Since Dr Shigeo Ohta’s ground-breaking research was published in Nature Medicine in 2007, hydrogen therapy has gained international recognition for its potential to counter the negative impact of oxidative stress. Persistent oxidative stress is one of the major causes of many lifestyle-related diseases, cancer and the ageing process. The impact of oxidative stress takes many forms. It causes cell damage leading to wrinkles, skin blemishes, cataracts and ulcers. It also causes blood vessel damage and impairs the immune system leading to cancer, arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and dementia.
What is oxidative stress and what causes it?
Oxygen molecules exist in different forms, which each contain different properties. The commonest and most stable form of oxygen is made up of two oxygen atoms (O2); this is the oxygen that gives us life and energy when we breathe. Molecular oxygen can also occur as a single atom (O). These single, unbound oxygen atoms are known as free radicals, and it is the oxygen free radicals that cause oxidative stress.
Research studies carried out in Japan and other parts of the world suggest that hydrogen therapy (inhaling a safe and inert hydrogen gas mixed with oxygen) may counteract the effects of oxidative stress. Like oxygen, hydrogen commonly occurs as molecules consisting of a pair of atoms (H2). So, when two atoms of hydrogen collide with the oxygen free radical they combine to form water (H2O). In this simple way hydrogen neutralises noxious free radicals, which are passed from the body as water.
Causes of oxidative stress
- Processed food
- Chemicals (medicine, pesticides)
- Ultraviolet rays from the sun
- Environmental Pollution
- Strenuous exercise
- Daily exposure to stress
Hydrogen therapy and oxidative stress
Since the beneficial effects of hydrogen inhalation were first disclosed in Nature Medicine in 2007, more than 2,000 scientific studies have been published. According to studies, the beneficial effects of hydrogen therapy may include:
Reducing oxidation in the liver, which helps the body to
process and eliminate fat more efficiently
- Significantly reducing wrinkles
- Supporting treatment of diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis
- Suppressing cancer tumour growth
- Stimulating energy metabolism
- Regulating gene expression
- Suppressing brain damage
- Improving eye health
- Improving mental disorders, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, eating disorders, poor social interaction and addictive behaviours
For athletes, hydrogen therapy may reduce exercise-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. It may also enhance performance. Hydrogen therapy may improve the quality of life among healthy individuals.
1 Hydrogen acts as a therapeutic antioxidant by selectively reducing cytotoxic oxygen radicals. Ohsawa I, Ishikawa M, Takahashi K, Watanabe M, Nishimaki K, Yamagata K, Katsura K, Katayama Y, Asoh S, Ohta S. Nat Med. 2007 Jun;13(6):688-94. Epub 2007 May 7