The use of supplemental glutathione for anti-aging therapy has sparked controversy in the medical community, with some researchers calling it a powerful health restorative and others saying there’s just not enough evidence to justify those claims.
Glutathione (also sometimes known as GSH) is a natural compound. It is found in some foods, including many fruits, vegetables, and meats, and it can also be synthesized within the body, from three amino acids (L-cysteine, L-glutamic acid, and glycin).
It is known to be a powerful antioxidant, effective at protecting cells from free radicals (unstable molecules formed during the process of cellular oxidation). It’s active in human lungs and in many other organ systems and tissues, and plays an active role in maintaining the immune system.
Though GSH was first isolated eighty years ago, it’s metabolism within the body has only been understood since 1984. Studies and clinical trials of glutathione in the treatment of cancer, ALS, cystic fribrosis, and asthma are currently taking place, but though studies on its potential health benefits are ongoing, a relatively limited body of research is currently available.
Antioxidant = Anti-Aging?
Glutathione’s potent antioxidant properties give it what appears to be enormous potential as an anti-aging supplement, because many of the health problems associated with free radical damage. Antioxidants can neutralize free radicals, preventing and even repairing the damage they do.
Preliminary research has shown a correlation between high GSH levels and good health in older adults, but while initial results seem promising most studies on the substance have been small and limited.
Questions About Method of Supplementation
One of the primary questions about glutathione is whether oral supplements are effective. Some studies have indicated that giving patients oral supplements of as much as 3000 IU resulted in no increase in blood levels of glutathione, while other research showed that taking other nutritional compounds did effectively raise blood levels GSH. In one trial, supplementation of vitamin C raised glutathione blood levels by almost 50%. The study concluded that vitamin C raises GSH levels by helping the body produce it.
But though questions persist about the extent to which oral glutathione can be absorbed, small studies using other methods of supplementation have produced exciting results. Administered intravenously or intramuscularly, GSH has been found useful for preventing clot formation during operations, treating Parkinson’s disease, reducing high blood pressure in diabetics, and increasing the effectiveness of certain chemotherapy drugs.