Hydrogen and Brain Function
Brain function can be impacted by numerous things throughout life. Studies show that hydrogen not only offers benefits to your whole body, but can be particularly helpful for keeping your brain sharp. Here’s what makes hydrogen such a good addition to your brain health routine.
Hydrogen as an Antioxidant
Molecular hydrogen (H₂) is a known antioxidant. While some is made within your body by intestinal bacteria, research has demonstrated that consuming even a small amount in supplemental form has substantially larger impacts on health.
One reason for this is that hydrogen helps your cells defend themselves against oxidative damage that can lead to disease. We are constantly being exposed to compounds called free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) from internal and external triggers.
Arming your cells with extra hydrogen helps them to better fight off stressors. This can have especially beneficial effects when it comes to the health and function of your brain.
Protects Brain Function
The antioxidative effects of hydrogen have been seen in a number of studies, both through inhaled hydrogen gas and supplemental hydrogen-rich water (HRW).
For example, in a 2013 study, rats who were given hydrogen gas via spontaneous inhalation were protected against brain damage following collagenase-induced intracerebral hemorrhage. The control group, on the other hand, experienced blood-brain barrier disruption, brain edema, and neurologic deficits.
In a 2016 study, researchers found that a hydrogen-rich saline solution was effective in preventing early brain injury from subarachnoid hemorrhage in rats. The authors concluded that this was likely because of hydrogen’s targeted role in inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammatory response, which has been demonstrated in other studies as well.
A similar study done the same year found that a daily injection of HRW was effective in preventing brain damage and reducing inflammation among rats following traumatic brain injury (TBI). While the control group saw increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier, brain edema, and neurological dysfunction, rats who received HRW did not. The HRW also significantly reduced pro-inflammatory cytokines and other inflammatory biomarkers. This could be a potential therapeutic agent for humans who have experienced a TBI.
Some human studies have also been conducted. A pilot trial done in 2013 divided 17 Japanese patients with Parkinson’s disease, and being treated with levodopa, into two groups. They either received 1,000 mL/day of HRW or regular water for a period of 48 weeks.
Using the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), the authors were able to confirm that the HRW patients experienced significant cognitive improvement, whereas the placebo group experienced worsened brain function. The authors went on to conduct a clinical trial from 2013-2017 piggybacking on this study, to determine whether HRW could improve specific PD symptoms, but the results appear to be unpublished.
May Improve Mood
Not only can hydrogen help protect the integrity and function of your brain cells, some research also suggests that it can help improve mood.
In a 2018 study among 26 adults, researchers found that drinking 600 mL of HRW per day for 4 weeks could improve quality of life. This appears to be due to the effects of HRW on central nervous system functions related to mood, anxiety, and autonomic nerve function.
Another 2018 study using mice found that not only could molecular hydrogen help alleviate physical effects of TBI, but may also be a strong therapeutic method for treating social deficits and depression-like behavior that often result from TBI.
Molecular hydrogen has strong antioxidant effects throughout the body, but seems to especially target the integrity and function of the brain. Adding H2 to your health routine may help keep your cognitive function sharp, your brain cells strong, and even boost your mood.