The Link Between Healthy Aging and Glutathione

There are a number of supplements that are thought to affect the human aging process in a positive way. Resveratrol, carnitine, coQ10, and other compounds are taken by people with hopes that these will help them maintain better health as they age and perhaps even help them live a bit longer. However, large scale, long term clinical evaluations of so-called healthy aging supplements in humans are far and few between. One compound that occurs naturally in the body is glutathione. Although it has been studied for years, it remains one of better validated options for healthy aging supplementation.

Tissue levels of glutathione generally decline with age. There is a wide range of variation. A number of studies have suggested that people with higher levels of glutathione enjoy better health as they get older and average life expectancy tends to be greater.

Dr. Calvin Lang and his colleagues at the University of Louisville, Kentucky were among the first researchers to note that deficiency of glutathione might contribute to the aging process. In one study, Dr. Lang’s group evaluated glutathione levels in 87 women in excellent physical and mental health, ranging in age from 60 to 103. All of these subjects had high serum levels of glutathione in their blood. After monitoring this group for five years they concluded that “high blood glutathione concentrations… are characteristic of long-lived women.”

Glutathione occurs in every cell of the body. It performs a wide range of functions including protecting cells against the destructive effects of free radicals, detoxifying external substances such as drugs, environmental pollutants and carcinogens, maintaining cell membrane stability, and enhancing the immunologic function of white blood cells. Glutathione is produced, regulated and recycled by a rather involved set of metabolic processes. Because of these factors, finding meaningful and precise test measurements in humans has been a bit of a challenge.

Many enzymes are involved in glutathione metabolism. In some cases, the activity of enzymes is easier to measure precisely and gives an indication of glutathione activity. Such studies testing enzyme activity of glutathione peroxidase and glutathione reductase in populations of older persons showed statistically significant correlations suggesting that higher levels of glutathione activity result in higher functional capacity and better health as people get older. Glutathione supplementation has also been shown to increase average life span in various animal studies of mice, mosquitoes, Syrian hamsters and others.

There are many products available today that are intended to supplement glutathione. They vary greatly in effectiveness and cost. For more information on the studies mentioned here as well as a summary of the advantages and drawbacks of various glutathione supplementation options, visit this website: