by Nils Osmar. Updated Nov. 11, 2022 – Medical disclaimer
Our bodies make ample supplies of the natural antioxidant glutathione when we’re young. This essential bioactive compound has a number of key functions in the body, including:
- Making DNA, the building blocks of our cells
- Modulating DNA repair
- Supporting immune function.
- Lowering inflammation
- Helping remove mercury from our bodies (including our brains)
- For males: Supporting the production of healthy human sperm and improving male fertility
- For females: Protecting human eggs from oxidative damage.
- Regenerating oxidized vitamin C and vitamin E
- Reducing oxidative stress and breaking down free radicals. (It’s a potent natural antioxidant.)
- Reducing cell damage in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Improving insulin resistance.
- Increasing mobility for people with peripheral artery disease.
- Reducing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
- Some studies suggest that it may help fight against autoimmune disease.
Glutathione Levels Decrease As We Age
As we age, our levels of this important natural compound begin falling. By the time we’re in our sixties they’re a fraction of what they were when we were young adults. The decrease in glutathione correlates with a decline in executive function in the brain.
According to a recent study,
“Reduced levels of the cellular antioxidant glutathione are associated with premature skin aging, cancer and impaired wound healing… These findings suggest that low levels of glutathione are sufficient for wound repair in young mice, but become rate-limiting upon aging.”
This suggests that restoring glutathione to the levels that existed when we were young could be key if our goal to live longer in better health.
Restoring Glutathione to Youthful Levels
If you’d like to boost your levels to what they were when you were a young adult, there’s evidence that the following interventions might help:
- Take GlyNAC – i.e., taking NAC (N. Acetyl Cysteine) along with glycine. According to this study, the combination of glycine and N-acetyl cysteine supplementation in older adults improves glutathione deficiency, oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction, genotoxicity, muscle strength, and cognition. More recent studies have clarified that it’s beneficial to take equal amounts of NAC and glycine. I’m currently taking 4 or grams per day of both.
- Eating whey powder. (I add a scoop of raw grass-fed whey powder to Greek yogurt and eat it after exercising on my workout days.)
- Eating sulfur rich foods such as eggs, onions and garlic.
- Eating foods rich in selenium, or taking a selenium supplement. Note: Selenium is essential to health but overdoses can be toxic. I’m limiting my consumption to around 200 mcg/day. See article: “Dietary selenium increases cellular glutathione peroxidase activity and reduces the enhanced susceptibility to lipid peroxidation of plasma and low-density lipoprotein in kidney transplant recipients”
- Taking glutathione supplements is one possibility. Note though that the supplements themselves don’t appear to have much of an impact on glutathione levels in the human body.
- Some studies suggest that taking liposomal glutathione may be a better choice, but they can cost several times as much.
- Taking a sulforaphane supplement, or eating foods high in sulforaphane. See article. I’m currently taking two 200 mg. capsules of DoNotAge Sulforaboost every morning along with my NAD boosters. Any high quality sulforaphane supplement should work.
- Making sure you’re eating enough protein. Some people in the anti-aging community are actively restricting their protein, hoping to lower the activation of mTOR; but we need all of the essential amino acids for the body to produce glutathione.
- Cooking with turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Both human and animal studies have shown that turmeric and curcumin extract have the ability to increase glutathione levels
- Taking milk thistle supplements has also been found to activate glutathione production in the body.
Raising Glutathione May Also Raise Nitric Oxide
As a bonus, according to this study, raising glutathione or taking glutathione supplements along with L. Citrulline also increases nitric oxide. For this reason, I often add some L. Citrulline when taking the above supplements.
According to Healthline.com,
“Nitric oxide is produced by nearly every type of cell in the human body and one of the most important molecules for blood vessel health. It’s a vasodilator, meaning it relaxes the inner muscles of your blood vessels, causing the vessels to widen. In this way, nitric oxide increases blood flow and lowers blood pressure.”
Levels drop precipitously as we age. According to a 2014 study, “Impaired generation and signaling of nitric oxide (NO) contribute substantially to cardiovascular (CV) risk (CVR) associated with hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes mellitus.”
To restore nitric oxide to youthful levels: We can (als0) raise nitric oxide levels by eating foods high in natural nitrites such as celery, or by humming at the right frequency (which increases nasal NO levels).
What I’m Doing
- I take LifeExtension NAC along with NOW Glycine, DoNotAge sulforaphane; and Zazzee organic milk thistle on my workout days. I sometimes also supplement with selenium and eat whey. I notice an increase in my energy when I take the supplements together.I take supplements to restore NAD+; but I also take supplements to restore glutathione and other compounds to useful levels. I suspect that all of them are equally important.
- For a full list of the supplements I’m taking, see this page.
Most people in the anti-aging community are aware of the importance of increasing NAD+ levels (which can be done by supplementing with NMN or other NAD precursors and other means). The studies are glutathione are a reminder to me that, while NAD+ is important, it’s not the only compound which exists in high levels in the body, but becomes less abundant as we age.
I take supplements to restore NAD+; but I suspect that the supplements I take to restore glutathione to young adult levels are equally important.
- Dietary Glycine Is Rate-Limiting for Glutathione Synthesis and May Have Broad Potential for Health Protection
- 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
- Sulforaphane Augments Glutathione and Influences Brain Metabolites in Human Subjects: A Clinical Pilot Study
- Curcumin induces glutathione biosynthesis and inhibits NF-kappaB activation and interleukin-8 release in alveolar epithelial cells