Hydrogen sulfide is one of a number of potent smelly gases produced by bacteria as it breaks down food in the gut. It is toxic in large doses but in tiny amounts it helps protect cells and fight illness, according to experts at Exeter University.
The smell of flatulence could help stave off cancer, strokes, heart attacks and dementia.
Intestinal gas is composed of nitrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and methane. But hydrogen sulphide — a toxic gas that is generated by bacteria living in the human gut — has been shown to control blood pressure
When cells become stressed by disease they try to draw in enzymes to generate their own minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide.
The average person produces about half a liter of flatulence every single day, and even though many women won’t admit it, women do pass gas as often as men. In fact, a study has proven that when men and women eat the exact same food, woman tend to have even more concentrated gas than men.
The chemical helps to preserve mitochondria, which drive energy production in blood vessel cells and regulate inflammation, and without it the cell can switch off and die.
Researchers believe the right amount of hydrogen sulphide will help prevent or reverse mitochondrial damage, which is a key strategy in treating conditions such as stroke, heart failure, diabetes, arthritis, dementia and aging.
Professor Matt Whiteman from University of Exeter’s medical school said: ‘When cells become stressed by disease, they draw in enzymes to generate minute quantities of hydrogen sulfide.
‘This keeps the mitochondria ticking over and allows cells to live. If this doesn’t happen, the cells die and lose the ability to regulate survival and control inflammation.
‘We have exploited this natural process by making a compound, called AP39, which slowly delivers very small amounts of this gas specifically to the mitochondria.
‘Our results indicate that if stressed cells are treated with AP39, mitochondria are protected and cells stay alive.’
Early results show that it can help up to 80 percent more mitochondria survive highly destructive conditions such as cardiovascular disease.
Fellow researcher Dr. Mark Wood added: ‘Although hydrogen sulfide is well known as a pungent, foul-smelling gas in rotten eggs and flatulence, it is naturally produced in the body and could in fact be a healthcare hero with significant implications for future therapies for a variety of diseases.’
The study was published in the journal Medicinal Chemistry Communications.