Glutathione Benefits

What research has to say about glutathione supplements

Glutathione is a molecule found naturally in your body that is made from the amino acids glycine, L-cysteine, and L-glutamate. Also known as GSH, it is produced by the liver and nerve cells in the central nervous system.

An antioxidant, glutathione plays several roles in the body. It is involved in tissue building and repair, detoxification, and the production of enzymes and hormones. It also plays a key role in the immune system.

Glutathione supplements are often recommended for several health conditions, including Alzheimer's and heart disease. It is also used in dermatology to lighten skin and fight the visible signs of aging.

This article discusses the antioxidant glutathione along with its uses and purported benefits. It also provides examples of how to get more glutathione in your diet.

glutathione

Verywell / Alexandra Gordon

Glutathione's Functions in the Body

Glutathione is an antioxidant, a molecule that helps fight free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that form in response to factors like your diet and the environment.

When more free radicals than antioxidants are present, oxidative cell damage occurs. This can lead to inflammation and a variety of health issues ranging from high blood pressure and diabetes to Alzheimer's disease and more.

Antioxidants are critical as they help keep things in a healthy balance. Your body makes some antioxidants, but others come from external sources like diet or supplements like glutathione.

In addition to being an antioxidant, GSH also plays a part in your body's:

  • Metabolism of toxins and cancer-causing substances
  • Natural creation and repair of DNA
  • Production of protein and prostaglandin, a compound with hormone-like effects
  • Activation of enzymes

Glutathione also helps break down nutrients and regulate important body processes, such as the immune response.

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Click Play to Learn About Glutathione’s Side Effects on Skin

This video has been medically reviewed by Meredith Bull, ND.

What Glutathione Is Used For

Glutathione is purported to reverse the aging process, prevent cancer, and preserve memory. It is also said to protect against a wide range of health problems, including:

However, there is limited scientific evidence to support the use of glutathione to prevent or treat any health condition.

If you're considering the use of glutathione for a condition, make sure to consult your healthcare provider first. Self-treating a chronic condition and avoiding or delaying standard care can have serious consequences.

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the side effects of using glutathione supplements.

However, there's some concern that the use of glutathione supplements may cause cramping and bloating. In addition, some people may experience allergic reactions to glutathione supplements, such as a rash.

Dosage and Preparation

There is not enough scientific evidence to determine the proper dose of glutathione. Some suggest that supplementing with N-acetylcysteine (NAC, or whey) may be more effective.

Various doses have been studied in research investigating specific medical conditions. The proper dose for you may depend on several factors, including your age, sex, and medical history.

In some cases, healthcare professionals administer glutathione through the use of an IV to treat atherosclerosis, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and side effects of chemotherapy.

For some conditions, glutathione can also be inhaled and given through a nebulizer.

Do Glutathione Injections Work?

Glutathione injections are used to speed cell renewal and fight the aging process. Injections are commonly given to boost energy, clear up acne, promote skin lightening, and speed up weight loss. Injections are believed to work better than oral supplements by bypassing the digestive tract. With injections, 100% of the antioxidant is absorbed, helping it to work faster and more efficiently. 

Sources of Glutathione

Glutathione is readily found in certain foods, such as fruits and vegetables. A study published in Nutrition and Cancer found that dairy products, cereals, and bread are generally low in glutathione. Fruits and vegetables have moderate to high amounts of GSH, and freshly prepared meats are relatively high in GSH.

Glutathione dietary supplements and personal care products are available online and in many natural-food stores, drugstores, and vitamin shops.

Although glutathione plays a vital role in the body, the benefits are thought to be primarily due to the cysteine that helps form it. Other supplements, such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC), may provide the cysteine needed to raise glutathione levels in the body in a less expensive way.

According to limited research, increasing the body's glutathione through diet or supplements can help with certain health conditions.

Summary

As an antioxidant, glutathione helps your body balance free radicals and stay healthy. It works at the cellular level to prevent inflammation and other cell damage that can make you sick.

GSH is found in certain foods, but can also be taken as a dietary supplement. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplements.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is glutathione harmful?

    Not typically. Glutathione is a natural antioxidant that is produced in the body that fights free radicals and slows the aging process. Studies show glutathione is non-toxic and does not typically produce harmful side effects.

    However, additional research shows that long-term use of glutathione supplements can lower zinc levels.

  • Does glutathione lighten skin color?

    Possibly. Glutathione is marketed overseas as a skin-lightening agent, but a 2019 review of published studies said the evidence for that use was inconclusive. However, the review noted glutathione appears to brighten skin tone when applied topically prior to light exposure.

  • Do glutathione injections work permanently?

    Yes and no. When used in dermatology for skin lightening, the results are permanent and you can stop injections once the desired result is reached. However, touch-up injections are often recommended to prevent or treat future signs of aging.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Weschawalit S, Thongthip S, Phutrakool P, Asawanonda P. Glutathione and its antiaging and antimelanogenic effectsCCID. 2017;10:147-153. doi:10.2147%2FCCID.S128339

  3. Jones DP, Coates RJ, Flagg EW, et al. Glutathione in foods listed in the National Cancer Institute's Health Habits and History Food Frequency Questionnaire. Nutr Cancer. 2009;17(1):57-75. doi:10.1080/01635589209514173

  4. Steiger MG, Patzschke A, Holz C, et al. Impact of glutathione metabolism on zinc homeostasis in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. FEMS Yeast Res. 2017;17(4). doi:10.1093/femsyr/fox028

  5. 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(3):728-737. doi:10.1111/jocd.12910

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.