"The common denominator that underlies all modern theories of biological ageing is change in molecular structure and, hence, function." – Leonard Hayflick, Professor of Anatomy at the University of California, San Francisco, and researcher on ageing.
Research continues to try and determine the intricacies of the ageing process and what causes its acceleration. But whatever the reason, it's more of a synergistic process than just coming down to one thing.
There are several converging causes including free radical damage, gene expression and DNA changes; inflammation and mitochondrial function decline. Loss of Nrf2, which helps to upregulate our cells' antioxidant defence system, is also a contributor as well as reduced telomere length.
So it may be interesting to know that within the hundreds of studies looking into the benefits of molecular hydrogen (H2), it appears to have a positive effect on... all of these.
What causes ageing?
The exact way in which this important little molecule works is unknown. Still, it does appear to be a novel and powerful antioxidant which modulates gene expression, suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines, reducing oxidative stress, activating the Nrf2 antioxidant transcription factor and mitigating cellular damage.
Your diet, emotions, sleep patterns, alcohol and drug intake, weight, exposure to environmental toxins and socioeconomic status can all contribute to your ageing process. They can alter your DNA and gene expression and increase free radical damage and inflammation.
Research suggests that DNA changes throughout someone’s life can significantly increase their susceptibility to heart conditions and other age-related diseases.
Your gene expression and response to your lifestyle and environment can determine whether you will be prone to accelerated ageing.
It’s also a common belief that excessive oxidative stress (free radical damage) and prolonged low-level inflammation are precursors to chronic disease. This includes those associated with biological ageing such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, atherosclerosis and cancer.
So how can molecular hydrogen help?
In 2007, a groundbreaking article published in Nature altered the face of research on ageing. It revealed the powerful antioxidant capacity of hydrogen gas and its ability to protect cells from damage by selectively scavenging toxic free radicals.
Acute free radical damage (or oxidative stress) causes inflammation and destruction to cells and tissues. Over time, this leads to all manner of chronic disease, including cancer.
One of the most toxic and highly reactive radical species is known as hydroxyl, which indiscriminately attacks our molecules, damaging and killing them. By effecting cultured cells with extreme oxidative stress, researchers found that hydrogen (H2) can select and substantially reduce hydroxyl, protecting the cells.
H2 gas can also rapidly pass through membranes, and these same researchers found that the inhalation of H2 vapour shielded the effects of oxidative stress and suppressed brain injury in mice.
Since 2007, several studies have shown that molecular hydrogen has healing potential that goes way beyond merely selecting hydroxyl. With its ability to successfully diffuse into cells and be non-toxic at high concentrations, H2 shows promise as an effective therapeutic for a catalogue of health issues and diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s disease, cognitive impairment, heart and vascular disease, strokes, metabolic disease, liver damage, brain injury, and organ transplant.
Molecular hydrogen has shown an ability to control cell signalling and gene expression resulting in the suppression of inflammation and oxidative stress. It also appears to activate the Nrf2 antioxidant transcription factor, helping to reduce inflammatory injury.
H2 has the potential to improve the levels or activity of SIRT 1, one of the seven known intracellular proteins called sirtuins. These are integral to the ageing process, and are nicknamed ‘longevity proteins’.
Telomeres are stretches of DNA and proteins that form the ends of our chromosomes. Each time our cells divide, the telomere length shortens. There’s a point at which they can’t get any shorter, and this ultimately results in cell death.
While telomere shortening is associated with tumour suppression, it is also linked to limited stem cell function, regeneration and organ maintenance during ageing. It’s also connected with an increased age-related chronic disease and cancer risk.
Once more, molecular hydrogen shows a promising ability to slow the ageing process, this time by modulating telomerase activity which is the enzyme responsible for maintenance of the length of telomeres.
Hydrogen-rich water may be effective
While all this research is positive and ongoing, it’s important to note that it is a work in progress and remains inconclusive. Although there are some human studies, many tend to be small and animal or cultured cell-based.
Hydrogen water is water into which molecular hydrogen has been dissolved or released, and some researchers have found the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties of H2 water to benefit quality of life and the ageing process.
For example, cultured cell studies using hydrolysed water showed that it was able to penetrate cellular membranes and function as an antioxidant in human liver cells. Within other human cells, it was also able to modulate glucose uptake, insulin signalling and SIRT 1 activity, as well as protect telomeres from degradation.
As H2-water has anti-oxidative effects which may help to inhibit age-related inflammation and tissue damage, researchers ran a trial to see if it could protect against ageing periodontal tissue in rats. After consuming hydrogen water up until 16 months, the experimental group of rats had lower levels of oxidative tissue damage compared to the controlled group who drank distilled water.
Stress and other negative emotions take their toll on ageing too, and one 2018 study found that after drinking hydrogen water for four weeks, participants experienced improvements in mood and anxiety markers. It also enhanced the autonomic nervous system.
An animal study published in Nature in 2018, meanwhile, found that hydrogen-rich water has the potential to suppress vascular ageing. For more information about ongoing research into the possible therapeutic benefits of molecular hydrogen and hydrogen water, visit the Molecular Hydrogen Institute.
How to make your own hydrogen water
There are lots of expensive options out there, but if you would like something more affordable, we recommend the Biocera alkaline jug and filters. This stands out from regular filters and transforms tap water into alkaline, mineral-dense, hydrogen-rich water.
You can also make your own H2 water by using molecular hydrogen tablets. They provide a higher concentration of hydrogen, measured in parts per million (PPM) rather than parts per billion.
Hydrogen tablets generally combine a form of elemental magnesium and an organic acid which releases the bonds of H2O after mixing with water. The result is millions of hydrogen gas-filled nanobubbles.
HydroTab is a blend of pure magnesium and malic acid. It has the highest concentration of molecular hydrogen on the market, at 10 PPM, in 500ml of water and is more effective at producing hydrogen-rich water than a high-end electronic ioniser. These smart tablets create H2 water that is ready to drink in just two minutes.
We always encourage you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions about any topics we discuss. But if you feel that you would benefit from drinking hydrogen water, we proudly stand behind our products.
Whether orally administered as water, inhaled as gas, or injected or intravenously administered as a saline infusion, there is a growing body of research supporting the role of molecular hydrogen in the slowing of the ageing process, and treatment and prevention of some age-related diseases.
Watch this space, and in the meantime, you can always find out more by reading the growing number of research papers online.
Written by Rebecca Rychlik, Nutritional Therapist and Homeopath. Follow Rebecca on Instagram, Facebook and Medium, @rebeccabitesback.
Water for Health Ltd began trading in 2007 with the goal of positively affecting the lives of many. We still retain that mission because we believe that proper hydration and nutrition can make a massive difference to people’s health and quality of life. Click here to find out more.
#MolecularHydrogen appears to be a novel and powerful antioxidant which modulates gene expression, suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines.