What is hydrogen water?
Hydrogen water or hydrogen-rich water (also called hydrogen-enriched water) simply means normal water (H2O) that contains dissolved hydrogen gas (H2). For example, there are carbonated waters or beverages (soda pop), which contain dissolved carbon dioxide gas (CO2), or oxygen water, which contains dissolved oxygen gas (O2). Similarly, you can have water that contains dissolved hydrogen gas. Think of it this way: you can make hydrogen water by taking a tank of hydrogen gas (just like tanks of helium used to fill balloons or tanks of oxygen gas used in hospitals), and bubbling it into a glass of water. There are also many other methods to make hydrogen water, but this may help you better understand what hydrogen water is. It is simply water that contains dissolvedhydrogen gas.
I thought that if water is “hydrogen rich”, then it must be acidic?
Great question! If the water is rich in positive hydrogen ions (H+). then yes it IS acidic. But in this case, we’re talking about neutral hydrogen gas (H2), which is two hydrogen atoms tied together. It can be confusing to hear “hydrogen water” because we usually think of hydrogen (meaning the hydrogen ion, H+) as acidic, and that is basically the definition of pH. The p stands for potential or power, meaning a mathematical exponent (in this case a logarithmic function), and the H stands for the hydrogen ion, which is just a proton and no electron. So pH literally means the logarithmic concentration of the hydrogen ion. But when we say “hydrogen water” we are referring to dihydrogen or molecular hydrogen, which is a neutral gas that is dissolvedin the water.
Isn’t hydrogen gas explosive?
Yes, it is VERY explosive. Hydrogen is the most energy-dense molecule by mass. But, when the gas is dissolved in water it is not explosive at all, just like if you mixed gunpowder in water it wouldn’t be explosive either. Even when it is in the air, it is only flammable above a 4.6% concentration by volume, which is not a concern when talking about hydrogen-rich water.
Doesn’t water already have hydrogen in it because water is H2O?
The water molecule has two hydrogen atoms, chemically bound to the oxygen atom. This is different from the hydrogen gas molecule (H2), which is just two hydrogen atoms bound only to each other. Here’s an example: we need oxygen (O2) to live, so why can’t we just get our oxygen from drinking water, H2O? It’s because the oxygen is chemically tied up in the water molecule. We need available oxygen gas, (O2) that is not bound to other atoms or molecules. In the same way, in order for the dissolved hydrogen gas (H2) to benefit us, it must be in an unbound form, and therefore available for therapeutic benefit. This is why water is not explosive or doesn’t burn. Although, it contains hydrogen, which is flammable, and oxygen, which fire needs to burn, the hydrogen and oxygen are bonded together to form water (H2O). Thus, water is not flammable-in fact, H2O is what we use to extinguish fires. Furthermore, virtually everything has hydrogen atoms in it, but those hydrogen atoms are chemically tied up with other things. For example, a water molecule has two hydrogen atoms that are chemically tied up with the oxygen. Or, a sugar molecule like glucose contains 12 hydrogens, but those hydrogens are all bound to other carbon and oxygen atoms. In hydrogen water, the hydrogen that is shown to be therapeutic is the available dissolved hydrogen in its diatomic form, called molecular hydrogen.
I read that if you add hydrogen to water, then it makes hydrogen peroxide?
Water has the chemical formula H2O, and hydrogen peroxide has the chemical formula H2O2, which by comparison contains an extra oxygen, not hydrogen. So it does not, indeed it cannot, form hydrogen peroxide. The fact is, hydrogen gas does not bond to or react with the water molecules, it just dissolves into the water. It does not create some novel molecule like H4O, which would in fact be chemically impossible to form. Therefore, hydrogen water and hydrogen peroxide are completely different substances. Furthermore, hydrogen peroxide cannot be used to generate H2 gas or make hydrogen-rich water.
Since hydrogen gas doesn’t dissolve very well in water, how can there even be enough for it to be beneficial?
It is true that hydrogen is not very water soluble as it is a neutral, non-polar molecule with a solubility of 1.6 mg/L, which is relatively low. But when we consider that molecular hydrogen is the lightest molecule in the universe, we really need to compare the number of molecules as opposed to the number of grams. For example, if a single molecule weighed 2 mg (which is impossible, but used as an example), then having just one of those molecules in a liter of water would give you 2 mg/L, but there would only be one molecule. For reference, vitamin C (176.2 g/mole) weighs 88 times more than hydrogen gas (2 g/mole). Therefore, hydrogen water at a concentration of 1.6 mg/L would have more “therapeutic” molecules than 100 mg of vitamin C, as there are more total molecules in 1.6 mg of hydrogen compared 100 mg of vitamin C. That is, 0.8 mmoles of H2 vs. about 0.6 mmoles of vitamin C. But more importantly, hundreds of scientific studies clearly show that these concentrations of hydrogen are effective.
Won’t any dissolved hydrogen gas immediately escape out of the water?
Yes, it does immediately start coming out of the water, but it doesn’t just vanish immediately. Depending on the surface area, agitation, etc., the hydrogen gas can stay in the water for a few hours or longer before it drops below a therapeutic level. This is much like carbonated water or soda that contains carbon dioxide gas (CO2), but because it does leave, it is best to drink the water promptly before it goes “flat”.
How much hydrogen water should I drink to get the benefits?
That is the same question scientists are asking and is still under investigation. However, the animal and human studies generally provide about 0.5 to 1.6 mg or more of H2 per day, and these doses show statistically significant benefits. So, if your water has a concentration of 1 mg/L (equivalent to 1 ppm, parts per million), then two liters will give you 2 mg of H2. Although the effective concentration for some people and some diseases may be lower and/or higher, these doses are simply what have been seen to exert benefits.
Does more hydrogen equal more benefits?
Maybe, maybe not…. there is obviously a minimum required amount needed to offer any health benefits, which may vary from person to person. Importantly, it appears that you cannot get too much hydrogen, as it doesn’t build up in your system.—you just exhale it out. In many cases there is a clear dose-dependent effect, meaning the more hydrogen the better or greater the effect. There are also many anecdotal reports that suggest that consuming more hydrogen may offer even more benefits. But more research needs to be done in this area.
Is hydrogen safe?
Yes. Hydrogen gas has been shown to be very safe at concentrations hundreds of times higher than what is being used for therapy. Here are a few examples: Hydrogen’s safety was first shown in the late 1800s, where hydrogen gas was used to locate gunshot wounds in the intestines. The reports showed that there were never any toxic effects or irritation to even the most sensitive tissues. Another good example of its safety is that hydrogen gas has been used in deep sea diving since 1943 (at very high concentrations) to prevent decompression sickness. Studies have shown no toxic effects from hydrogen when at very high levels and pressures of 98.87% H2 and 1.26% O2 at 19.1 atm. Furthermore, hydrogen gas is natural to the body because after a fiber-rich meal, our gut bacteria can produce liters of hydrogen on a daily basis (which is yet another benefit from eating fruits and vegetables). In short, hydrogen gas is very natural to our bodies, not like a foreign or alien substance that can only be synthesized in a chemistry lab.
When was hydrogen’s therapeutic benefits first discovered?
The earliest account of hydrogen gas having medicinal properties was in 1798, for things like inflammation. But, it didn’t become a popular topic among scientists until 2007, when an article about the benefits of hydrogen was published in the prestigious journal of Nature Medicine by Dr. Ohta’s group.
I heard that drinking alkaline water can neutralize excess acid.
Alkaline water is not a buffer and has low alkalinity. As such, it cannot neutralize very much acid. Many people have seen that just a small amount of soda can easily lower the pH of a gallon of alkaline water. To help put this into perspective, consider that 1 tsp of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can neutralize the same amount of acid as 10,000 liters of alkaline water at a pH of 10. This is a primary reason why medical professionals have been skeptical about “alkaline ionized water”. It simply wasn’t known that the benefit of this water is attributed to the dissolved hydrogen gas until around 2007.
How does the blood maintain an alkaline pH?
The three main systems the body uses to maintain normal blood pH levels are:
Buffering components (e.g. proteins, phosphates, etc.)
Respiratory system (removal of CO2)
Renal system (excretion or reabsorption of bicarbonate HCO3–)
When acid is introduced into or produced by the body, it is quickly neutralized by the blood’s buffering components. The most important buffer is the bicarbonate/carbonic acid mechanism. Carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolves in the blood to form carbonic acid (H2CO3), which then forms bicarbonate (HCO3–, alkaline buffer) and the hydrogen ion (H+). This is according to the equation CO2 + H2O –> H2CO3 –> HCO3– + H+. This makes things very simple, because if the blood pH is too low (too many H+ ions), then we simply exhale out more CO2 via the lungs. The removal of CO2 causes the equation above to shift to the left, reducing the amount of H+ ions, which increases the blood pH. This is why hyperventilation (rapid breathing) can result in alkalosis (high blood pH) due to the excess removal of CO2. Alternatively, holding your breath can result in a lower pH because more CO2 is dissolving in the blood, which shifts the equation to the right leading to more H+ ions. CO2 is simply a normal byproduct of metabolism. In fact, virtually all the food we eat is broken down to CO2. Importantly, the primary stimulus for breathing is not the need for oxygen, but the need to remove CO2 so that the H+ ion concentration doesn’t increase and lower blood pH. Generally, under relaxed conditions, there is enough oxygen in one breath of air to sustain the body for about 1 minute, yet we breath around 12 times per minute to remove the CO2. Healthy people only use about 5% of the oxygen inhaled per breath. People with lung diseases often require additional oxygen because they are unable to inhale enough. The inability to inhale and exhale also can lead to changes in blood pH because of the inability to remove CO2, possibly resulting in respiratory acidosis.
I heard that “every sick person as an acidic blood pH”. Is this true?
Healthy blood pH varies between 7.35 to 7.45. Blood pH is tightly regulated. In physiology, if someone has a blood pH of 7.1 they are said to have acidosis even though 7.1 is actually alkaline according to the pH scale. Very rarely do people ever get truly acidic blood (pH<7.0). If the blood pH drops below 7, the body will not survive very long. Therefore, virtually every sick person actually has an alkaline blood pH even though some may have acidosis. Similarly, some diseases can actually cause alkalosis (elevated blood pH). It is the disease that causes the changes in blood pH, as opposed to the changes in blood pH causing the disease. Of course, a low blood pH can cause serious damage to the body and needs to be quickly corrected.
Note: This article comes from Molecular Hydrogen Institute (MHI)