Can you lose weight by taking glutathione?

Want to remove those stubborn fats and lose weight? There might be a supplement that might help you lose that excess weight!

Glutathione is a powerful natural antioxidant produced naturally in the body and involved in several metabolic pathways. It is secreted in high amounts and levels similar to other essential molecules such as glucose and cholesterol. Glutathione levels are as high as potassium, a key element in the cells involved in cellular energy metabolism [1]. 

The high levels of glutathione inside the cells give a glimpse of its importance in influencing and driving key cellular pathways in the body and protecting the body from the onslaught of free radicals

What is glutathione? 

Glutathione is produced exclusively in the cytosol of the mitochondria. Also known as GSH, glutathione’s central role involves scavenging free radicals. These free radicals are byproducts of cellular metabolism. Some examples include hydrogen peroxide and nitric oxide radicals. When produced in appropriate amounts, free radicals assume vital roles in lipid metabolism, glucose metabolism and other crucial pathways in the body [1]. 

Antioxidants are molecules in many plants and trees and have been used for thousands of years to treat different ailments
Photograph: Thongden Studio/Shutterstock

As a person ages, the production of glutathione also reduces. Reduced glutathione production can lead to an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. When levels of free radicals are too high, this can be too much for antioxidants such as glutathione to scavenge and deactivate. Excess free radicals could lead to cellular injuries and, in some cases, apoptosis or cell death. In ageing individuals, reduced GSH levels can hasten the process of ageing [2]. 

Interestingly, the level of glutathione in the cells directly impacts mitochondrial health. Sufficient levels of glutathione can optimise mitochondrial health. Researchers [3] often examine the level of GSH in the mitochondria to determine the lifespan of an organism. High or appropriate levels of GSH in the mitochondria would indicate the longevity of the individual [3]. 

What are the benefits of glutathione? 

In recent years, multiple research studies examined the benefits and impact of GSH on cellular metabolism and the overall health of individuals. Although most studies are conducted using laboratory animals, some studies have included humans in determining the benefits of GSH. 

We’ve rounded up some benefits of GSH that are currently supported in literature and studies.

Lowers oxidative stress 

Oxidative stress happens when the production of antioxidants is lower than the production of free radicals [4]. When an individual experiences high levels of oxidative stress, this could result in the development of chronic conditions. Some of these diseases include cardiovascular diseases, cystic fibrosis, lung disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus, arthritis, neurodegenerative diseases and other long-term conditions [5]. 

Glutathione reduces the impact of oxidative stress. Lowered levels of oxidative stress could help prevent the development of several diseases. 

As pointed out by research investigators [6], low levels of glutathione might lead to the development of sepcific types of cancer. A glutathione deficiency could tip the balance and result in increased oxidative stress. This deficiency could lead genes and enzymes responsible for turning normal cells into cancer cells to go unchecked. In contrast, high glutathione levels are associated with raised antioxidant activity inside the cells. Elevated antioxidant activities could suppress the proliferation of cancer cells [7]. 

Improves insulin resistance 

Insulin is produced in the pancreatic beta cells and is responsible for transporting glucose from the extracellular to the intracellular environment. Insulin resistance is high in individuals with type 2 diabetes, so insulin cannot properly perform its function of ferrying glucose into the cells. When this occurs, increased blood glucose levels result in hyperglycemia. When not corrected and managed, type 2 diabetes can result in complications such as diabetic foot, blindness and stroke [8]. 

Glutathione helps reduce insulin resistance by improving the ability of cell receptors to bind to insulin and allow insulin to transport glucose into the cell [9]. In addition, glutathione helps enhance the breakdown of lipids and reduce the risk of obesity. Notably, obesity is a significant risk factor for type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance [10]. A research paper [11] revealed that increasing glutathione levels resulted in managing insulin resistance in older adults. Meanwhile, adding amino acids to form glutathione in these older adults’ diets leads to increased glutathione levels and improved insulin sensitivity. 

May lower the impact of uncontrolled type 2 diabetes. 

Uncontrolled type 2 diabetes is a severe health issue that can lead to complications. Individuals with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes have poor medication adherence and present with hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels. When hyperglycemia is present for prolonged periods, this can lead to tissue damage due to oxidative stress. Significantly, high sugar levels are associated with low levels of glutathione [12]. 

A study [12] demonstrated that intake of cysteine and glycine for two weeks raised glutathione levels in the body. This lowered oxidative stress in patients included in the clinical trial. Despite having high sugar levels, those who received cysteine and glycine supplements improved their ability to fight oxidative stress. 

Is losing weight one of the benefits of taking glutathione? 

Animal studies [13] showed a link between glutathione levels and lipid metabolism. When glutathione levels are high, lipid storage is reduced, suggesting that glutathione plays an essential role in maintaining a healthy weight. 

Another study [14] showed that liver cells subjective to oxidative stress and damage often have high-fat storage, leading to weight gain. This study also found that high levels of oxidative stress are associated with reduced levels of glutathione. When the subjects in the study received glutathione, oxidative stress lowered. Investigators then observed that lipid metabolism increased and lipogenesis decreased. Results indicated that GSH could play a role in helping individuals lose weight. 

The actual mechanism of how GSH helps reduce fat storage in the body remains complex. Glutathione appears to target multiple pathways and enzymes in reducing body fat levels or breaking down lipids. Further, GSH plays a role in lowering the formation of lipids and increasing insulin resistance. Importantly, insulin resistance can lead to further weight gain in individuals who are obese [15]. All these mechanisms act together to help you keep off excess weight. 

Should I take glutathione supplements to lose weight? 

Diet and exercise are the best way to lose weight [16]. The World Health Organization has advised you to participate in at least 150 minutes of physical activities that range from moderate to heavy exercise, each week. The same organization also recommends eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to maintain a healthy weight. However, supplementing diet and exercise with natural antioxidants can help individuals lose weight. 

Glutathione supplements are safe when taken in 500-1000 mg dosage/day for at least two months [17]. There are no adverse side effects with the intake of GSH within this dosage range. However, few individuals can experience bloating, stomach cramps and allergies when taking GSH. Severe allergic reactions may lead to bronchoconstriction and make breathing difficult. 

Losing weight may be difficult for many people. Taking GSH may be vital in helping individuals see tangible results. Combining GSH with diet and exercise could lead to more optimal results than taking GSH alone. However, there are still no published studies comparing the effects of GSH with diet and exercise and lifestyle modification (diet and exercise alone) in losing weight. Hence, it is difficult to determine which method is most effective for losing weight. 

Should I consult a doctor when planning to take glutathione to lose weight? 

Glutathione supplements are generally safe and effective in increasing GSH levels in the body. In turn, this lowers oxidative stress in the body, which can indirectly lead to improved lipid metabolism. Glutathione is also known to help manage weight in animal studies and clinical trials. 

Although GSH is safe, you can consult your doctor before taking GSH supplements. Dosages of 500-1000 mg/day are considered safe and effective. Talk to your doctor about the appropriate dosage for you. Your doctor can also monitor you for any side effects or adverse events from taking GSH supplements. 

Always inform your physician if you are currently taking over-the-counter medications, are taking current medications for health conditions or are planning to change medications for your diagnosed condition. While there are very few studies examining the drug-to-drug interaction of GSH with other medicines, it is best to discuss with your doctor if it is safe to take GSH supplements with other drugs. 

Report any allergic reactions to GSH since this might lead to adverse events such as bronchoconstriction and difficulties in breathing. 

Finally, GSH’s powerful antioxidant benefits have been well-studied in recent years. You can start reaping the benefits of GSH supplementation by talking to your physician. It can help you decide if GSH is best for your journey in losing weight. 

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684116/
[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26467067/
[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29277922/
[4] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2014.00196/full
[5] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165017397000453
[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15386533/
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3673338/
[8] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513253/
[9] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33740389/
[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29020674/
[11] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5991679/
[12]  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3005481/
[13] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6168395/
[14] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2881051/
[15] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6832997/
[16] https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/physical-activity
[17] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24791752/

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