Increased glutathione may protect retina against free radical damage

Increased levels of glutathione may protect retina against free radical damage related to macular degeneration.

glutathione molecule
Glutathione molecular model. Hydrogen (white), carbon (grey), oxygen (red), nitrogen (blue), sulfur (yellow)

A variant of advanced macular degeneration is the “dry” form  which takes place when the layer of pigment in the eye atrophies.  Glutathione is synthesized from amino acids in the body, and is not sourced from food.  Therefore, low levels are not directly tied to diet.

Researchers suspect that increased levels of this antioxidant will help slow the development of the condition.  Because development of geographic atrophy is fairly predictable, if the supplementation is effective it can be readily monitored and measured.

Glutathione (pronounced “gloota-thigh-own”) is manufactured in the body. It is made of proteins and amino acids: cysteine, glycine and glutamine. This body chemical has sulfur, which sticks to free radicals and heavy metals in the body. Glutathione plays a critical role in “taking out the trash”. More than 76,000 studies(2) have been published on the effects of this chemical on all aspects of health, including preventing aging, cancer, heart disease, dementia and eye disease.

However, a bad diet, toxins, pollution, stress, aging, certain medications, infections, trauma, and radiation reduce your glutathione levels.  This makes the body’s cells more vulnerable to damage from oxidization, infections, free radicals, and even cancer. Lack of glutathione can overload the liver, hampering its ability to detoxify the body.

The human body evolved to do basic detoxification. Our modern, polluted world means our bodies must detoxify a significant amount of toxins to maintain good health. Giving our glutathione levels a boost is likely to have a positive impact on health.

Did you know that exercise is a simple and 100% natural, non-invasive way to increase glutathione levels? If you exercise at home or in public spaces, it is also free. If you haven’t exercised in a while, start slowly and gradually work up to half an hour of vigorous aerobic exercise every day. For example, try walking, jogging, taking an aerobic class, or playing an aerobic sport. Additionally, pick up weights or do a muscle strengthening routine for 20 minutes, 3 times a week.

Milk thistle (silymarin) traditionally has provided support to liver disease patients. According to a study(3), it boosts glutathione levels.

There is no single pill that provides glutathione, because the body digests protein. You can supplement the building blocks for glutathione if desired. Here are some ideas:

  • multivitamin
  • fish oils
  • folate and vitamins B6 and B12
  • selenium
  • N-acetyl-cystein
  • Alpha lipoic acid. The body produces it, but you can add more if needed.
  • Antioxidants including vitamins C and E (in the form of mixed tocopherols)

To get additional sulphur into the body, eat broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, and other cruciferous vegetables. Garlic and onions are also sulpher-rich.

1. Guard Study published at
2. Mark Hyman, MD. “Glutathione: The Mother of All Antioxidants” Huffington Post 4/10/10
3. Indian J Biochem Biophys. 2006 Oct;43(5):306-11. Protective effects of silymarin, a milk thistle (Silybium marianum) derivative on ethanol-induced oxidative stress in liver. Das SK, Vasudevan DM.