Comparing Hydrogen Water and Gas Technologies
As the Hydrogen Water movement is growing, many consumers are left confused. The first question is “doesn’t all water have hydrogen, and thus isn’t all water hydrogen water”. While all water contains “hydrogen”, that form of hydrogen is bound to oxygen to form a molecule of water. To simplify into two examples, consider that table salt is sodium chloride. Sodium, the elemental metal, is highly explosive and chlorine is a poisonous gas. Together they make simple table salt. Much the same hydrogen, while being part of water, is not the same as water. Hydrogen-rich water is simply water that has H2 gas added to it through one of many methods. This is similar to carbonated waters, or soda waters, having CO2 added.
Once this is established, many presume that all methods of making hydrogen water are equivalent, and those that do question it are left with the question of “what is the difference?”. Hydrogen water technologies vary dramatically in concentrations of H2 gas found in the water. Many marketers, including us, will often cite a “ppm” or “parts per million”, and while we make sure to mention the volume of water this is created in, and thus the dosage, many ignore this necessary piece of information. ppm is simply a concentration, and thus we cannot know the dosage of molecular hydrogen we are consuming without knowing the volume of water. The science-based non-profit Molecular Hydrogen Institute has a great write up. Without knowing the dosage we cannot conclude if we are receiving a therapeutic dosage of hydrogen water.
Is this all marketing, or are regulatory bodies involved?
While Hydrogen Water concentrations are not regulated by the USA government, in Japan where the market is larger than it is in North America, the consumer affairs department has already evaluated 19 products and warned the public of low levels of molecular hydrogen in many consumer products. Further, international hydrogen water and gas researchers have taken on the initiative to form the International Hydrogen Standards Association. This organization authorizes reputable certifying bodies to issue certifications according to the IHSA standards. They have already authorized an organization in Japan, and there will be a facility in China, Korea, and here in the USA sometime in 2019. The authorized certifying body will be examining dosage of the Hydrogen Water from methods submitted, based on consumption guidelines, as well as stability of the technology (does it break down right away), and will be issuing certifications for those meeting the minimum threshold observed in clinical studies to provide “some” therapeutic benefit. This is not to be confused with meeting a therapeutic dosage for all uses and issues/conditions or individuals, or for the highest therapeutic dose, but simply the lowest observed amount that may have any type of benefit.
Fear Mongering on Magnesium
Some companies, mostly Japanese based but one in particular in the USA (that ironically has what I consider to be on of the top few worst products on the market, falling below therapeutic dosages), have tried to create fear over the use of “chemicals” and “magnesium” to make hydrogen water. To be blunt everything is chemicals, and magnesium is the most deficient macro mineral in the North American diet. Japanese companies claim that it is not allowed in Japan, however that is only partially true and a matter of regulations not safety. Magnesium sticks, and even tablets, are freely sold in Japan as water additives. They are simply not regulated as health supplements. One of the companies in Japan pressing this narrative literally uses aluminum, which is highly toxic, to create H2. While they claim that no aluminum enters the water, the pH changes significantly which gives pause for consideration.
In the USA, our open cup tablets are the only legal hydrogen creating supplement on the market, having received an official No Objection from the FDA on NDI 1104 (New Dietary Ingredient). That said, other technologies may or may not be approved as either medical devices, or in the case of one ready-to-drink as a food or beverage with GRAS status.
As for the magnesium, one of the issues we have and will continue to have is the efficacy of the magnesium supplement we create. The bioavailability post reaction is several times greater than even the leading supplements on the market. This creates a unique challenge in properly controlling clinical trials, in differentiating benefits of the H2, and the Magnesium (even though the placebos are magnesium supplements at the same dose, they are not as bioavailable). We have a full article upcoming about why our tablets can claim benefit to all other trials on hydrogen water, but other technologies cannot legitimately claim like benefits to our trials, due to the combination of super saturated H2, the magnesium and the quasi dissolved nano bubbles.
Different Hydrogen Water Technologies
Hydrogen Tablets, Powders etc.
Certain manufacturers market hydrogen tablets and hydrogen creating capsules that “create H2 internally after swallowing”. These tablets and capsules are not legally distributed or regulated and have potential issues with both safety and efficacy. In fact, none of the makers of these technologies have notified the FDA, which is legally required. In my upcoming series “hydrogen tablets: origins” I detail how these came into existence (through failed efforts to make a water-soluble tablet).
The conundrum with this technology is a balance between safety and efficacy. For the tablets and capsules to be efficacious, a strong acid or base needs to be employed to aid in the reaction. When this is the case, there are associated risks with the exothermic nature of the reaction proceeding inside an individual’s body. The tablet/capsule could get stuck in an individual’s throat leading to burns, or lodged in the stomach leading to an ulcer. Many of these tablets use a large amount of alkaline minerals in conjunction with the actives needed for hydrogen creation, which would slow down and neutralize the reaction making the tablets far less effective at creating H2, making them less efficacious.
The issue with claimed dosage of these tablets is it relies purely on stoichiometry, assuming a full reaction takes place. This is unlikely to be the case with the high levels of non-soluble binders and lubricants used in most formulations, and the large amount of alkaline minerals. The H2 that is created will likely be created slowly, leading to a more continuous exposure of H2, not a high dose intermittent dosage, the latter of which we know to be more efficacious. In fact, as Tyler W. LeBaron, Executive Director of the Molecular Hydrogen Institute states in my conversation with him here at around the 44 minute mark.
“Tyler: ... was not effective at all. Which we have seen in other ... A lot of that data's not even published. We just know that continuous exposure of hydrogen isn't very effective. “
Some tablets recommend sealing in a container over time. This method utilizes Henry’s Law to force more dissolved H2 into the water with increased pressure. While tablets we at Drink HRW manufacture will also work in a sealed container in this way (and even better, yielding higher H2 quicker), the “sealed container hydrogen tablets” do not work in an open cup.
Additionally, the manufacturer of these “sealed container hydrogen tablets” that private labels to a handful of different brands has never established safety in their process and submitted to the FDA, does not have any clinical work validating the efficacy of their method and observationally yields significantly variable results in H2 and performance. In fact, one CoA we have in our possession from these tablets a couple years ago shows concerning amounts of lead- well over double what is allowable under California Prop 65.
While I personally believe this technology was perhaps the premier on the market a few years ago, right now it has fallen beyond and is virtually obsolete.
Powders and Stick packs
These products are not common, and not widely distributed. While they could potentially work to create high levels of H2 in an open cup or sealed bottle, the products I have personally tested on the market fall short of expectations (while they could theoretically reach high levels, not as high in an open container as open cup tablets for some very important reasons concerning the reaction and dissolution kinetics.)
The major issue with these technologies is safety, but not in the way a consumer would need to consider. Safety in manufacturing and safety in distribution. In understanding manufacturing, I rate it as nearly impossible these products are OSHA compliant, and they are violating some very serious regulations with the FAA and DoT. While a single stick pack or jug is likely innocuous for consumers, this is a major issue with their logistics. We have declined numerous requests to make these products for companies for these exact reasons.
The open cup tablets are in my biased opinion (I invented them) the top
H2 technology on the market. Aside from my own opinion, the research teams seem to concur. In 28 months since launching we now have 4 finished clinical trials, and 5 more underway from multiple different research organizations. Even Tyler W. LeBaron, despite consulting for, and for remuneration being listed as an “inventor” (not owner), of the now rejected patent-application for the sealed-container hydrogen tablet, used our H2 technology for his clinical trial on exercise performance of which he was lead author (see here.)
The open cup tablets create a unique mix of super-saturated water (tested with sensitive gas probes at the University of Beijing by researchers during an H2 conference), a relatively stable cloud of quasi-dissolved gas, described here and free magnesium ions in the water. By nature of the reaction we have designed, the Mg and the H2O react, with help of the acids, and split the hydrogen off the water. The oxygen bonds with the magnesium to create magnesium hydroxide. Hydroxide being a function of pH is then neutralized by our remaining buffering acids, leaving free magnesium ions in the water. This makes it arguably the most bioavailable and effective magnesium supplement on the market.
Between the dissolved (2.5-3 ppm or mg/L) and quasi-dissolved H2, we deliver a dosage of upwards of 10 ppm, or 10 mg/L in 500 mL of water. This is 5 mg of H2, the highest dosage in any technology in the world. The concentration is upwards of 100x other technologies, and 6-7x the saturation limit.
Testing for the quasi dissolved H2 (and even super saturated H2) is quite difficult, and takes very careful preparation and testing procedures. You can view our videos of the test, and instructions, here.
Be sure to use H2Blue Ethanol, as the “Eco” formula is not accurate to measure the quasi-nano-dissolved gas as described here.
We have an upcoming article about “how to test for hydrogen water”, which will explain what each device or reagent does, and why they are accurate or inaccurate in different situations.
Hydrogen water creating water ionizers
Ionizers, counter top constant flow
Water ionizers are widely available and have been since before we recognized molecular hydrogen as the therapeutic agent in these machines. Many ionizers have attempted to ignore the hydrogen water revelation, continuing to spout pseudoscience about pH, -ORP or structuring of water, even going as far as to attack hydrogen water claims, while others have simply modified marketing to claim to be hydrogen water creating units despite not adjusting their technology to optimize it.
Ionizers rely on proper source water for conductivity in the process of electrolysis. Some water sources provide inadequate levels of TDS (total dissolved solids) to create meaningful amounts of H2. Conversely, most ionizers do not employ safeguards against scaling of the plates with calcification build up. This leads to ionizers becoming irreparably ruined for dissolving H2. While they will still create large volumes of H2 gas, the bubbles created will be large and will have incredibly poor functionality in terms of dissolution kinetics. This will lead to all the gas escaping from the water before you can consume it. In fact, as detailed repeatedly in interviews and in my upcoming origins story, I originally bought an ionizer for over $4000 and found that it did not dissolve any H2.
When ionizers DO work, they typically pump out 0.1-1 mg/L at the highest level, although it can be higher but then the pH is harmfully approaching 12, and cost thousands. Our open cup tablets generate 10 to 100x the concentrations they are capable. Although they do have some other useful features, all of their feature are outperformed by other technologies, which are usually much cheaper. For instance, they typically use standard carbon filters, where RO from units such as the AquaTru we carry is both cheaper, and far more effective.
These units vary greatly in efficacy. Some can contaminate water with by products in the reaction as they are not filtering out chemicals such as chlorine, and they vary dramatically in quality of design. Some units may create high levels of H2 in the first few uses, then degrade and be basically garbage within a few days. This is why the IHSA requires the authorized certifying bodies to conduct stress tests on these units to determine how long they will create H2.
While there are no models I personally would recommend, some are orders of magnitude better than others. Since they are in a closed system the levels of H2 can potentially be far greater than the counter top units, however other considerations such as durability and contaminants needs to be carefully considered.
Perhaps this is a “get what you pay for” situation, where there are incredibly inexpensive models that may be hazardous, and may only last a few uses.
PEM (proton exchange membranes) or “Hydrogen Infusion Machines”, constant flow
These machines came out a few years back to a lot of excitement, as they delivered neutral hydrogen water without the need for a specific TDS in the source. They’re cheaper than ionizers, but have been fairly underwhelming in effectiveness. They tend to deliver similar levels of H2 to the better ionizers, ~1ppm or so, while also costing in the $2000 range. The lifetime of these products is still unknown, being relatively new on the market.
“Natural stones” ionizers
There are some “machines” that claim to be “natural ionizers” which flow water over “natural alkaline stones”. These products use a reactive metal of some sort, typically magnesium like used in the tablet, and deliver relatively low and sporadic amounts of H2. They’re cheaper than electric ionizers, however the replacement and service costs are higher as the method in which they generate H2 is “consumable”. This would put them in a similar category as tablets, with far less performance.
Ionizer + HIM batch systems
Perhaps the only systems I can understand an argument over tablets are high-dose batch systems that generate 3-5 mg/L of H2, and only for large families or sports teams consuming very high levels. Like some of the other machines, we do not yet know how long these machines will continue to function, so a large investment when considered over a family and decades may not be so simple. In fact, many consumer reports are coming out that the machines costing upwards of $10,000 stop making adequate levels of H2 within the first year, with many even stating they have bacterial and mold build ups from improper filtration and cleaning functions. These machines cost upwards of $10,000, produce lower H2 than the tablets (and need time to prepare), and do not give the added magnesium benefit. That said, they are “the best of the rest” in my opinion, and if the open-cup hydrogen tablets did not exist I would invest in one of these units. The batch systems range in performance, with some at between 1.5-2 mg/L and some ranging as high as 5-7 mg/L.
Like some of the other machines, we do not yet know how long these machines will continue to function, so a large investment when considered over a family and decades may not be so simple.
There are a few technologies and DIY methods that utilize magnesium sticks, or sticks containing magnesium with a casing, or a cartridge full of reactive ingredients such as aluminum. All are able to achieve relatively high concentrations of hydrogen water, however they all have significant draw backs.
Magnesium sticks, commercial
These sticks are typically less effective than the DIY sticks, more expensive and create more waste due to the cartridges. I do not recommend them for any reason.
Magnesium sticks, DIY
Coincidentally, I was active in giving advice, extreme cautions and in full communication with two of the first individuals practicing DIY magnesium sticks to make hydrogen water. The one has since posted a YouTube video garnering a large number of views, and I am concerned that some of my cautions were not heeded.
While there are methods to create high concentrations of hydrogen water using a magnesium rod, there are some potential hazards and concerns:
- It is impossible to regulate the volume of magnesium one is consuming. In fact, one of the individuals I counseled, and warned of this, was displaying symptoms of hypermagnesia. Upon calculating mass lost from the rods, he was consuming several times above the RDA of magnesium.
- Since the “cap” on Mg that can react is much higher than we ever need to consider in these rods, there is no upper limit to pressure build up. This creates a dangerous situation where pressure can continue building until a container explodes. Potential hazards include shrapnel from exploding bottles, especially glass, or projectiles launched at dangerous speeds, especially from steel bottles. I’ve heard anecdotally of individuals “punching themselves in the face” when unsealing locked steel gasketed bottles that have built tremendous pressure.
- Purity. While most of these rods claim high levels of purity, many of them are coming from China. I have personally tested magnesium from China claiming to be of high purity and found hazardous levels of heavy metals. While this is not always the case, and many products from China are of a very high standard, in this case it is a particular concern. Magnesium is not allowed for export, and thus any Chinese distributor shipping it out is already demonstrating they are willing to break the law and forge documents. If they are willing to forge export documents, are they willing to forge CoAs? I do not know, but it is a concern. With our open cup tablets, we procure our magnesium from a N. American source and every lot is tested for heavy metals and we are always below levels deemed safe by the FDA, California Prop 65 and even Pharmaceutical standards (we are using Pharma grade magnesium), and we routinely test for a full panel of other metals.
- Magnesium is a HAZMAT item. Extreme care and caution needs to be utilized for safe handling. In just the last year, 3 Engineering students at the University of Beijing died due to negligence in handling and a massive fire took out a facility in Michigan, also due to negligence.
Manufacturing protocols are incredibly sensitive and the utmost safety and precaution needs to be taken. We have a 27 step SOP just for mixing the powder, that is strictly adhered to. Unless the individual is highly trained, and aware in the dangers across numerous considerations, this should not be undertaken.
Some companies, primarily in Japan, market a cartridge that creates very high levels of dissolved H2. In fact, some tests will get these cartridges up to 10 mg/L, levels observed only with the open cup tablets and this method. While this is absolutely a phenomenal dosage of molecular hydrogen, the process does take hours in a sealed container, and then needs shaking prior to opening. On top of this, the cost is typically high at around $4/cartridge, and I personally have concerns regarding the use of metal aluminum.
Ready to Drink Hydrogen Water
There are several types of ready-to-drink hydrogen water on the market, with varying levels of concentration and dosage. Most of them are largely ineffective, expensive, and contribute significantly to water and consumable waste.
These pouches often claim high levels, or at least saturation, of H2. Upon actual testing they fall far below. While they claim to be aluminum pouches for greatest retention, and usually are, the majority rely on a plastic cap which completely defeats the purpose of the aluminum. I have tested several “pouched products” and tend to measure between 0.4 to 0.8 mg/L (ppm) of H2. This is a relatively low dose, around the minimum threshold to be therapeutic, if you drink 1 L of the water- preferably at once. These pouches are several dollars each, and are in sizes of 200-250 mL, meaning you would need to consumer 4-5 all at once.
Cans have some shortcomings. First off, even if they are filled at or above saturation, the H2 will start to dissipate into the head space and lower the level initially dissolved. If no head space is allowed, then the product will not be consumer friendly and will splash all over consumers upon opening. I have IP on solving these issues, and have developed numerous prototype RTD hydrogen-water products which greatly surpass what is on the market, however I believe the market to be too nascent for RTD products, with the tablets being superior in virtually every way, cheaper and contributing less material and water waste.
While there is one hydrogen water in an aluminum can which reaches adequate dosages and concentrations, the price is higher and the dosage is far lower than the open cup tablets. Others make false claims on H2 concentration, including one company that seemingly doesn’t understand gas chemistry selling a RTD hydrogen water in a can with H2 and CO2 combined. They use such a high concentration of CO2 that upon opening the can, the CO2 quickly sparges out the H2 gas, and readings have been as low 0.1 mg/L within seconds of opening the can. This could be solved if they used a lower CO2 level, but it appears that the high level of CO2 is this companies only option to producing H2, which puts them between a rock and a hard place.
Many marketers of inhalation devices claim that inhalation delivers the most H2, far more than drinking water. While this is true in terms of pure volume, it is incredibly misleading and intellectually dishonest. Hydrogen Gas requires a FAR larger volume to illicit similar responses as consumption of water. In this review, researchers indicate that inhalation requires perhaps 100x higher volume of gas than drinking water:
On top of this, Hydrogen water has shown to be effective in cases where even high dose intermittent gas has not, such as this comparative study in rodents on a model for Parkinson’s disease:
This is corroborated by a study showing no benefit in PD with inhalation, where one with water showed a benefit
(there is a third study on water, which although no results, the placebo group was accidentally being administered hydrogen water also and both groups saw a tremendous improvement over what would be expected over the timeframe. A 4th human trial on PD, 70 participants for 52 weeks, is currently being conducted using our tablets at a large research facility in the USA)
Getting that out of the way, let’s compare a “comparative” dosage from the open cup tablets to inhalation methods:
our tab creates about 80 mL of H2 and 90% is retained in the cloud when drank quickly, so 72 mL but we can say 70 mL for simplicity
A popular 7% model at 1L/min flow rate produces 70mL per minute
That means 1 min of inhalation is the same dosage as 1 tab, HOWEVER, administration method is important and as stated in Dr Ohno’s review paper, cited above, that roughly 100x the volume of H2 for gas inhalation is needed as compared to in water, meaning that 100 min of inhalation would potentially deliver a similar benefit as 1 tablet.
That is also not considering that 100 min would be a low dose/continuous exposure vs the open cup hydrogen tablets being a more effective high dose intermittent.
Then we need to consider that the model mentioned above is thousands of dollars, and delivering a concentration of H2 which is flammable and explosive. Some devices deliver 66.67% H2 (33.33% O2) for inhalation, which could be very unsafe and hazardous regarding explosion and fire risks. Units that fall below the threshold of 4.6% H2 or above 75% are not flammable or explosive while in the tube, but could be if accumulated and would also need to assure a higher output per minute, or a longer duration to be effective
None of the inhalation units come with the benefit of the highly bioavailable magnesium, nor do they create the habit of drinking more water. That said, inhalation can be an effective administration method, especially for those that are incapacitated and cannot consume enough water. This is why many studies use inhaled H2, and it is approved in Japanese hospitals for post acute and debilitating events such as stroke and cardiac arrest.
While I am currently skeptical of inhalation devices on the market for the reasons stated above, I am actively looking for the “right” unit to enter production so that I can offer it to my customers. I just haven’t found one that meets my criteria, yet.