The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 17 No. 9 • October 2014


New Review Paper1 Provides Update on Hydrogen for
Hard to Treat Inflammatory Conditions

We continue here our series on trends in the use of hydrogen as a medical therapy as provided by inhalation, dissolved in water, or as generated by gut microbes that release hydrogen from fermentable dietary fibers (such as long chain oligofructose — inulin). For extensive background on the earlier research we described on hydrogen therapy, see [See “Hydrogen Therapy: The Emergence of A New Field of Medicine and How You Can Benefit From It Right Now” in the June 2012 issue of Life Enhancement].

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a good example of a chronic inflammatory condition that is difficult to treat. About 1% of the population is thought to have this disease and its frequent accompaniment by rapidly progressive atherosclerosis makes it even more serious. Interestingly, this associated atherosclerosis is not necessarily linked to the usual risk factors, such as high serum cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes. But what it is linked with is chronic inflammation, oxidative stress, and autoimmunity.

The chronic inflammation involved in RA is associated with ROS (reactive oxygen species) such as superoxide, hydrogen peroxide, hydroxyl radicals, and peroxynitrite (a powerful oxidant formed from the reaction of nitric oxide and superoxide). Hydrogen is particularly effective in scavenging hydroxyl radicals, the most damaging type of radical, and peroxynitrite.1 Hydroxyl radicals may be responsible for a majority of toxicity associated with ROS because of its rapid reactivity and indiscriminate targeting of macromolecules2 and is believed to be the source of most of the damage (to DNA and other macromolecules) resulting from radiation.

Whereas antioxidants can frequently react with radicals to reduce their toxicity, this often results in the creation of another radical, less toxic than the original radical but still able to cause some damage. A distinct advantage of hydrogen as an antioxidant is that it reacts with the hydroxyl radical and detoxifies it WITHOUT forming other potentially harmful radicals.1

One study described in the review paper was the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with a high concentration of hydrogen in water (4–5 ppm) in patients early in the course of the disease.3 Drinking 500 ml of this water daily for four weeks effectively reduced oxidative stress as well as improving patient disease condition.

In a gene expression array analysis,4 hydrogen caused an upregulation of 548 and downregulation of 695 genes in rat liver. The authors of the review paper1 note that these results may indicate that a large number of small effects on gene function can have a large overall effect in a disease phenotype.

Hydrogen produced by fermentation of fiber in the colon is one of the reasons that a high fiber diet is healthful — it acts as an effective time-release source of hydrogen. One of the big — and undesirable — changes in our modern diet compared to that of our ancestors is a major reduction in fermentable fiber.


  1. Ishibashi. Molecular hydrogen: new antioxidant and anti-inflammatory therapy for rheumatoid arthritis and related diseases. Curr Pharm Des. 19:6375–81 (2013).
  2. Candeias, Patel, et al. Free hydroxyl radicals are formed on reaction between the neutrophil-derived species superoxide anion and hypochlorous acid. FEBS Lett. 333:151–3 (1993).
  3. Ishibashi, Sato, Rikitake, et al. Consumption of water containing a high concentration of molecular hydrogen reduces oxidative stress and disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, an open-label pilot study. Med Gas Res. 2:27 (2012).
  4. Nakai, Sato, Ushiama, et al. Hepatic oxidoreduction-related genes are upregulated by administration of hydrogen-saturated drinking water. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 75:774–6 (2011).

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