There are hundreds, if not thousands, of compounds in plants that have antioxidant activity. Some are familiar, like vitamins C and E. Others, like coenzyme Q10 and lipoic acid, are less well known, unless you’re a health buff. Many are obscure to just about all of us.
Yet among this vast number there’s one that really stands out from the crowd; it’s a small protein called glutathione.
Glutathione deserves star billing because it combats two factors considered to be at the core of the aging process. Now a new study confirms what many scientists have long suspected; boosting glutathione can actually reverse premature aging.
Although there are half a dozen theories of aging, scientific evidence strongly supports two of them. The first is the free radical theory.
Where there’s an abundance of toxic, cell-damaging free radicals in the tissues, and not enough antioxidants to quench them, we have an imbalance called oxidative stress.
This is a feature of a vast range of conditions including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, neurodegenerative disorders, cancer and aging.
These conditions are also linked to a decline in the quality, activity and function of mitochondria, the organelles in each and every cell that burn fuel to produce energy. That leads us to the second theory of aging, the mitochondrial theory.
Both theories of aging are linked because mitochondria generate free radicals as a waste product of energy production, much the way a power plant belches pollutants. It’s what happens when you oxidize – or burn – something.
Mitochondrial DNA are particularly susceptible to free radical damage, and it is this, many scientists believe, that kicks off a chain of reactions that lead to degenerative disease and aging.
So, it’s essential to thwart these processes, and that’s where glutathione enters the picture.
Centenarians Have High Levels
Glutathione, a peptide or short-chain protein molecule, is distributed widely in plants and is also made within the cells of the human body from three amino acids – glycine, glutamic acid and cysteine. However, the body’s ability to manufacture the peptide drops off sharply after the age of 45.
That’s not good news, because glutathione is widely referred to as “the master antioxidant.”
Dr. Oz calls it “the most powerful antioxidant you have never heard of.” Best-selling author and physician Dr. Mark Hyman, describes it as “the mother of all antioxidants.”
These experts and many others have good reason for heaping praise on the peptide as a health promoting and anti-aging agent.
Studies show people over 60 with higher blood glutathione levels enjoy better physical health and less chronic disease. Glutathione was shown in studies to be characteristic of long-lived women and found to be elevated in centenarians. In one study, people over 100 had higher levels of glutathione than those aged 70 to 99.
It gives every sign of being a key to long life.
A scientist who has been researching glutathione for the last 20 years is Dr. Rajagopal Sekhar from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.
Boosting Glutathione Reverses Symptoms of Aging
In previous studies Dr. Sekhar and his research team were able to elevate intracellular glutathione, lower oxidative stress and raise mitochondrial function in elderly mice to levels that were comparable to younger ones after feeding them a supplement called GlyNAC for six weeks.
The same results were seen in a study of older people after just two weeks. Study results also revealed lowered insulin resistance, a risk factor for diabetes.
Dr. Sekhar’s latest study, published in the journal Biomedicines in September, is the most encouraging to date. To study the aging process, he and his team followed people with HIV.
People aged 45 to 60 with HIV develop many features of aging seen in those over 70, so they were an ideal group to test.
Eight volunteers who displayed multiple conditions linked to premature aging were given GlyNAC. Another group without HIV acted as controls.
After 12 weeks, patients saw reductions in oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, inflammation, genetic damage, endothelial dysfunction, insulin resistance, and belly fat. They also saw gains in muscle strength, cognition and memory.
A delighted Dr. Sekhar said, “It was exciting to see so many beneficial effects of GlyNAC that have never been described before. It was encouraging to see that GlyNAC can reverse many of these hallmark defects in people with HIV.”
He is also engaged in other trials involving middle aged and older people up to age 85. Some of the trials have been completed but not yet published. These, announced Dr. Sekhar, “support the findings of the HIV study.”
If this proves to be the case, meaning that restoring intracellular glutathione can slow or even reverse normal biochemical processes linked to aging, it will be a major step forward in anti-aging research, and something many will want to take advantage of.
Yet there’s no need to wait.
Advances in Boosting Cellular Glutathione
When Dr. Sekhar began his research two decades ago, glutathione could not be taken as a supplement because it breaks down in the digestive tract.
Since then, several new versions have been developed which do appear to raise glutathione levels. One of these, called Setria, has been found to increase lean muscle compared to placebo in research conducted at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
In other research, Dr Sekhar’s lab found that people deficient in glutathione have lower levels of glycine and cysteine, but not glutamic acid. These deficiencies were corrected, and glutathione levels raised, with NAC together with glycine. These were combined in a supplement to create GlyNAC, which is not available to the public.
No problem: Our sister company, Green Valley Natural Solutions, has for years offered a high-quality glutathione-boosting supplement called Vital Force. Vital Force contains not only Setria but also clinical doses of NAC and glycine – and other valuable nutrients to boot. You can click here to learn more.
The findings I’ve described in this article are considered preliminary by the FDA and for this reason Green Valley and other makers of glutathione boosters cannot, for example, tell you that their products will “reverse aging” or help with the health conditions like diabetes mentioned here. That’s why it’s so important to read up on these things for yourself in publications like this one.