There is a perception in the supplement industry that in order for a supplement to be effective, it has to be something that your body can’t naturally produce. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth; some of the most well-researched and effective supplements, ranging from creatine and amino acids to vitamin D, can be produced by your body barring an exceptional medical condition. The reason for this is because your body often has natural limitations on how much of these substances it can produce. A primary example of this phenomenon is glutathione. Glutathione is a peptide synthesized from three different amino acids, and it can be made by your body in large quantities – so large that it is present in every one of your body’s cells. However, the production of glutathione is limited by the amounts of the three amino acids – cysteine, glycine and glutamatic acid – your body possesses. And though glutathione can be produced by entirely natural means, it still has the potential to produce many glutathione benefits.
Glutathione Benefits: Effective Antioxidant
The most powerful of the glutathione benefits, for which most people take glutathione supplements, is the peptide’s role as an antioxidant. Glutathione is far from the only antioxidant, but research suggests it is a particularly effective one. Antioxidants are responsible for protecting your body from the detrimental effects of molecules known as free radicals, which can cause permanent damage to essential cells. Unfortunately, the threat of free radicals is quite widespread, as even activities with clear benefits, such as running, lifting weights and other athletic endeavors, can trigger the release of free radicals. Free radicals promote disease and sickness, and research from the November 2009 issue of Antioxidants & Redox Signaling suggests that glutathione is particularly beneficial for addressing the harmful effects of aging, neurological conditions and liver disease. Of course, you should consult a doctor before using glutathione or any other supplements in an attempt to offset disease (1).
Another benefit of glutathione is that it may help regenerate antioxidants as they fend off free radicals, thus increasing your ability to battle cell damage and disease (2). Because conditions as serious as cancer have been linked to free radical activity, the benefit of a supplement such as glutathione is great.
Glutathione Benefits and Chronic Disease
Glutathione may also be helpful for addressing the side effects of chemotherapy; one study found that supplementation of glutathione helped reduce the incidence of chemotherapy side effects and promoted enhanced rates of survival. Glutathione has also been suggested as a potentially effective treatment for conditions including cataracts, high blood pressure and neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (3). The role of glutathione in protecting cells may also help offset feelings of fatigue and may promote improved function of your immune system.
Glutathione Benefits and Exercise
Glutathione benefits are most evident when paired with exercise, as this strenuous activity produces free radicals. Additionally, glutathione may also have benefits for improving sports performance, such as increasing strength, reducing necessary recovery time, enhancing endurance and promoting the acquisition of lean muscle mass rather than body fat (2).
If this data gives you the impression that glutathione is a highly beneficial supplement, then you’ve drawn a conclusion supported by a growing body of research. Even with these benefits, though, you should consult a doctor prior to using glutathione supplements and should not use it as a replacement for medical treatments recommended by a licensed medical professional.
- Antioxidants & Redox Signaling; Mitochondrial Glutathione, a Key Survival Antioxidant; M. Mari, et al.; 2009
- Glutathione: The Mother of All Antioxidants; Mark Hyman, MD; 2010
- Glutathione: New Supplement on the Block; Alison Palkhivala; 2001