Glutatione is rather amazing – low levels are biomarkers for various conditions and it is a “super antioxidant.”
Low levels of glutathione are linked to cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and brain neurodegenerative problems. The amount of glutathione in blood plasma is considered an overall indicator of the body’s antioxidant defense system.
Glutathione (GSH) is a super free radical fighter with the capacity to neutralize the full spectrum of free radicals. Normal metabolic activity creates free radicals, they can be destructive. They are missing an electron in their outer orbit and therefore try to steal one from a nearby healthy cell, rendering that cell dysfunctional.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals by giving them an extra electron. We can generate some antioxidants naturally, but most are obtained from foods, particularly colored foods such as green, leafy vegetables, and berries. Targeted supplements such as glutathione enhance our free radical fighting ability.
Researchers investigating how cataracts develop report that reduced glutathione levels suggest a complex pathogenesis as cataracts slowly develop.1
Glutathione can be helpful at preventing cataract formation.2 It exists in unusually high concentrations in the lens, where it plays an essential free-radical scavenging function,3 defending both the entire eye and various regions of the lens from cataracts.4 Studies have shown that all lenses with cataracts contain a reduced amount of GSH, about 1/15 the normal amount.5
As with cataracts, researchers are learning how reduced glutathione metabolism creates a complex chain of actions and reactions that increase oxidative damage and lead to glaucoma.6
Low levels of glutathione are also observed in macular degeneration patients. Early AMD patients have high levels of oxidized glutathione (glutathione disulfide), a biomarker for AMD.
Glutathione helps protect the retina from oxidative damage.10 Research into the pathogenesis of macular degeneration finds that depletion of GSH contributes to premature cell dysfunction (stress-induced premature senescence, SIPS), iron-induced cell death (ferroptosis), and the body’s removal of damaged cells (autophagy).11
Other Eye Disorders
Low glutathione levels are implicated in other eye disorders. For example, researchers have found that GSH levels are low in patients with diabetic retinopathy12 where glutathione synthesis is reduced and in problems of the vitreous.13
In the Brain
Glutathione (GSH) is the antioxidant found in greatest quantity in the brain, and is found to be deficient in the brains of Alzheimer’s (AD) patients 14 15 16 (as well as Parkinson’s patients). Glutathione is essential in the brain as it protects healthy cells from damage from oxidative stress. GSH levels are becoming an important therapeutic target both to reduce the impacts of aging17 as well as in the treatment of age-associated neurological diseases such as AD.18
For example, in one study, researchers discovered that when GSH is depleted in the hippocampus regions of an elderly person the healthy brain suffers mild cognitive impairment, which is known to be present in the earlier stages of AD.19
How to Get Enough Glutathione
Avoid foods that contain high levels of free radicals such as fried and processed foods. Alcohol reduces protective glutathione levels because it interferes with liver functioning (a glass of red wine a night is fine and contains high levels of antioxidants). Good food sources of glutathione include sulfur rich foods such as cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, kale, mustard, collard greens, radish, turnip, and arugula).
Foods provide some, but not all precursors that help the liver produce GSH and enhance GSH. These nutrient precursors include the amino acids cysteine, glycine, and glutamine, as well as selenium, alpha lipoic acid, selenium, vitamin C, milk thistle extract, and aged garlic. Of these, cysteine is not contained in the typical diet, but is essential for GSH metabolism. Therefore, supplementation ensures a significant amount of glutathione is available to the body.
Glutathione is not absorbed well in capsule or pill form, and is best taken intraorally or sublingually as a supplement, or intravenously. As a supplement we recommend glutathione taken as an oral spray. It is quickly and effectively absorbed in that form.
ACG Glutathione Spray – Oral spray for best absorption.
Advanced Eye & Vision Support Formula is a good combination with glutathione for all-around vision/brain support.
Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Healing – Our comprehensive guide to vision wellness and healing.
- Chen X, Yan H, Chen Y, Li G, Bin Y, et al. (2021). Moderate oxidative stress promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition in the lens epithelial cells via the TGF-β/Smad and Wnt/β-catenin pathways. Mol Cell Biochem. Jan 8;10.1007/s11010-020-04034-9. ↩
- Harding JJ. (1970). Free and protein-bound glutathione in normal and cataractous human lenses. Biochem J. May;117(5):957-60. ↩
- Giblin J. (2000). Glutathione: a vital lens antioxidant. J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. Apr;16(2):121-35. ↩
- Bhat KS, John A, Reddy PR, Reddy PS, Reddy VN. (1991). Effect of pigmentation on glutathione redox cycle antioxidant defense in whole as well as different regions of human cataractous lens. Exp Eye Res. Jun;52(6):715-21. ↩
- Glutathione (2000, ’02, ’15, ’17) & Cataract. Retrieved Feb 2 2021 from http://www.naturaleyecare.com/study.asp?s_num=426. ↩
- Arana AGH, Vitar MRL, Reides CG, Lerner SF, Ferreira SM. (2020). Glaucoma causes redox imbalance in the primary visual cortex by modulating NADPH oxidase-4, iNOS, and Nrf2 pathway in a rat experimental model. Exp Eye Res. Nov;200:108255. ↩
- Dringen R. (2000). Glutathione metabolism and oxidative stress in neurodegeneration. Eur J Biochem. Aug;267(16):4903. ↩
- Gherghel, D., Mroczkowska, S., Qin, L. (2013). Reduction in blood glutathione levels occurs similarly in patients with primary-open angle or normal tension glaucoma. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. May 9;54(5):3333-9. ↩
- Gherghel D, Griffiths HR, Hilton EJ, Cunliffe IA. (2005). Systemic Reduction in Glutathione Levels Occurs in Patients with Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. Mar;46(3):877-83. ↩
- Sternberg P, Davidson PC, Jones DP, Hagen TM, Reed RL, et al. (1993). Protection of retinal pigment epithelium from oxidative injury by glutathione and precursors. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci, Dec;34(13):3661-8. ↩
- Sun Y, Zheng Y, Wang C, Liu Y. (2018). Glutathione depletion induces ferroptosis, autophagy, and premature cell senescence in retinal pigment epithelial cells. Cell Death Dis. Jul 9;9(7):753. ↩
- Alisik M, Isik MU. (2020). The Relationship between Choroidal Thickness and Intracellular Oxidised-reduced Glutathione and Extracellular Thiol-disulfide Homeostasis at Different Stages of Diabetic Retinopathy. Curr Eye Res. Nov 10;1-6. ↩
- Tram NK, McLean RM, Swindle-Reilly KE. (2020). Glutathione Improves the Antioxidant Activity of Vitamin C in Human Lens and Retinal Epitelial Cells: Implications for Vitreous Substitutes. Curr Eye Res. Aug 24:1-12. ↩
- Rae CD, Williams SR. (2017). Glutathione in the human brain: Review of its roles and measurement by magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Anal Biochem. Jul 15;529:127-143. ↩
- Shukla D, Mandal PK, Ersland L, Gruner ER, Tripathi M, et al. (2018). Multi-Center Study on Human Brain Glutathione Conformation using Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy. J Alzheimers Dis. 2018;66(2):517-532. ↩
- Mazzetti AP, Fiorile MC, Primavera A, Lo Bello M. (2015). Glutathione transferases and neurodegenerative diseases. Neuro-chem Int. Mar;82:10-8. ↩
- Sohal RS, Orr WC. (2012). The redox stress hypothesis of aging. Free Radic Biol Med. Feb 1; 52(3):539-555. ↩
- Ballatori N, Krance SM, Notenboom S, Shi S, Tieu K, et al. (2009). Glutathione dysregulation and the etiology and progression of human diseases. Biol Chem. Mar; 390(3):191-214. ↩
- Schliebs R, Arendt T. (2011). The cholinergic system in aging and neuronal degeneration. Behav Brain Res. 2011 Aug 10; 221(2):555-63. ↩