Natural Foods Merchandiser
bottled water at grocery Thinkstock/Wavebreakmedia

Secret Shopper: Does hydrogen water boost energy and reduce inflammation?

The Natural Foods Merchandiser secret shopper visited a natural products store in the Midwest to test its staff's knowledge about hydrogen water. Here's how the store did and how you can help your customers with similar questions.

NFM: I’ve heard hydrogen water boosts energy and reduces inflammation—is that true?

Store: I’ve heard that too, but I’m honestly pretty skeptical. I don’t think there’s much proof it does anything that plain water can’t do—other than cost you a lot more money!

NFM: So this is just another crazy fad?

Store: I think so. We’ve had a few people ask if we carry hydrogen water—we don’t—but we’re very cautious about bringing in products that seem too good to be true. We don’t want you spending your hard-earned money on stuff we don’t believe in.

How did this retailer do? 

Our expert educator: Melissa Majumdar, MS, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

What the retailer said, in a nutshell, is spot on. And I think it’s neat that this store didn’t want to hop on a trend just to gain money from its clientele.

There are many health claims made by the handful of hydrogen water companies out there—it may have an antioxidant effect, it may have an anti-inflammatory effect—but there isn’t enough research to support them. The few studies that have been done on hydrogen water are small and not well-designed. Plus, the companies making these claims on their websites don’t supply the research. I know that as a consumer, if a brand is discussing a health benefit and can steer me toward the research, I am more comfortable believing it.

The other thing is this category is not very well-understood or regulated. There are different levels of hydrogen in the various products out there, and from what I understand, the container makes a big difference in how much hydrogen the consumer gets at the end of the day. Also, once the container is opened, the water will lose hydrogen.

If I were a retailer, I’d take this opportunity to guide the shopper toward fruits, vegetables, nuts, olive oil and other sources of antioxidants and encourage them to spend their money there. I’d suggest salmon, which may be more expensive than hydrogen water, but it definitely provides health benefits that are well-documented. 

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