Glutathione

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Often revered by experts as the “bodies’ natural healing agent,” glutathione, or GsH for short, is used by active people to prevent free-radical damage to muscles and other tissues, help improve recovery, detoxify the body, and keep us healthy. Others, perhaps more interested in extending the quality of their lives, supplement with GsH to potentially slow the aging process. Nonetheless, most athletes provide their bodies with the necessary tools to create glutathione by supplementing with a high-quality whey protein or an amino acid complex. Those considering adding this “powerhouse” nutrient to their anti-aging strategy would be better off using NAC (N-acetylcysteine) — a direct precursor to glutathione that’s more stable and absorbable.

Other names for Glutathione

GsH, L-glutathione

Where to find Glutathione

Glutathione can be found naturally in some fruits and vegetables, plant and animal tissues, and is found in higher amounts in protein-containing foods.

Note Cooking reduces the potency of glutathione.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Ways that Glutathione can enhance Longevity:
  • As the bodies’ most potent antioxidant, protect muscle tissue and organs from the harmful effects of free radicals
  • Improve nutrient and amino acid absorption to “natural viral-killer” cells (lymphocytes and phagocytes), helping to enhance immune function
  • Help prevent aging by repairing damaged cells as a key protector from pollutants, toxins, wastes, and irritants to the body

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Glutathione deficiency

Aging has been shown to diminish the natural levels of glutathione in the body.

Deficiency of Glutathione has been linked to:
  • Lack of muscular coordination
  • Cognitive dysfunction
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty maintaining balance
Potential uses for Glutathione

Research indicates that Glutathione may also be useful in the treatment of:

  • Addictions
  • Blood and liver disorders
  • Cancer (specifically of the liver)
  • Age-related hormone declines
  • Alcoholism
  • Arthritis

DISCUSSION

More about Glutathione

Glutathione, sometimes referred to as “GsH,” is often thought of as just an amino acid, but it’s actually a term used to describe its tripeptide formation produced naturally in the liver from three different amino acids — glutamic acid, cysteine, and glycine. Glutathione is known as one of our bodies’ most powerful antioxidants — able to scavenge and fight free-radical damage throughout the body. That’s probably why the general consensus among experts is it’s “the bodies’ most powerful healing agent.”

Age essential?

As we age, levels of this vital component of our bodies’ defense mechanism decrease. Yet, glutathione may deactivate the free radicals that contribute to aging and dramatically slow the process and rebuild damaged cells. So, better stated, if we lack glutathione, the aging process actually seems to accelerate. And we’re not just talking about a few gray hairs and a couple of wrinkles. A deficiency in this powerful antioxidant first affects the nervous system, leading to a lack of coordination and balance, and then moves on to our cognitive abilities. The good news is that research is very compelling and conclusive in the area of supplementation with this powerful antioxidant.

Staying young and vibrant

Maybe “aging” isn’t a consideration for you yet… you’re still young, vibrant, and athletic. Well, consider this: as we perform intense physical exercise, such as weight training, our blood levels of glutathione decrease, which again may accelerate aging while slowing recovery time. Interestingly though, increased supplementation with a high-quality whey protein has been shown to raise our bodies’ natural levels of glutathione. This is believed to be due in part to whey’s naturally high levels of the amino acid cysteine, which is the precursor to glutathione. This is one reason whey protein has become a key component to many athletes’ nutrition plans.

More good news

Because glutathione is such a powerful antioxidant and immune enhancer, it has been theorized to help prevent cancer, especially of the liver where the largest stores detoxify harmful compounds. One researcher recently stated that the evidence, “…strongly suggests that this antioxidant merits further investigation as a potential anti-tumor agent in humans” after reviewing the research.

Shown to help reduce inflammation, it may help speed recovery after intense workouts as well as combat allergies and arthritis. Glutathione has also been shown to be a potent detoxifier and may protect our bodies from the detrimental effects of heavy metals, drugs, radiation, cigarette smoke, alcohol, and pollution. It may also be helpful in the treatment of blood and liver disorders.

Worth considering

While supplementing with glutathione may appear to be the obvious choice, actually it’s been shown that it might be more beneficial to supplement with what the body uses to produce glutathione: L-cysteine or NAC may raise levels of glutathione in the body more optimally than supplementing with glutathione itself. Plus, glutathione is more costly than NAC and, as studies have shown, may not absorb properly through the intestines.

In truth

No matter what your age, this powerful antioxidant may help protect your body from the damage free radicals inflict on it daily. And those of us who exercise intensely, are coping with increased stress, or have simply seen a few years go by may have an even greater need for glutathione — whether supplemented or, likely better yet, created in the body with the help of an amino acid formula that includes cysteine or NAC and methionine or even simply a high-quality whey protein.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

While 50 to 100 mg of glutathione can be used once or twice daily, supplementing with the amino acid trio that the body uses to produce glutathione (L-cysteine or NAC, glutamic acid, and glycine) may raise levels of glutathione in the body more optimally than supplementing with glutathione itself. Plus, glutathione is more costly than NAC, and studies have shown it may not even be absorbed through the intestines.

Best advice

Considering NAC helps the body create glutathione (as a precursor), it would be logical to take an amino acid combination that includes NAC (which is more stable and absorbable than cysteine) and methionine to increase the natural production of glutathione in the body.

Amount of NAC

600 to 1,200 mg, divided in 1 or 2 doses throughout the day, is the typical amount used for antioxidant protection.

Timing

Glutathione or NAC can be taken with or without food one or two times daily, and many experts recommend taking it with other antioxidants.

Synergists of Glutathione

Studies have concluded that taking Vitamin C in a 3:1 ratio with glutathione may increase its effectiveness as an immune booster.

Together with selenium, glutathione forms glutathione peroxidase, which is an enzyme that neutralizes hydrogen peroxide.

Toxicity of Glutathione

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Gohil, K., et al., “Blood Glutathione Oxidation During Human Exercise,” J Appl Physiol 64.1 (1988) : 115-9.
  • Ohno, H., and Sato, Y., “Glutathione and Physical Exercise,” Tanpakushitsu Kakusan Koso 33.9 (1988) : 1480-6.
  • Sastre, J., et al., “Exhaustive Physical Exercise Causes Oxidation of Glutathione Status in Blood: Prevention by Antioxidant Administration,” Am J Physiol 263.5.2 (1992) : R992-5.
  • Vina, J., et al., “Exercise Causes Blood Glutathione Oxidation in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: Prevention by O2 Therapy,” J Appl Physiol 81.5 (1996) : 2198-202.
  • White, A.C., et al., “Glutathione Deficiency in Human Disease,” J Nut Biochem 5 (1994) : 218-26.
  • Witschi, A., et al., “The Systemic Availability of Oral Glutathione,” Eur J Clin Pharmacol 43.6 (1992) : 667-9.