Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw’s®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 15 No. 6 • October 2012

Hydrogen Therapy Update

Human Breath Hydrogen Measurements From Hydrogen Water and From Milk

“Countless commercial hydrogen water products are marketed mostly in Japan as health-oriented water” say the authors of a new paper1 on human breath hydrogen measurements (both from those drinking hydrogen water and from those drinking milk who have lactose intolerance). The results of their study showed that ingestion of commercial hydrogen [hydrogen water] definitely increases hydrogen concentration in the body (there were five healthy adult volunteers, two men and three women, aged 29 ±14 years). “however, the rise in breath hydrogen was transient and the hydrogen-producing capability of hydrogen water was less than that of milk in subjects with hypolactasia [deficiency of lactase resulting in lactose intolerance].” The lactose intolerant subjects couldn’t digest lactose in the milk they drank for the experiments, allowing the lactose to pass into the lower digestive tract, where certain members of the gut microbiota could ferment it, resulting in the production of hydrogen. The problem with lactose intolerance, Sandy can tell you from personal experience, is that it is all too likely to cause rapid increase in gas production that can be very uncomfortable, with bloating and pain. She drinks lactose free milk and has even found a lactose free vanilla ice cream but also takes a supplemental prebiotic (long chain fructooligosaccharides) that can be used by gut bacteria to produce hydrogen at a moderate rate and for a longer period of time than a bolus of lactose-containing milk.

pH Neutral Hydrogen Water Inhibits Cancer Cell Growth and Tumor Invasion

Another paper2 reports a cell culture study of the effects of hydrogen water in the culture medium on cancer cells. Researchers observed that the colony numbers of human tongue squamous cell carcinoma-derived cell line HSC-4 (RCB1902) was decreased to 72% as compared to controls (no hydrogen in the water). The colony formation of normal human tongue epithelial-like cells was unaffected by the hydrogen water. The researchers also investigated the effects of hydrogen water on tumor invasion through the reconstituted basement membrane Matrigel in human fibrosarcoma HT-1080 cells and found “[t]he number of invasive cells was markedly lowered by incubation for 1-3 h with cell culture media containing NHE [neutral pH hydrogen water] compared with Milli-Q [purified] water.”

These are interesting results, but, as the authors note, “although NHE water is expected to become a useful tool for clinical application to anticancer therapy, further in vivo studies are necessary for clinical applications.” We agree. If an individual wanted to try hydrogen therapy in the treatment of cancer, we wouldn’t see any reason not to do so, preferably with the supervision of their physician. However, it probably would NOT be a good idea to use hydrogen at the same time as radiation therapy or free radical-dependent chemotherapy is being administered as it would very likely reduce the effectiveness of the radiation treatment or chemo in killing cancer cells.

Hydrogen Protects Mice From Cognitive Impairments and Reduced Neurogenesis Resulting from Restraint Stress

If you have felt at times like a mouse thrown into a tank of water and having to swim frantically to find a hidden platform to find some temporary safety, then you probably have an idea of what mice subject to standard stress tests feel like. (We’re just guessing, as we have never interviewed a stressed mouse; scientists judge the emotional state of animals by observing their behavior. It will probably not be long, though, before MRI scans are used while animals are experiencing emotional states, making it possible to virtually “read their minds” to see how they are feeling. In pet animals that have brains organized similarly to humans, such as dogs and cats or even rodents, areas of the brain activated during emotional states may be much like that of humans feeling similar emotions. To some extent, we really could “interview” a mouse.)

A paper3 reporting on the effects of hydrogen water (or a placebo) on mice subject to three standard stress tests finds significant protection in the mice drinking hydrogen water from the negative effects (cognitive impairments such as memory deficits, oxidative stress, and decreased proliferation of progenitor cells in neurogenesis) as compared to the placebo controls (stressed but getting degassed water).

The subject mice had to deal with the stresses of physical restraint (being placed in a 3x3x7.5 cm. stainless-steel cage for ten hours a day for 6 days each week for 8 weeks), passive avoidance learning (whether they remembered that when they entered a dark compartment (mice naturally prefer to be in the dark) of a light-dark apparatus they received a shock, object recognition task (one of the original objects in the cage was replaced by a novel object; each mouse was evaluated for how much time or how many sniffs it devoted to a new object as compared to the original one it replaced), and spatial learning (the dreaded Morris water maze where the mouse landed in a tank of water and had to swim to find a hidden platform to stay above water). The additional details of the stress tasks are reported in the paper.

Water, either with or without hydrogen, was available ad lib throughout the periods of stress.

The physical restraint test enhanced oxidative stress in the brain, as assessed by estimating the levels of 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (HNE), an end product of lipid peroxidation, and malondialdehyde (MDA), a lipid peroxidation breakdown product. However, the hydrogen water treatment significantly decreased the levels of these markers.

In the object recognition test, hydrogen water treatment (as compared to degassed water) prevented the decline or restored function in recognition and memory. The authors note, however, that the hydrogen water did not improve the cognitive ability when there was no stress.

After a 4-week restraint stress, the animals took longer to find a hidden platform in the Morris water maze, but “continuous consumption of hydrogen water shortened the time required for mice to reach the platform compared with stressed controls [that did not receive hydrogen in their water].”3

Most interesting, to us, was the beneficial effects of hydrogen water they reported for the proliferation of progenitor cells (part of the neurogenesis process). As shown in Fig. 4 in the paper,3 the animals receiving hydrogen water had significantly increased numbers of proliferating progenitor cells from the hippocampus, as determined by counting cells that were labeled with either BrdU or Ki-67 as markers of proliferation.


  1. Shimouchi et al. Breath hydrogen produced by ingestion of commercial hydrogen water and milk. Biomark Insights 4:27-32 (2009).
  2. Saitoh et al. Neutral pH hydrogen-enriched electrolyzed water achieves tumor-preferential clonal growth inhibition over normal cells and tumor invasion inhibition concurrently with intracellular oxidant repression. Oncol Res 17:247-55 (2008).
  3. Nagata et al. Consumption of molecular hydrogen prevents the stress-induced impairments in hippocampus-dependent learning tasks during chronic physical restraint in mice. Neuropsychopharmacology 34:501-8 (2009).

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