Glutathione (GSH) is a molecule consisting of the amino acids cysteine, glutamine, and glycine, and is the most abundant endogenous antioxidant. It is considered the body’s “master” antioxidant and is critical for the maintenance of antioxidative balance and helping protect cells from oxidative stress. GSH also helps promote the optimal function of detoxification pathways.
While it is produced endogenously, the body may require increased amounts of GSH during the aging process, or during times of increased toxic burden and oxidative stress. Insufficient GSH levels have shown a potential link to certain chronic and age-related illnesses and diseases related to cellular and mitochondrial dysfunction. Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), hypertension, cognitive impairment, liver disease, cystic fibrosis, and certain neurodegenerative diseases have all been associated with reductions in GSH levels. A recently published systematic review by Dludla and colleagues explored the potential connection between cardiometabolic health and nutraceuticals that may support plasma GSH levels in individuals with T2DM.
The authors describe several clinical studies conducted with selenium as the primary intervention. Selenium is a trace element that is critical to many processes within the body and may help support glucose metabolism by helping transport glucose across cell membranes and helping to promote healthy insulin function. One clinical study included in the review involved the administration of granulated Brazil nuts, providing approximately 227 µg of selenium daily for three months in individuals with hypertension and dyslipidemia and reported increases in glutathione peroxidase levels and a decrease in low-density lipoprotein levels. Other clinical studies involving selenium supplementation in individuals with heart disease and impaired fasting plasma glucose reported improvements in insulin metabolism and total GSH levels.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is another molecule reported by Dludla and colleagues. CoQ10 helps support cell membrane stability and the body’s response to oxidative stress. It also plays a critical role in cellular energy production and helps stabilize calcium-dependent channels. A study involving 30 individuals between the ages of 40 and 85 with T2DM and coronary heart disease reported improvements in serum insulin levels and Homeostatic Model Assessment for Insulin Resistance (HOMA-IR) after two months of 100 mg CoQ10 supplementation per day.
A clinical study involving 1,000 mg of curcumin daily for three months in individuals with T2DM and coronary heart disease found improvements in markers related to oxidative stress, GSH levels, sleep quality, and the expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma from peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Curcumin (Curcuma longa) is a plant used both as a spice and medicinally that has a wide range of biological targets, including inflammatory mediators, cytokines, transcription factors, protein kinases, enzymes, and cellular pathways.
In a study involving 1,000 mg of omega-3 fatty acids twice daily for three months in 30 individuals with coronary heart disease and T2DM, improvements in GSH levels, total antioxidant capacity, hsCRP levels, and metabolic profiles were reported. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in studies to help support many aspects of cardiovascular health.
While more research is needed, Dludla and colleagues expressed a potential link between GSH levels and cardiovascular health. Certain molecules and trace minerals such as selenium, CoQ10, and omega-3 fatty acids may help support certain aspects of metabolic health, cardiovascular function, and antioxidative stress.
By Dr. C Ambrose, ND, MAT