The benefits of glutathione supplementation 

Did you know that in the year 2022, “glutathione” had a global search popularity of more than 75%? It ranked higher than other, popular antioxidants such as resveratrol and OPC. In our blog post on antioxidant supplements we briefly mentioned how glutathione can reduce the biomarkers of oxidative stress. Since it has several other benefits, we decided to dedicate an entire blog post to this “all-in-one” supplement. 

Glutathione is one of the most abundant antioxidants occurring naturally in almost all living plant and animal cells (1). It is made up of three precursor amino acids-cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine (2). 

It is a critical regulator of oxidative stress and inflammatory response. It is also a regulator of DNA synthesis and repair (2). Finally, glutathione is extremely important for detoxification (3).    

The maintenance of optimal levels of glutathione may, therefore, be an important strategy for the prevention of oxidative stress-related diseases. Such diseases include cardiovascular diseases and cancer (3). 

What is glutathione’s function in the body? 

GSH is a “master antioxidant” in all tissues of the human body (11). It is involved in  

  • antioxidant defence 
  • detoxication of synthetic chemicals (xenobiotics)  
  • balance of oxidizing and reducing reactions within the cells  
  • amino acid carrier/storage  
  • cell signalling 
  • protein folding and function  
  • gene expression 
  • cell differentiation/multiplication 
  • immune response, and  
  • antiviral defence 

The health benefits of glutathione 

Anti-ageing 

Ageing is a natural, persistent decline in the fitness of an organism due to internal physiological deterioration (4). A large part of the physiological decline occurs due to oxidative stress. 

Glutathione plays a pivotal role in protecting cells against oxidative stress-induced cellular damage, in detoxifying xenobiotics and in drug metabolism. Decreased glutathione levels are thus, associated with the common features of ageing (2,5).  

Dietary supplementation is, therefore, encouraged to counter the ageing-related symptoms such as cellular damage and impairment of nervous function (2,5).  

Supporting brain function 

The impairment of glutathione function in the brain is linked to a loss of neurons during the ageing process (2). A decline in cellular levels or function are also associated with neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease. 

The exact mechanisms through which glutathione regulates brain metabolism are not well understood. However, it is believed that it functions as a neuronal regulator in homeostasis and metabolism (2). 

Glutathione for sports 

The dietary intake of glutathione and its precursors (cysteine and glycine) have been associated with isometric strength. A short-term increase in lean mass was also observed (6,7). This is positively associated with muscle strength.  

Glutathione’s sports functions are due to its ability to reduce fatigue and free radicals produced upon exercise. 

Glutathione has beauty applications 

Glutathione’s antioxidant properties help prevent ageing by reducing spotting and increasing the elasticity of skin (8). 

Its anti-melanogenic properties can help reduce spotting of the skin when exposed to the sun (8). Glutathione is also capable of brightening tanned skin. 

Immune functions  

As mentioned in our antiinflammatory supplements blog post, low levels of glutathione are associated with inflammatory conditions. This includes rheumatoid arthritis, Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus and cystic fibrosis (9). 

Since free radicals are generated in the process, a potent antioxidant like glutathione can greatly help reduce inflammation and its symptoms (3). 

Enhancements in immune function markers including Natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxicity and lymphocyte proliferation, have been observed upon glutathione supplementation (3). 

Oral glutathione supplementation 

Why supplement for glutathione? 

Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that blood glutathione levels decrease with age (2,5,12). This is further compounded by an individual’s genetic influence on endogenous GSH production (13). 

Balancing our body stores of glutathione through food supplementation is, therefore, highly recommended.  

Does the oral supplementation of glutathione work? 

Although there are commercial suggestions of supplementing for glutathione precursors such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC), scientific evidence supporting their ability to impact glutathione levels is inconclusive (13). It is advised therefore, to supplement directly for the reduced form of glutathione. 

Eating green fruits and vegetables such as asparagus, avocado, cucumber, green beans and spinach, may help provide one’s daily dosage of glutathione (13). However, as with all nutrients obtained from plants, the advantages are highly dependent on the type of plant consumed, hinderance to absorption due to plant fibres, and easy and sustainable access to these plant sources. 

Supplementation in the form of dietary supplements can, on the other hand, provide a regular and easily accessible source of glutathione to achieve one’s daily glutathione requirements. In a 6-month randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial, oral glutathione supplementation was effective at increasing body compartment stores. This increased with time and the dosage of the supplement taken (1). This study was conducted in non-smoking, healthy individuals.

Why liposomal glutathione? 

Although glutathione supplementation is recommended for all the applications listed above, it suffers from low bioavailability (5). Further, results from clinical studies of supplementation in the non-liposomal form, are mixed and inconclusive (13).

Liposomal delivery can bypass the breakdown of glutathione that may occur during digestion (13). Supportive evidence is provided by pilot studies that have proven that liposomal glutathione consumption can increase blood stores of glutathione by 25% in just 2 weeks (1,3). This is compared to 30-35 % after 6 months of non-liposomal glutathione administration. The elevated cellular glutathione levels resulted in reductions in oxidative stress biomarkers without any toxicity. 

Bioavailability studies with our own liquid liposomal glutathione formulation have indicated that plasma glutathione levels increased by almost 64-times. This is as compared to a non-liposomal formulation. 

Figure 1. Results of bioavailability studies with PlantaCorp’s liposomal glutathione

Is the glutathione used in supplements a natural or synthetic ingredient? 

The glutathione that we use in our products comes from a synthetic source. A natural source just would not have a high enough concentration of the active ingredient. 

What form of glutathione supplementation is recommended? 

Glutathione in supplements comes in two forms- reduced and acetylated. The reduced form, known as GSH, is the active/functional form of the molecule (11). S-acetyl glutathione, on the other hand, is the more bioavailable form.

We use the reduced form of L-glutathione in our formulations. In addition to it being the active form, it works well in the pH range we work with and at a lower cost.   

Table 1: A comparison of the properties between reduced L-glutathione and S-acetyl glutathione

Are there any side-effects to glutathione supplementation? 

Glutathione is possibly safe when used in doses up to 1 000 mg daily for up to 6 months (1,3).   

Market trend for glutathione supplements 

The revenue of the global glutathione market is estimated to surpass USD 361.0 million by the end of 2027 (10). The clients’ demand for natural ways to fight ageing will be one of the major drivers of this growth. 

Do we have you convinced? Then talk to us about adding liposomal glutathione to your supplement portfolio. We can offer liquid liposomal formulations of glutathione both as a white label and as a custom formulation option. 

Key takeaways 

  • Glutathione is comprised of three amino acids-cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. 
  • It functions as an antioxidant, regulates immune function and DNA synthesis and repair, and is extremely important for detoxification. 
  • Glutathione supplementation is recommended for anti-ageing, beauty, sports, cognitive and immune applications. 
  • Oral glutathione supplementation is effective in increasing the body’s stores. It is proven safe up to a dosage of 1 000 mg/day for 6 months.  
  • PlantaCorp’s liquid liposomal glutathione formulation is 64-times more bioavailable than a non-liposomal supplementation form.  

References 

  1. Richie JP Jr, Nichenametla S, Neidig W, Calcagnotto A, Haley JS, Schell TD, Muscat JE. Randomized controlled trial of oral glutathione supplementation on body stores of glutathione. Eur J Nutr. 2015 Mar;54(2):251-63.  
  2. Iskusnykh IY, Zakharova AA, Pathak D. Glutathione in Brain Disorders and Aging. Molecules. 2022 Jan 5;27(1):324. 
  3. Sinha R, Sinha I, Calcagnotto A, Trushin N, Haley JS, Schell TD, Richie JP Jr. Oral supplementation with liposomal glutathione elevates body stores of glutathione and markers of immune function. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2018 Jan;72(1):105-111. 
  4. Rose MR, Flatt T, Graves JL, et al. What is Aging?. Front Genet. 2012;3:134. Published 2012 Jul 20. doi:10.3389/fgene.2012.00134 
  5. Homma T, Fujii J. Application of Glutathione as Anti-Oxidative and Anti-Aging Drugs. Curr Drug Metab. 2015;16(7):560-71.  
  6. Hwang P, Morales Marroquín FE, Gann J, Andre T, McKinley-Barnard S, Kim C, Morita M, Willoughby DS. Eight weeks of resistance training in conjunction with glutathione and L-Citrulline supplementation increases lean mass and has no adverse effects on blood clinical safety markers in resistance-trained males. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Jun 27;15(1):30. 
  7. Margaritelis NV, Chatzinikolaou PN, Bousiou FV, Malliou VJ, Papadopoulou SK, Potsaki P, Theodorou AA, Kyparos A, Geladas ND, Nikolaidis MG, Paschalis V. Dietary Cysteine Intake is Associated with Blood Glutathione Levels and Isometric Strength. Int J Sports Med. 2021 May;42(5):441-447. 
  8. Dilokthornsakul W, Dhippayom T, Dilokthornsakul P. The clinical effect of glutathione on skin color and other related skin conditions: A systematic review. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2019; 18: 728– 737.  
  9. Ballatori N, Krance SM, Notenboom S, Shi S, Tieu K, Hammond CL. Glutathione dysregulation and the etiology and progression of human diseases. Biol Chem. 2009;390(3):191-214. 
  10. Glutathione Market Analysis. Coherent Market Insights.  Jul 2021.  
  11. Labarrere CA, Kassab GS. Glutathione: A Samsonian life-sustaining small molecule that protects against oxidative stress, ageing and damaging inflammation. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2022; 9. 
  12. Pérez LM, Hooshmand B, Mangialasche F et al. Glutathione Serum Levels and Rate of Multimorbidity Development in Older Adults. The Journals of Gerontology. 2020; 75(6):1089–1094. 
  13. Minich DM, Brown BI. A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support. Nutrients. 2019; 11(9):2073.  
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