In this fascinating episode, I’m speaking with inventor and researcher Alex Tarnava, who developed the first effective-dose molecular hydrogen supplement to address a crippling mystery illness that suddenly destroyed his once highly active life.
Our conversation reveals how initially skeptical we both were about the effectiveness of molecular hydrogen!
While I’m extremely excited to offer Molecular Hydrogen, now available on the new Human Optimization site, it took me over 10 years, hundreds of research studies, and eventually experiencing the benefits myself to become a believer and trust the effects enough to offer this unique compound to you.
Table of Contents
In this podcast, Alex and I discuss:
- Why hydrogen is not just some new gimmick, but actually a beneficial molecule that’s been part of our evolution for billions of years and why it’s crucial we have enough
- The close links between a fiber-rich diet and hydrogen…do we really need to take hydrogen as a supplement? (Who stands to benefit most).
- How microbial imbalances might make you a prime candidate for supplemental hydrogen, especially if you’re middle-aged and overweight
- The compelling way that supplemental hydrogen is like “exercise for your mitochondria,” and all you have to do is drink it!
- Why all the stuff you’ve heard about “free radicals being bad and antioxidants being good” is wrong. And why excessive external antioxidants are harmful.
- Why hydrogen is not really a direct “antioxidant” but actually works as something far more powerful — a master antioxidant and anti-inflammatory…it’s properties go way beyond berries, beta carotene, or even glutathione
- How molecular hydrogen adapts to the needs of individual organs and cells, helping to reverse metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance, combat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, increase weight loss, improve brain metabolism, reduce pain, increase athletic performance, speed up recovery, and so much more…
- Why many professional athletes are now using molecular hydrogen as a way to supercharge their training and recover faster than their competitors
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Ari: Alex, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for coming on.
Alex: Yes, no problem. Happy to be here.
What is Hydrogen?
Ari: Let me start off by saying I have been aware of hydrogen tablets for many years. Maybe 10-ish years at this point is when I first started seeing some of the studies on this. To be honest, I was very skeptical. I thought, “Oh, this sounds hokey. Maybe this is more like some of this clustered water, structured water stuff that never really pans out, the alkaline water stuff.” I was seeing hydrogen water. What does that even mean? Water is already H2O. There’s already a lot of hydrogen in there. What is this hydrogen stuff all about? Then I, over the years, started seeing more and more studies. Eventually, I got curious enough that I wanted to really look into it. Eventually, I got curious enough, once I saw so much positive research, to actually start trying it. Then when I noticed benefits from it, and in general, I should say the vast majority of supplements you don’t notice, and certainly, I don’t notice any benefits from, where you can actually feel and discern subjectively, okay, this is clearly a benefit. This is not just the placebo effect, because most of the supplements I try, I’m trying with skepticism.
Anyway, I’m not going into it as a believer thinking, “Oh, this is going to be an amazing magic pill.” I’m very, after 20-plus years of taking tens of thousands of dollars of supplements, I’m very used to being able to discern the placebo effect from the actual effect. The majority of supplements, as I said, don’t have actual effects that you can subjectively feel. This one did. I became very impressed with it. I started buying it for my friends and family, asking them to try it and seeing what benefits they noticed.
I became more and more impressed with it enough to the point where I found you and now have my own molecular hydrogen tablets that you are the inventor of that I’m selling under my brand at this point. That’s how impressed I’ve been with this, but it’s been a 10-year process. Let me start by asking you, what is hydrogen? What is this hydrogen water stuff all about?
Alex: Sure. I’ll just comment, your skepticism is well-founded. There’s no shortage of magic waters and bogus claims and scans regarding water. The important thing to realize is the water part, the water is just a delivery to get the hydrogen gas, right? Hydrogen water is water that has H2 gas dissolved into it. Now, think of it like sparkling water, but instead of the CO2, the carbonation is hydrogen, right? The reason that we dissolve hydrogen in water is because by getting it in the water, it gets it into our gut to interact with our microbiome and gets it to our liver.
This is really important because you can also inhale hydrogen gas, but it’s shown to have different, pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. It goes to different tissues in different ways. Inhaling the gas can be really good for some instances, but some of the most important benefits that we get from hydrogen gas, it has to get to our internal organs in our gut, which inhaling doesn’t do. That’s one of the most important things to know and why we’re putting it in the water and delivering it by water. It’s just an effective delivery method to get the gas itself into our gut and our internal organs.
Now, why hydrogen is important, we have to go to the very beginning before even mitochondria to understand this. Our mitochondria evolved from something called eukaryotes, right? Those first eukaryotes actually expelled hydrogen gas as a waste product. Before that, the eukaryotes formed as a symbiotic relationship between two organelles. One was a bacteria that actually consumed hydrogen as its fuel.
Hydrogen has been with us, been with our mitochondria since before mitochondria even existed. Now, throughout the last couple billion years, there has been vastly different levels of hydrogen gas in the atmosphere and the water. For instance, the oldest water that has ever been found deep beneath the Canadian Shield still has detectable levels of hydrogen gas in it.
Now, none of the water does anymore unless there’s thermal venting going on that gets the hydrogen there. That’s another interesting anecdote. The most important thing about why we’re deficient in hydrogen and why it’s important to take exogenously is throughout all of human evolution, we would have consumed well over 100 grams of fiber per day. Now, we produce hydrogen gas endogenously by fermenting fiber. Today, the average person gets 14 grams of fiber a day. We’re getting a fraction of the fiber needed for new state to endogenously to get to our internal organs as we have throughout all of evolution.
What makes matters worse is because of these lifestyle changes, our microbiome has drastically changed, right? When we actually do hydrogen breath tests, we give someone a fiber like lactulose and do a hydrogen breath test.
How gut dysbiosis can affect the body’s natural H2 stores
Research indicates that upwards between 60 to 80% of people, depending on the study, especially those who are middle-aged and overweight, use no hydrogen gas at all. They’re fermenting the fiber and producing methane.
Ari: Repeat that again, especially which demographic of people?
Alex: Middle-aged, overweight. Middle-aged and older and overweight. If you’re hitting your 30s and you’re overweight, you may not produce any hydrogen even when you get fiber.
Ari: Even if they take the fiber, they’re still not producing it because I would imagine dysbiosis in the gut. They don’t have those hydrogen-producing species in abundant enough numbers.
Alex: Exactly. Because a healthy microbiome relies on this act and flow of H2. A lot of the bacteria produce hydrogen through this, fermenting fiber and other bacteria is consuming hydrogen. This dysbiosis can go either way. some people can get sick because they’re just producing crazy amounts of hydrogen all the time, way more than you could ever take, as a supplement. Other people produce no hydrogen at all. Now, what we’re learning about hydrogen is it plays some very important roles in your body. One, it’s an adapted stressor.
Similar to exercise, cold exposure, fasting, heat exposure, we’ve anticipated to expect some spikes of H2 in our cell. H2 saturates our cells and then goes down. It’s basically like exercise for our mitochondria, something called the mitohormetic factor. It stresses up the cell for a very short amount of time. Our mitochondria gets stronger, it produces more mitochondria, it improves the performance of the mitochondria we already have, and it leads to positive cellular adaptations.
For instance, hydrogen has shown to positively impact like over 10,000 gene expressions. It’s shown positive impacts in every organ in the body across about 180 different, disease and non-disease models, through over 2,000 publications. I think about 170 clinical trials to date. The evidence is getting very strong. If I could boil down what hydrogen seems to do the best, it seems to be our master regulator for stress response.
For instance, most of the research, a lot of the research, a lot of the marketing talks about hydrogen as like, an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory, but it isn’t. It regulates our production of antioxidants and also beneficial pro-oxidative and nitrogen stressors. This leads to something called redox homeostasis. It’s the harmony between, our oxidative stress and our antioxidants because you can go into reductive stress too by too many antioxidants, right? That’s just as harmful as oxidative stress.
How hydrogen is a part of our biological evolution
Ari: This is a good entry point. You’re addressing a lot of stuff that I intended to ask you about, so you’re jumping ahead of how I intended this to go, but it’s great. Let’s come back. Let’s circle back to some of these ideas that you just mentioned with some additional layers and additional framing. Number one, I want to touch on this evolutionary lens. This is incredibly important in my view. Human health can only be properly understood in an evolutionary context.
Everybody who’s trying to look at human health, even if you’ve got a mountain of knowledge of biochemistry and all the intricate mechanisms of this does what and has this and this effect, in my opinion, it’s people fumbling in the dark, tinkering with a system they don’t understand unless you are understanding things through an evolutionary lens. This is why, as a just simple fact, over decades, we’ve invested trillions of dollars to the world’s smartest medical scientists, pharmaceutical scientists, to develop molecules to synthesize synthetic chemicals that are designed to target disease. We have a mountain of research on all the mechanisms of all these specific diseases from atherosclerosis to stroke, to fatty liver, to dementia, and Alzheimer’s to diabetes. We’ve synthesized millions of synthetic chemicals that are designed with the explicit intention to target these mechanisms of diseases.
19,000 of which have been gone on to full FDA approval and somehow, despite decades and trillions of dollars by all the world’s medical and pharmaceutical scientists, we don’t have a single drug in existence of all those millions of drug candidates and 19,000 that have been approved. Not a single one has been proven such that you can give it to a healthy human being and it will reliably make them healthier, such that it will extend their lifespan and the benefits of that drug will outweigh the harms. We don’t have one drug that fits that.
The reason why, in my view, is because we are trying to synthesize drugs outside of the context of any evolutionary paradigm. We’re not looking at human health and disease prevention through an evolutionary lens where we’re doing things that are compatible with human biology and our evolutionary design. We have decades of all this knowledge, yet exercise is a vastly more powerful disease-preventative drug than any of those 19,000 drugs.
My point here is evolutionary context is the only intelligent way to look at human health. With that said, I love that you brought in this question because you remember in our first conversation on the phone, this is what I asked you. Help me understand how taking this hydrogen stuff makes any kind of evolutionary sense because that’s how I filter stuff through.
If it doesn’t make evolutionary sense, it’s probably not going to turn out to be beneficial, and it’s probably going to turn out to have side effects that are really undesirable. That’s why this evolutionary lens matters. Now, you brought in this evolutionary lens right at the beginning of this conversation saying, hydrogen is natural. This is natural to our species. We are designed to get this stuff. Not only are we designed to get it externally from our environment, but we are designed to produce it internally.
Alex: We’re getting neither now.
Alex: For the most part but we’re [unintelligible 00:12:27] internally and done externally.
Ari: Exactly. Even from this evolutionary paradigm, okay, now if we know that it’s supposed to be produced by our microbiome, we can go, “Okay, well then we just need to eat more fiber.” That’s really addressing the root cause but there’s this huge subset of people a majority of the population that I think it’s around 70% or 80% of the population that’s either overweight or obese. Then as a result of that is going to have dysbiosis of their gut. Now they’re in, we have the majority of the population that has a deficiency in hydrogen as a result of not being able to produce enough internally.
Alex: I don’t want to point out too that it might not be easy to solve this just by opting it fiber. I consume between 50 to 70 grams of fiber per day. The more I’ve learned about this over the years, I didn’t use to until I started learning about how we evolved with fiber and how important it was. With my knowledge and a plan to slowly increase my fiber, I was still sick for two to three months before my body got used to that kind of fiber. It did.
Most people are not going to go through that. They’re not going to go through stabbing pains in their stomach and fatigue and all sorts of things by rapidly increasing the fiber over a few month period of time. I’m glad I did it. It cured a lot of the issues that happened with the gut, which is a big reason I got into hydrogen in the first place because of basically a mystery unless it happened and ended up with all these health issues.
I had a mystery virus put on heavy NSAIDs, which gave me ulcers. I basically had to stop competing in sports and just wreaked havoc on my body. All the drugs that I’ve been given to repair my stomach did not work, did not help at all, but hydrogen was helping a little bit and then by increasing fiber, I basically cured it with that one too in a few months, but it was a few months of hell. I want to put it that way. To scale from 10, 15 grams of fiber a day to 70 that is just heavy.
Health benefits of hydrogen
Ari: Well actually, maybe we’ll circle back to this question of antioxidants and the mechanisms by which it works. Let’s go deeper into the benefits side of hydrogen. One of the things that you did after we spoke for the first time is you sent me a document with links to a lot of studies, including some that haven’t even yet been published and on all these amazing different benefits of hydrogen.
It’s really astounding when you actually look at what this stuff can do to human health. Which is again, why I went in and created my own supplement which you’re the inventor of those tablets. It’s truly impressive. Give people a rundown of what the benefits are, how they should think of what this stuff is doing in their body, in terms of practical benefits, not mechanisms, but on a real-world practical level, what am I going to get if I take this supplement?
Alex: It really depends on the person. Hydrogen, you can call it a smart molecule because it seems to regulate our response to stress and there’s all sorts of variant stress. For instance, if you put a hydrogen-rich medium on a completely healthy cell, you observe no changes. Now if you artificially damage that cell, then you see all these protective effects coming into play to reverse the damage and what changes depends on what type of damage you introduce.
For instance, we in our clinical research, and these are some of our claims that we can make, we have something called a crash report, which is careful and reliable scientific evidence and it was done by four independent spurt professors in the field who reviewed all of our direct evidence and all the supporting evidence and issued these 21 claims, which is massive.
We’ve reversed metabolic syndrome, for instance, in people with metabolic syndrome. In one of our clinical trials, we showed, I think it was significant changes in 20 of 21 measured outcomes. We’ve likewise some of the trials shown improvements on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, one of these other lifestyle-induced elements like pre-diabetic states, [unintelligible 00:17:30], and metabolic syndrome.
We’ve shown weight loss in four different studies. Again, all of those populations were overweight. We’ve shown improvements in brain metabolism in four different study groups. We showed improvements in brain metabolism in the elderly, and we saw actually a lot of cool changes in the elderly. In the elderly population, we also saw this was a 70-plus population, six months double-blind placebo-controlled study.
We lengthened telomeres, we improved DNA methylation, we doubled this protein in the blood called TET2, so TET2, TET2 has been linked to young blood. Some listeners that have seen the non-tyre research in mice where you take the blood of a young mouse and put it in an old mouse and it reinvigorates the skeletal tissue that’s linked to TET2, hydrogen doubled that. We improve the brain metabolism like I mentioned, we improved some functional outcomes as well. It improved their quality of life scores predominantly by reducing pain.
It improved some sleep outcomes and the biggest one, in my opinion, it improves some parameters of the senior fitness test. For instance, how many times the elderly people could sit and stand before getting tired, actually went up in the hydrogen group over six months. Importantly, this trial was done in the early stages of the pandemic. These people were not going to the gym, the average age was like 77, yet they somehow were stronger and fitter at the end of the trial while the placebo group as expected was less fit at the end of the trial.
That was huge on the anti-aging study. It’s a really cool study, but we’ve also shown more robust improvements in brain metabolism and equivalents in raising something called the attention network test in two separate studies after 24-hour sleep that head-to-head against caffeine. Hydrogen, sorry, my cat is knocking stuff off my table right now. People are hearing.
Basically, hydrogen was equivalent to caffeine in improving the attention network test, but they affected different domains of attention. Caffeine predominantly affects something called alerting and hydrogen was shown to predominantly affect something called orienting. This gets into the experiential difference because hydrogen isn’t
a stimulant. It’s not stimulant, right? When you take it, when you’re really tired, say you’re jet-lagged or you indulge the night before, didn’t get enough sleep, you get clarity. You don’t feel high and jittery and full of energy. You just feel normal. Again, it normalizes you, which again, brings us back to how hydrogen regulates our response to stress and brings us back to harmony, brings us back to homeostasis. That was interesting and the professors ended up doing a second study, which was four groups, right? It was placebo, caffeine, placebo, hydrogen plus placebo, or hydrogen and caffeine. That found that hydrogen actually had a more robust effect and improvement on brain metabolism than caffeine did. Finally, we showed improvements in brain metabolism in an otherwise healthy overweight population, so gave them more energy. Interesting on that, they did a secondary analysis on that study and found that the hydrogen regulated some of the brain chemistry involved with satiety, which could also be leading to weight loss. There’s more to that study too. We saw improvements in gut health and improved short-chain fatty acids and reduced calprotectin. It improved gut health as well. I haven’t even got into hydrogen has shown a lot of research. One of the biggest research areas on improving athletic performance. We talked about exercise and this is one of the coolest things about hydrogen. When I talked about how it isn’t an antioxidant and it isn’t an anti-inflammatory, that’s great for exercise because you don’t want to take antioxidants or anti-inflammatories in conjunction with exercise. It blunts the hypertrophy gains.
Ari: I want to circle back to that and discuss this in-depth, but go ahead, sorry to interrupt.
Alex: With the hydrogen though, because it’s regulating our inflammatory response and it’s regulating the redox status within the cell. Some cool research has been done with rodents in forced swim tests. Basically, you’ll have like one group of rodents that are just doing the forced swim and one group of rodents that get hydrogen plus the forced swim. Hydrogen group actually sees a higher spike in oxidative stress and inflammation than the just swimming group, but they return the homeostasis faster. Meaning basically it’s as if the hydrogen group worked out harder but recovered quicker. That’s really profound and that’s why we’ve seen so many pro athletes turn to molecular hydrogen therapy and we’ve seen so much research showing it improves performance. With exercise, it’s shown to have an anti-fatigue effect so you can exercise for longer as well. Then simultaneously, they say measureable, measure the redox status of cells, people after several days of intensive exercise and the hydrogen group is healthier, it’s returned them, it’s recovered them from the stress faster. It’s not blunting the gains from exercise, it’s actually potentiating them, but then you’re recovering from that stress faster.
Ari: Do you know when they administered hydrogen in that study that showed that, I think not the last one you mentioned, but the one prior to that?
Alex: I believe it was just before exercise. I know most of the human clinical trials, it’s anywhere from 60 to 5 minutes before exercise is when they’ll administer. I anecdotally suggest taking about 10 minutes before. Two reasons, one, protective effects of hydrogen can last for up to 24 hours after you take it. However, the improvements in brain metabolism seem to only last a few hours, right? You want to take the H2 close when you’re exercising, otherwise, you might not get the full benefits of the energy and brain metabolism.
Ari: There’s been at least a couple of studies on body composition. Can you speak to those as well and what they’ve found and if you’re aware of what mechanisms might be involved in improving body composition?
Alex: Yes, so this is an interesting one and we’ve shown this in four studies, but one other clinical trial in addition to the ones on the tablets showed the same thing. It was again, it was a relatively high dose. One thing about the tablets is we were getting by far the highest concentration of H2. The dose we’re using in clinical research is far higher than other clinical trials. We’ve tended to show much stronger benefits than other hydrogen water studies on the basis of hydrogen like any other molecule, like exercise, like any adaptive stressor works in a dose-dependent manner, right? Humans tend to consume far less water than other mammals. For instance, a mouse consumes about 12 times the water that a human does that we give in a clinical trial, especially because a lot of the water we consume is in juice or coffee or in our food and everything like that. The mice in these studies are getting dry pellets and then drinking water, right? We’ve shown much stronger benefits, but one other study that used about half the dose we do saw some mild improvements in body comp also, but we’ve shown four studies with weight loss and body comp improvements. It could come down to the improvements of satiety, but it also could come down to increased energy and well-being. In our metabolic syndrome study, actually, some of the professors on that study were discussing how to report it because they saw over a pound of weight loss a month on average with no other, changes other than participants kept to journals and only in the hydrogen water group, they noticed that the patients were becoming more active. They’d picked up exercise routines that they hadn’t had in 20, 30 years. They were going for nighttime walks. They were doing all these things. Some of the researchers were like, well, this isn’t, we should report this because this isn’t a pharmacological effect, right? In hydrogen driving weight loss, even though there are some mechanisms that it might be at play, but others were saying, well, hydrogen is making these people feel better and healthier so they’re getting more active, which is exactly the story with hydrogen. As it’s improving everything, as you feel better, you do more, right? In hydrogen, improving the brain metabolism, improving your energy, reversing stress that’s going on, you don’t feel as sick anymore. You get out and you do more, which makes you even healthier in compounds.
Ari: Yes, absolutely. I want to speak to my own personal experience here. I’m already extremely energetic. I’m overflowing with energy and I’m constantly sort of exhausting the people around me. My 26-year-old nanny, who’s also fit and energetic, is always complaining how much I’m always running everybody around and she wonders how much energy I have to be able to just constantly want to do stuff and be out and be physically active. Rarely is it the case that with anything, including with stimulants, that I notice much of an energy boost. Stimulants generally only just make me more anxious, if anything, or tense. I would say, for me personally, I know lots of friends and my family, certainly my parents, have noticed energy boost by taking this. For me personally, I don’t notice much of an immediate energy boost. What I notice is, number one, clarity of brain function, which you spoke to, and certainly that’s the case. It’s been very beneficial for me when I do hours and hours and hours, for example, writing my book that I’m working on right now. Sometimes I’ll sit at my computer for 8 or 10 hours of the day writing. Once you get hours into it, sometimes you get a little foggy and the hydrogen water perks me right back up and gives me that clarity to just keep going for hours and hours more than I would normally be able to. Probably the single biggest thing that I’ve noticed is being as physically active as I am. I do surfing and I do weight training and I play tennis and I do jujitsu and I do capoeira. Sometimes I might do, if I surf for two and a half hours in the morning, I might do an hour weight training workout and I might play tennis for an hour and a half in the same day. That is a lot of exercise in one day. I just can’t help myself. It’s not that I think that much exercise is necessary for health. You can get away with probably– if anything, I’m probably doing too much. It’s just that I love doing these activities so much that I can’t help myself. I’m like a little kid in that regard. I do have a tendency to be on the edge of overdoing it. What I notice is hydrogen allows me to recover much more quickly and it doesn’t give me the depression
in energy levels that would normally come with doing that much exercise, it doesn’t come with the exhaustion, it prevents that exhaustion and fatigue from setting in, allows me to recover and allows me to handle and be resilient to that much intense exercise.
Hydrogen’s effect on muscle soreness
Alex: Have you noticed anything on muscle soreness?
Ari: Yes, for sure, recovering quicker and less muscle soreness.
Alex: We do have one clinical trial, it’s with like [unintelligible 00:30:31] tablet. We put the tablets in a [unintelligible 00:30:33] in pro athletes and it significantly reduced the late onset muscle soreness and reduced, prevented the rise in creatine kinase. Muscle damage, right, after eccentric, exhaustive exercise in pro soccer players. I’ve noticed it from drinking as well, right, and what we know of how hydrogen saturates tissues, drinking a sufficient amount to do the same thing can get as much as bathing in it. Bathing is just a bit easier to do, you can do it like on a single bath, just wipe away your muscle soreness.
Ari: Is it when you bathe in it goes out of the water so quickly, is it that it’s being absorbed transdermally or you inhale the gas from the room?
Alex: It’s transdermal, it’s transdermal. You can get it into your tissue at a much smaller concentration than drinking it. If you drink a lot of it reduces muscle soreness. This is one of the first things I noticed in reduced muscle soreness. When I got into hydrogen sort of researching it, as I alluded, I had like a health scare. Back then, it sounds like I was a lot like you, I was training between four to eight hours a day, six days a week. In addition to that, I’d just pace all the time, I have ADHD, I put in 15 to 20,000 steps a day. I got super sick, they don’t know what happened, they think it was a mystery virus, but I had central nervous system fatigue, so I couldn’t do anything explosive, I couldn’t get airtime if I tried to jump, like I couldn’t even go like an inch off the ground, my strength wasn’t affected, like my deadlift, my bench press and my squat were completely unaffected. In addition, I was anemic, and I had sudden onset narcolepsy. I was sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day.
My C-reactive proteins were 70 times abnormal, 34 milligrams a deciliter, so that’s a much higher inflammation. With the dust settled, I had osteoarthritis in 11 joints. Fast forward to today, I’m a candidate, and I’m not going to do it, but I’m a candidate for both a shoulder replacement, this is how far my left shoulder moves, and a hip replacement, and I’m on waiting lists for surgery for my neck, and to see an expert because I might need surgery on my back. I have arthritis in my hands, in my feet, in my knees, just all over, it wreaked havoc. That’s why I ended up getting put on some heavy doses of anti-inflammatories, which led to my ulcers, which led to me developing the tablets and looking for things. Now, today–
Ari: Say again, what was the original sort of issue that led to all this?
Alex: They don’t know, they think I had a virus. They couldn’t figure out what it was, right? Once I switched to hydrogen, I was still exercising a lot, and I just noticed the reduce in muscles rise. Now, fast forward, a decade later, just about, and I kickbox still three to four times a week. I lift weights twice a week. I still walk between 12,000 to 20,000 steps a day, especially if it’s not pouring rain. I usually go for a walk through the forest for close to an hour, any day that it’s reasonably nice out and that I have the time, which is probably four or five days a week. I don’t have to take anti-inflammatories anymore. Hydrogen hasn’t regrown my cartilage. It’s not a miracle, but it keeps me limber enough and reduces my pain enough so that I can keep active and keep exercising.
Antioxidants and longevity
Ari: Awesome. There’s a few things I want to circle back to. This idea of antioxidation, of being an antioxidant versus, this distinction you were making as an indirect antioxidant. You did it very well, and I have to say, this is an area that I’ve spent an enormous amount of time writing about and looking at the research about, and it’s something that almost nobody knows or nobody understands well, even among health practitioners. I feel it’s important to emphasize this more.
I’ll give a very brief background, which is in the fairly early 1900s, there was a guy named– geez, what was his name? Something Harmon. I’m forgetting his first name, but he became famous for putting out this idea of the free radical theory of aging. Harmon’s free radical theory of aging, if somebody wants to look that up. It’s got roughly a 100-year history. This is a very old idea, and then was extended by lots and lots of other researchers, maybe most famously Linus Pauling, who was famous for taking huge doses of vitamin C.
The basic gist of this idea was that human beings age and become diseased largely as a result of essentially rusting, like oxidizing, the same way that a piece of metal would rust and become damaged from overexposure to oxidation, to oxidants, to oxygen. The same idea is basically happening inside of us at the cellular level. This is what’s driving aging and disease. Therefore, free radicals or oxidants or reactive oxygen species are bad and antioxidants are good.
Now what’s interesting is since then, in the last 20 years in particular, there’s been an enormous amount of research that has thoroughly debunked this idea. There’s articles on PubMed that are literature reviews talking about all the lines of evidence around one’s called, for example, is the free radical theory of aging dead? It talks about all these layers of evidence that basically show that it’s just not true. That the situation is much more complicated than, hey, we can prevent disease and extend longevity, extend lifespan by giving antioxidants.
Alex: It goes even deeper than that. When you look at the research on high-dose antioxidant therapy, not only does it not extend lifespan and not work the way it was supposed to work, but it actually shows to increase all-cause mortality, development of diseases, interfere with a lot of therapies that we need, such as cancer therapies, because– Sorry, to cut you off.
Ari: That’s exactly what I was going to say.
Alex: Yes. Reductive stress is just as harmful as oxidative stress.
Alex: We need this harmony working between our beneficial oxidative stressors, many of which play important roles in our cells, and our endogenous antioxidants. If we have too much oxidative stress or too much antioxidants, it basically causes us to not be in this harmonious state and all this damage arises.
Ari: Exactly. Exactly. As you said, there’s all these lines of evidence where they tested high-dose antioxidants of all different sorts. Many of them showed either no benefit of reducing disease or the opposite, that it actually increased risk of certain diseases. The vast majority, by far 90 plus percent of these studies, even with high dose of powerful antioxidants showed really no benefit to lifespan or disease prevention. Conversely, another important line of evidence is that things which spike free radicals, reactive oxygen species, or oxidants to a huge degree, do have clear disease-protective and lifespan-extending benefits. A simple example of this is exercise. It creates a massive surge of free radicals. How do we reconcile this data? The way to reconcile it is what you were referring to a minute ago, which is we have actually an internal antioxidant defense system. That’s the piece that really matters. It’s maintaining that in a robust state, not so that we have a chronic surplus of antioxidants, which actually causes reductive stress, as you mentioned, which is just as bad as having a chronic deficit of antioxidants. It’s to maintain that internal system in a robust, healthy state so that when it needs to neutralize oxidants, it can. When it needs to spike oxidants in the context of metabolic stress, it can also do that. Those oxidants, it turns out, are not just bad guys, but play an important signaling role in, for example, stimulating mitochondrial growth and biogenesis in immune health. They perform lots of healthy functions. They’re not just bad guys. The last thing I’ll say is almost all this research has not gotten out. The vast majority of certainly the general public and practitioners, and industry, and supplement companies are still pushing this narrative that health is largely about taking more antioxidants. They’re really suppressing, they’re either ignorant of or they’re suppressing the truth about this.
Alex: A combination of the two, I’d say. A lot of people are ignorant of that or are shocked, even people in the industry and practitioners I have talked to, have not known this, and I’ll just, I’ll bring up an example. We’ve known for decades the importance of nitric oxide. Well, that’s free radical, right? I mean just that could have debunked everything when we learned how critical nitric oxide levels were to things like vasodilation. A lot of the industry also, they make so much on antioxidants.
Ari: Yes, exactly.
Alex: The second easy message that everyone has heard the message before.
Ari: Yes. They’re leveraging the fact that everybody’s been indoctrinated into this mistake, this lie or mistake, however you want to phrase it. They’re leveraging it by putting their marketing on the backs of this mistaken belief that most people have.
Alex: It would take an incredible amount of morality for the people in these positions to know, “Hey, this isn’t [unintelligible 00:41:29]” We’re making a hundred million a year or a billion dollars a year, depending on what you’re talking to. In this marketing and everyone gets it, we’ll say, “We’re just going to stop doing this.” It’s really hard. Especially, the law would not be on the side of any CEO that makes that decision because they have a fiduciary duty to their shareholders. If they ruin the company, they could be sued, they could lose everything. The system we have in place is just not designed for companies that are already existing, making a profit off something, which is completely abandoned what they’ve built their business around.
Alex: That’s what–
Ari: It’s an uphill battle also to try to re-educate people in order to sell your product, which is what I’m trying to do, instead of just saying, “Hey, this is an antioxidant. It’s 60 times more powerful than vitamin C, 75 times more powerful than vitamin E.” That’s the chronic marketing you hear, but people don’t realize that it’s total BS.
Alex: Exactly. Yes, it’s unfortunate. That’s why change comes slowly, right? Eventually, the companies that don’t change go the way of the dinosaurs.
Ari: Yes. I would, if, just as a simple, practical, readily observable fact, I would bet almost everybody listening to this, if you think back on all the times you took some supposedly super powerful antioxidant that was 50 or a hundred times or 500 times more powerful than vitamin C or whatever the marketing was, I would bet that you probably didn’t notice benefits that matched up with those claims. That whatever benefits you’ve noticed, probably you didn’t notice any, but that they weren’t in any way proportional to the degree to which some antioxidant was supposedly more powerful than other antioxidants like vitamin C.
Ari: Let me ask you this, a couple sort of practical things on hydrogen. Gas versus water, I know you mentioned this briefly before. I want to ask you about something that I do sometimes, which is sometimes I’ll put the hydrogen tablet in water in a bottle that’s sealed with a cap on. Then when I open it, I’ll actually inhale the gas before I drink the water. I want to make sure that I’m not doing anything wrong, and that’s also okay for me to do that.
Alex: You’re not doing anything wrong. What’s funny is, I used to do that before I did [unintelligible 00:44:16] It’s not going to hurt you, but it’s just, it’s way too low to see a benefit because–
Ari: I just feel bad about letting that gas escape.
Alex: Yes. I mean, and say he do it like in open glass water like this and chug it, as soon as that rises to the surface, we’re retaining 94% of the gas, so only 6% is off gassing. It’s a very, very low percentage. In addition to that, it’s shown that inhaling versus when you deliver in water, needs at least a hundred times the dose of hydrogen.
Ari: Oh, wow.
Alex: They get the same rise in cellular concentration in the tissues and organs that they get similar rises, because drinking gets better into your internal organs. Inhaling, obviously, gets better into your lungs, for instance. They have different coconuts in how they work, but you need a vastly greater amount of H2 inhaled for it to increase your cellular concentration. No harm in doing that, but it won’t be additionally therapeutic.
Ari: Okay. I have a couple more questions. One, I actually realized I need to complete this thought around antioxidants. Just speak again. I know you alluded to this earlier, but this– so we talked about the lack of benefits of all these direct antioxidants. Now, explain to people with that context, what is hydrogen doing that is different from that.
Alex: Hydrogen is kind of working like exercise, but actually a little bit better in this way. Hydrogen won’t grow your muscles like exercise does, but in regulating the redox status, it works a bit better. Same with inflammation. Hydrogen is regulating our internal production of both antioxidants and the beneficial oxidative and nitrosative stressors like H2O2 and nitric oxide, but also our inflammatory response.
Our inflammatory response comes down to cytokine production. Hydrogen will help regulate how many cytokines we’re producing. It’s not actually an anti-inflammatory, it regulates our production. Same thing, it’s not an antioxidant, but it regulates our production. Maybe 9 out of 10 times, or 19 out of 20 times we see a strong reduction in oxidative stress using hydrogen because usually a reduction in oxidative stress is good because most people have oxidative damage, too high of oxidative stress, but it will never bring your oxidative stress below homeostatic redox. In the harmony between the antioxidants and oxidative stress.
You can’t overdo it with hydrogen because it just stops when you get to redox homeostasis. In some instances, hydrogen can raise oxidative stress for a beneficial outcome. Like how I mentioned, in conjunction with exercise, it spiked the stress higher and recovered quicker. It was like you exercise harder, but recovered faster. In a paper that I was involved on, this is just mice, and I don’t want anyone listening to this and thinking that this is a cure for cancer. We have a long, long way to go on this, but in mice, in a model of colorectal cancer, we compared the hydrogen water made with tablets against Fluorouracil 5-FU, which is a chemotherapeutic, but also did a combo group of the H2 and the chemotherapeutic together.
In the hydrogen-only group and the 5-FU group, they were about similarly effective in reducing collagen content in the cell, reducing tumor size, reducing tumor weight. As expected, hydrogen reduced oxidative stress. Whereas 5-FU increased oxidative stress, and hydrogen improved the antioxidant production, whereas 5-FU blunted antioxidant production. They worked in completely different ways but had similar results on the cancer cells.
What was very interesting and really confirms a lot of what we believed to know and believe to know about hydrogen is a combo group. The hydrogen and 5-FU actually had a greater stress response than the 5-FU alone. It increased oxidative stress more than the chemotherapeutic did on its own, and it blunted antioxidant production more than the 5-FU did on its own, which resulted in the cancer basically being killed. The collagen content dropped from 23% and 24% down to 6%. It dramatically reduced the tumor weight and size even more because hydrogen canceled the stress attack on the cancer cells of the chemotherapeutic in this trial. That was a very, very interesting outcome.
Can you take too much hydrogen?
Ari: A couple more practical things, and I think you’ve maybe said this in passing, but just so people understand, can you overdo this? I mean it’s possible to overdo anything. You can drink too much water and put yourself in a coma and give yourself brain damage, so as a general rule, you can overdo everything. What’s the sort of safe range of this?
Alex: We have not found peak in where it levels off or where it plateaus. This is one interesting thing I didn’t even get into. Hydrogen has a few different ways it works. It works as the [unintelligible 00:50:01] effect to account the adaptive stress of the mitochondria. It actually improves our microbiome done through numerous trials interacting with the microbiome, which can correct a lot what’s going on in that ebb and flow of H2 gas for people who have not eaten fiber enough their entire life.
It also regulates liver homeostasis. This is where we actually need to figure out a bit of what’s going on more, because in other tissues, we can track 100% of the hydrogen that goes in and it goes out. It goes through your skin, you breathe it out, we can map its exit. In the liver, hydrogen goes in, but a percentage of it doesn’t come out. We know that it’s being partially metabolized in the liver in some way. We also know that for liver health, hydrogen takes about 10 times higher of a dose in hydrogen water as it does for, say, exercise performance. That’s very, very interesting.
Actually, the tablets, which get the highest concentration of any product on the planet by a landslide are not even reaching the dose we give mice insulin. We’ve seen some modest benefits in the liver for things like [unintelligible 00:51:20] liver disease, but shown truly miraculous benefits in mice when you even say double the dose even more, so that would be taking probably five or six tablets a day, but we don’t have the clinical research to back that up yet.
What’s important to know is we haven’t even found the peak of where hydrogen is the most effective for humans. On the safety side, we know that acute doses of even 10,000 times the volume, which they use in deep-sea diving to stop the bends, has no adverse effects.
Alex: It’s incredibly safe. We know that for an acute dose, it’s not going to hurt us even 10,000 times a dose. We know that we haven’t even found the upper threshold of where it becomes plateaus. If you look at any adaptive stressor, look at exercise. You exercise half an hour a day, it has tremendous benefits. Those benefits don’t increase that much if you go to an hour and they don’t really increase at all if you go to two hours or three hours or four hours. When you get to like six or seven, eight hours a day, it starts going into chronic stress. That’s when it starts being harmful.
A lot of these safe adaptive stressors have very long plateaus, where the benefits aren’t increasing but it isn’t becoming harmful yet. Hydrogen, we haven’t even found plateau yet.
How to take hydrogen
Ari: Great way of explaining it. Some simple practical things. One is, I think I’ve noticed, that when the water that I put it in is colder, [crosstalk] it doesn’t hold as much hydrogen gas. Is that true?
Alex: Yes. There’s kind of a converse relationship here because cold water actually retains hydrogen better than warmer water, but the reaction kinetics, cold water will slow down this integration of the tablet and reaction, which means we’re retaining less this gas cloud.
Ari: So it’s giving more time for it to get out of the water.
Alex: How this is working, hydrogen has a saturation point in water of roughly 1.6 milligrams per liter or parts per million at room temperature water. When you go colder, it can get up to about 1.8. When you go hot water, I think it’s down to about 1.4, but that’s not how we’re delivering the majority of the dose. The majority of the dose of the hydrogen you’re getting from the tablets is in small nano-bubbles that aren’t saturated, they’re quasi-dissolved. They’re basically semi-stable in the liquid.
Now, basically, to get into a bit of the physics here, it is bubbles will not dissipate out of a solution until they’re larger than 5 microns. The physics change when you go below 5 microns in size. That’s the same thing for particles, say, in the air, which is why if you remember during when the pandemic switched to Omicron, the 6-feets of social distancing no longer worked because Omicron would stay in the air for hours or days, because it was small enough that it just would linger. It wouldn’t fall to the ground.
That’s the same concept with the bubbles in the water. We’re producing bubbles between about 10 to 30 nanometers in size. They’re much smaller than what can dissipate out. That’s why about 94% is retained in the tablet salt. However, what happens is those bubbles will hold less and become larger, and larger, and larger. Over time, more of the bubbles pass 5 microns and dissipate out. If you put it in cold water and then all of a sudden takes five minutes to dissolve instead of one minute to dissolve in room temp, that’s just more time for those bubbles to have been coalescing and getting bigger, so you don’t retain it nearly as much.
Ari: Yes, makes sense. So room temperature is best?
Alex: Yes. Room temperature and chug it down.
Ari: Chug it as soon as the tablet finishes dissolving. Don’t wait. Chug all that water. Okay, and you need a sufficient amount of water to give enough space for all those bubbles to get the highest PPMs.
Alex: I recommend 500 milliliters, which is just under 17 ounces. That’s the ideal amount of water. Really, the ideal amount of water is what you can chug with a simple go up into about 17 ounces. If you can’t drink 17 ounces by chugging it quickly, it can only be 12 ounces, then it’s best to put in 12 ounces. If you’re, say, an older person and really struggle with drinking water, maybe you can only put it in eight ounces, which is fine. You can either break a tablet in half and do it eight ounces twice as often, or put a full tablet in eight ounces.
We do have studies like that that we haven’t put in the ideal 500 liters. In that elderly study, they were putting it in 250 milliliters of water because the people that– It was an average age of 77 and they just couldn’t reliably chug half a liter of water.
The best time of day to take hydrogen
Ari: Maybe the last question or second to last question is, with everything you know, what are your practical recommendations on how much to take, how much you think is optimal, and when to take it? If there are better times of day, meaning morning versus night, mid-afternoon slump, before exercise, after exercise, and how many tablets per day.
Alex: Sure. I’ll start with the second question first because it’s less complex. The best time to take it is on an empty stomach. Now, I either take it first thing in the morning or before exercise or if I do get an afternoon slump, which I don’t usually, but if I do, I’ll take a second dose to get rid of that afternoon slump. I try and do it at least two, three hours after I eat, especially if you’ve eaten any fiber. Because one, unless you have dysbiosis, you produce some hydrogen anyways, and you want these peaks and valleys of H2. Two, one of my patents is I’ve shown how I can create gels and foams by passing H2 through fiber, so they have an interesting relationship.
These gels and foams are pretty stable. If you have a full stomach of fiber and carbs, then it can retain the H2 gas you just took, and then it’s not getting to your cells, like the concentration. It’s slowly leaking out. Definitely an empty stomach, good times to take it are definitely first thing in the morning, right before exercise, unless you had a big meal. I know I can’t exercise if I’ve just eaten a big meal. I like going into hard train, and relatively empty stomach, or mid-afternoon slump. Those are all great times.
Now, as for the ideal dose—
Ari: Real quick, do you think it’s a problem to take it before bed?
Alex: It wakes me up. Some people say it doesn’t, and they take it before bed. For me, it wakes me up. Then I end up staying awake for an extra couple of hours.
Ari: Got it.
Alex: Which is interesting because we do see some sleep benefits in hydrogen, but typically that’s when you take it earlier in the day, because we also see these improvements in brain metabolism. I’d say if people want to try that, be wary that it might wake you up so that you don’t fall asleep, but if it doesn’t and you find it improves your sleep taking it closer, by all means, give it a try.
Now, as for ideal dose, it really depends on the person and it depends on your stress. If you’re, say, in your 20s and incredibly healthy, you might not even need hydrogen every day. Just take it days
that you have abnormal stress. Say you ate a really poor meal, or you’re traveling, or you stayed up late and got a bad night’s sleep, whether you were partying or just had a bad sleep, or you’re working out harder than usual, then take hydrogen. For me, I take like five a day, but I have incredible amounts of stress. I travel all the time, and I still am working out like six days a week. I need it. If I don’t have five a day, my joints start seizing up, and my back goes out, and I can’t kickbox anymore, so I need five a day. Sometimes I even take six or seven if I’m traveling and had a few drinks the night before, I’ll split it and do like four in the morning, three mid-afternoon. That’s when I find I really do get an afternoon slump, if I’m traveling.
Ari: Now, when you say this, do you take more than one at a time?
Ari: You take two tablets in a glass of water at the same time? Can you do that?
Alex: Yes, you can. I actually, I can chug a lot more water than the average person. I can chug a liter pretty easy, so like 34 ounces. I’ll typically put like, three or four tablets in a liter and chug it all at once.
Ari: I got to try that.
Alex: I find that actually gets me a pretty big brain boost for, say, in the morning.
How long does hydrogen stay in the body?
Ari: Okay. One thing maybe worth emphasizing before we wrap up on mechanisms is gene expression changes. Just the distinction between when you take this, is it that you get an acute effect for half an hour, an hour, two hours, versus a more prolonged effect. Can you speak to that?
Alex: We’ve shown both acute effects in hydrogen. For instance, those studies after sleep death, that’s a single tablet, shows changes. Hydrogen seems to have protective effects that’ll last like a day or two. It might correct a lot of what’s going on or give a slight correction to that acute stress. Let’s say, for instance, if you have chronic stress that’s built up over time, it might take a longer time to start seeing these changes. For instance, for metabolic issues, it seemed to take at least a couple months, if not three to six months, to start seeing real meaningful impacts.
Ari: Awesome. Alex, thank you so much for coming on the show. I have to say this has become probably my single favorite supplement at this point, just in the way that it facilitates me having such a high-activity lifestyle and recovering from it and not suffering from exhaustion and fatigue when I overdo it. It’s really been a game-changer for me. The other thing that’s cool about it is it’s kind of addictive. It’s not just like popping a pill or taking some nasty-tasting powder. It actually, especially the one that we’ve created together, actually tastes good, it’s fun to drink. It’s a fun process to drop it in the water and watch it dissolve and become all bubbly.
My kids, I have a four-year-old and a seven-year-old, they actually ask me for it. They crave it and they’re like, “Can we have a hydrogen water?” I mean it’s certainly the only supplement that they’re asking to do that with. I find the whole process, everything from the pleasantness of the experience and like the actual, you’re enjoying it, you look forward to it, you become addicted to it, to the benefits, everything is just wonderful.
I love, for me, I’ve moved away from all direct antioxidants and I’ve tried and tried and tried them over the years, and I just– I’m convinced that maybe there’s benefits in certain contexts. For me, as an already healthy person, they only cause negatives. I’ve never noticed benefits from taking any direct antioxidant. With this, I see clear benefits. I’ve moved away from all the direct antioxidants towards stuff that helps regulate the internal and endogenous antioxidant machinery. I love this supplement. I’m deeply grateful for finding you and your help in helping me to create this supplement.
My last question to you is, are there any things you want to say to wrap up? Anything that you feel we’ve neglected to mention?
Alex: I want to add to what you said. Actually, it’s funny because I just got back from like the biggest industry trade show, and I had multiple customers from the industry that came to my booth stressed out because they’d forgotten their hydrogen tablets. Of course, they’re at meetings, they’re staying up late, they’re drinking, and they’re like, “I forgot to pack my hydrogen. Can I grab some samples off of you for the trip?” I’m like, “Yes, absolutely.”
As much as I notice a benefit when I take it, but the benefits are subtle, like we’ve talked about it. It’s clarity, and it includes, afternoon slump, stuff like that. I really notice it when I don’t take it. A couple of trips where I have been late, say gotten a 911 phone call of some kind and throwing my bag together and forgot to grab my hydrogen, I am by the end of the week that I’m gone for. My joints have all seized, I have brain fog. I’ll just add, it is addicting because you know when you don’t take it.
Where to learn more about hydrogen
Ari: Yes, absolutely. Alex, thank you so much. Is there anything you want to say as far as people following your work or anything like that? Any place you want to direct them?
Alex: Sure. I have a ResearchGate. I’m not, my full time isn’t academia, but I co-author many papers. I have a ResearchGate, it’s just, I think it’s Alex T. Tarnava, maybe it’s Alex Tarnava. I have alextarnava.com that talks about some of the projects I’m doing, with hydrogen predominantly. My Instagram, I know more people are starting to follow me now, but I post the papers on my Instagram when they come out, but most of the stories is just like restaurants when I’m traveling and stuff like that. It depends if you’re interested in that. I’m maybe posting a new study every couple of months. My ResearchGate is better for that anyways.
Ari: Wonderful. Alex, thank you so much for coming on the show and thank you again for helping me bring this product to the world. I really appreciate it. You’ve been a blessing in my life.
Alex: Happy you’re jumping on board. I’m obviously quite passionate about it, but so many others are too, like you.
Ari: Yes, absolutely.
00:40 – Guest Intro Alex Tarnava
02:10 – What is Hydrogen?
08:00 – How gut dysbiosis can affect the body’s natural H2 stores
10:40 – How hydrogen is a part of our biological evolution
17:13 – Health benefits of hydrogen
32:30 – Hydrogen’s effect on muscle soreness
36:46 – Antioxidants and longevity
51:31 – Can you take too much hydrogen?
55:10 – How to take hydrogen
59:15 – The best time of day to take hydrogen
1:04:00 – How long does hydrogen stay in the body?
1:08:00 – Where to learn more about hydrogen