analysis.2

The underlying premise of hydrogen therapy is focused on the unique antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of molecular hydrogen (H2) gas, described as the smallest and most diffusible molecule. As the authors note, "Demonstrated to selectively counteract deleterious reactive oxygen species (ROS), such as the hydroxyl radical, H2 can maintain tissue homeostasis and can be more clinically useful than strong antioxidants that indiscriminately neutralize both beneficial and harmful ROS species."3

Numerous studies have shown that molecular hydrogen is naturally present in natural spring water and ocean water. One study found that ocean water contains 0.55 parts per million of hydrogen, while fresh water sources measured up to 0.65 parts per million.4 The modern diet is likely deprived of adequate regular molecular hydrogen compared to ancestral diets rich in fresh spring waters and foods high in polyphenols that release molecular hydrogen.5

The compiled clinical data from this review demonstrated positive therapeutic indications for hydrogen therapy in major disease areas including cardiovascular, respiratory, central nervous system, cancer, infections, lifestyle-related conditions, and more. Administration methods included inhaled hydrogen gas, consumption of hydrogen-rich water, hydrogen-rich saline infusions, hemodialysis with hydrogen-rich solutions, hydrogen baths, and topical applications.

Across the major disease states, hydrogen administration resulted in selective reduction of toxic ROS, decreases in inflammatory biomarkers, improvements in disease severity scores, and other positive outcomes versus placebo/control groups. Notable quotes from the study conclusions include:

"Respiratory health emerges as a promising arena for hydrogen therapy, particularly in the context of respiratory diseases and COVID-19 infections...The observed immuno-modulating effects of H2 have the potential to complement immunotherapy, which further augments its therapeutic potential...Despite compelling evidence from animal and human studies, H2 is yet to gain universal acceptance in clinical settings."6

The data presented strongly indicates hydrogen merits legitimate medical investigation and adoption. Indeed, this landmark comprehensive analysis demonstrates molecular hydrogen represents a safe, multi-modal therapeutic modality with enormous unrealized potential.

To learn more about the wide range of research on hydrogen water, visit our database on the subject here.


References

1. Johnsen, Hennie Marie, et al. "Molecular Hydrogen Therapy--A Review on Clinical Studies and Outcomes." Molecules, vol. 28, no. 23, 2023, p. 7785., https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules28237785. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

2. Johnsen, et al, paragraphs 3-5. 

3. Johnsen, et al, paragraph 1.

4. Glauser, Gaëtan, et al. "On the Origin and Composition of the Gas Phase of Air, N2, O2, Ar, and H2 in Natural Spring Waters." Chemical Geology, vol. 553, 2021, p. 119863., https://doi.org/10.1016/jchemgeo.2020.119863. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

5. Ichihara, Masaki, et al. "Beneficial Biological Effects and the Underlying Mechanisms of Molecular Hydrogen - Comprehensive Review of 321 Original Articles." Medical Gas Research, vol. 5, no. 12, 2015, p. 32., https://doi.org/10.1186/s13618-015-0035-1. Accessed 8 Feb. 2023.

6. Johnsen, et al, paragraphs 5-7.

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