Why Big Antioxidants Harm

Meet Hydrogen- The Smallest, Safest Anti-Aging Antioxidant On The Planet

Why Big Antioxidants Harm. Healthy Living Magazine

Why Big Antioxidants Harm. Healthy Living Magazine

When antioxidants neutralize free radicals they do so by donating their electrons to the radical. But now those antioxidants are missing their electrons and could be harmful to the cell and act as a pro-oxidant. This requires the body to clear the used antioxidants by neutralizing them with other reducing compounds, metabolizing and/or excreting them.

In contrast, when molecular hydrogen acts as an antioxidant against hydroxyl radicals (*OH), the byproduct is simply water according to the reaction H2 + 2*OH → 2H2O.

Hydrogen gas is a unique antioxidant. The main things that determine bioavailability are the size (the smaller the better) and charge or polarity (nonpolar and neutral molecules can enter most easily). Hydrogen gas is the smallest and lightest molecule in the universe made of only two electrons and two protons. It weighs 88 times less than vitamin C and over 431 times less than CoQ10. It is also neutral and nonpolar, which allows it to easily pass through the cell membranes and subcellular compartments (e.g. mitochondria). Furthermore, hydrogen has the highest diffusion rate of all the gases allowing it to rapidly permeate into the cells.

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Moreover, hydrogen acts only as a selective antioxidant meaning it will only neutralize the most cytotoxic, or cell damaging, free radicals such as the hydroxyl radical (*OH). It will not react with beneficial signaling oxidants like hydrogen peroxide (H2O2), nitric oxide (NO*), superoxide (O2-), etc, which are required for cellular immunity, blood perfusion and signaling processes.

It exists as a tasteless, odorless and highly flammable gas with the chemical formula of H2. Other names include dihydrogen, diatomic hydrogen or just hydrogen gas. In order for antioxidants to be useful they need to reach the cellular locations that are being damaged by toxic radicals. Most radicals are formed inside of the mitochondria, which may be difficult for many conventional antioxidants to reach.

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cell-modulating effect

Interestingly, however, the antioxidant properties of hydrogen may not be sufficient to fully explain its effects. It has been reported that hydrogen also appears to modulate or upregulate various cell signaling pathways involving gene expression, second messenger systems and various signal transduction pathways. Indeed, pretreatment of hydrogen gas on cells, organs and animals exerts therapeutic effects hours after all the hydrogen gas has left the system. Perhaps most of hydrogen’s therapeutic effects are mediated via these non-radical scavenging mechanisms. This suggests even more that hydrogen gas is not a conventional antioxidant.

Loma Linda University in California reports that hydrogen has therapeutic potential for the top 8 of 10 fatal diseases as listed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 1975, a report from Baylor University and Texas A&M published in the prestigious journal Science, showed that hyperbaric hydrogen treatment strongly reduced melanoma tumor growth in mice. However, the biomedical research community did not take high interest in this paper, likely due to the impracticality of using hyperbaric hydrogen in a clinical setting. However, this changed a few decades later when it was demonstrated that inhalation of hydrogen gas at 2-4% or even drinking water that contained dissolved hydrogen gas could also be therapeutic.

In 2007, an article by professor Shigeo Ohta and colleagues from the Nippon Medical School in Kawasaki, Japan, reported in the premiere scientific journal Nature Medicine that molecular hydrogen could act as a selective antioxidant.

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Since this publication there have been upwards of 600 scientific articles that show hydrogen can exert therapeutic effects in essentially every organ of the human body and in 166 different human and animal disease models including arthritis, skin disorders, atherosclerosis, obesity, diabetes, COPD, exercise-induced fatigue and neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. Hydrogen’s protective effects are not unique to mammals (humans and animals) but extend to agricultural uses.

universe's smallest antioxidant

It is still unclear exactly how hydrogen exerts these therapeutic effects, but one of the mechanisms reported to date is hydrogen’s ability to act as a selective antioxidant for oxidative damage by free radicals. Free radicals and other reactive oxygen species are implicated in the pathogenesis of virtually every disease but are also required for normal cellular function and metabolism. There is a delicate balance between oxidants and antioxidants.


The safety of hydrogen gas in extremely high concentration is seen dating to the 1940s when H2 was used in deep sea diving for prevention of decompression sickness. These hundreds of studies on animals and humans over the decades have confirmed that hydrogen gas does not pose any chronic toxic effects to the human body. The recent animal and human studies on hydrogen’s therapeutic use also show its high safety profile. In rare cases, however, some people may notice increased bowel movement frequency, and diabetics a hypoglycemic effect due to hydrogen’s ability to lower blood sugar. Similarly, there are no known contraindications with other medications. However, some have noticed that they do not require as much medication when taking hydrogen and so it is recommended to monitor the levels.

diet synergy

It is also reported anecdotally that when hydrogen is consumed with other types of supplements and minerals there may be some sort of additive or synergistic effect between the two.


The research on molecular hydrogen is very new and more human studies need to be done in order to optimize dosing and to see for which diseases hydrogen is most effective. There are many ways to consume molecular hydrogen such as inhalation, oral ingestion of hydrogen-rich water and hydrogenproducing dietary supplement capsules. The route of oral ingestion is often just as effective and sometimes more effective than inhalation and is likely the easiest method for most

Many people taking the hydrogen-producing capsules, for example, often immediately report improved energy, alertness, recovery from exercise, reduction in pain and inflammation and better sleep.

Regardless of which method you choose, the most important thing is to make sure the hydrogen product does contain or produce hydrogen gas. Not all products are created equal and just because a product claims to have hydrogen or to be hydrogen-producing it either may not have it at all or may be found in very low levels.

Tyler LeBaron is founder and executive director of the Molecular Hydrogen Foundation, a nonprofit science-based organization focused on advancing the education, awareness, and research of hydrogen as a medical gas. For more information about hydrogen as a medical gas, visit www.molecularhydrogenfoundation.org

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