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L-Glutathione: The Body's Own Anti-Aging Factor

Theodore Hersh, MD, MACG
Professor of Medicine, Emeritus, Emory University
Presented at the American Academy of Anti-Aging, Dec. 1998

Glutathione, a thiol tripeptide composed of glutamate, cysteine and glycine, is present in most plants and animal tissues and is the most important and ubiquitous low molecular weight compound. Working intra and extra-cellularly in its reduced form, L-glutathione, abbreviated as "GSH", is the body's key antioxidant and protectant. GSH has multiple functions in disease prevention and in detoxification of chemicals and drugs while its depletion is associated with increased risks of toxicity and disease. GSH works synergistically with the other cellular antioxidants to neutralize and scavenge oxygen and other free radical species and thereby prevent or diminish "oxidative stress".

There is widespread evidence from human and animal studies that GSH deficiency in senescent subjects affects the aging process by shortening life span. The converse is true: GSH repletion increases longevity! Various clinical studies have documented that healthy elderly subjects have lower GSH levels than their younger counterparts. These findings suggest that the elderly are more readily afflicted by free radical diseases, which themselves cause lower levels of GSH in plasma and tissues. Scientific studies have shown that these free radicals or toxic chemicals are the culprits of many geriatric disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, macular degeneration and vascular diseases, including coronary heart disease and strokes.

Low GSH levels place healthy elderly subjects at a higher risk of disease because of the decreased ability to deal with metabolic and environmental conditions that increase toxic free radicals as well as when the body has a decreased capacity to maintain its usual defensive and detoxifying activities, where GSH is the prime defender. Scientific studies have also shown in various other diseases with a decreased life span, like diabetes, that there is cellular depletion of GSH and higher levels of free radicals.

GSH is vital for cell survival and yet its concentrations readily decrease with age. There has to be an easy way to correct GSH depletion, stop the aging process and stay healthy! Nutrition plays a vital role and influences the defensive immune system while poor nutrition contributes to declining immunity and a higher incidence of infection and chronic diseases in the elderly. An inability to neutralize these free radical invaders further contributes to impaired body defenses thereby accelerating both the aging process and many geriatric diseases.

Complementing a diet rich in GSH with dietary supplements and topical antioxidants to elderly subjects and to those with various geriatric free radical associated conditions may help both prevent or retard these diseases and thereby promote a healthy, longer life span. GSH is an adjunct to these therapies and truly a vital anti-aging factor.

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