What Are the Benefits of Glutathione?

In the Philippines, Glutathione supplement is a big thing as a skin whitening agent. Would you recommend this supplement? Is it true that it has a lot of advantages for the body?

Doctor Answers 1

People Are Funny!

Such a strange thing. Filipinos and Japanese are taking Glutathione to lighten their skin and we dermatologists are pleading with our patients and the public to stay out of tanning beds. ( Aside: I remember seeing some clown ( since replaced by an attractive soft-spoken woman), from the tanning bed industry berating us dermatologists for urging people to abstain from tanning beds. He claimed greed was our motivation, i.e. we wanted to be sure the public would use OUR light booths and not theirs. Believe me, if money was a factor, we would urging the public to tan... at the time I was reimbursed $3 per light treatment versus $200 for a skin cancer removal. You do the math!).

It is felt that glutathione may have an effect on the formation of tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is the enzyme that helps in the formation of pigment. Some feel it may modify the conversion of eumelanin ( brown-black pigment) into phaemelanin ( reddish-yellow pigment). How well it does this is speculation, although there are plenty of ads in the Far East extolling the virtues of "skin whitening capsules".

One of the problems taking glutathione orally is that it does not have very good GI absorption. To circumvent this, if you believe in the glutathione story, you probably should take one of its precursors, the amino acid l-cysteine. You can take this rather readily in an OTC pill made by Dartmouth Pharmaceuticals in good old Wareham, Massachusetts ( my HS track team used to beat them pretty regularly; to get the correct pronunciation drop the ' eha,). Their pill, elon Matrix plus, contains Biotin, silica and L-cystein and is good for skin, hair and nails.

On Glutathione: This is one of the true antioxidant battlers of all time. It works intracellularly and busily gobbles up free radicals and converts them to its own oxidative state. It then will hook up with another oxidated glutathione. Gluathione is found in every cell and is actually the best antioxidant we have. It also detoxifies harmful ingredients and is found in copious amounts in the liver.

Fortunately, it is in a wide variety of foods, so there probably is not a need for supplementation. If you eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables you are probably getting enough gluathione. Alpha-lipoic acid, which is absorbed, gives glutathione a little kick.

Another aside: One of the ways to increase glutathione levels is to take a drug called n-acetyl-cysteine. Way back in the Middle Ages when I was an intern we admitted a young lady who was in a coma after taking a massive amount of Tylenol, an amount that normally would cause severe liver toxicity and death. One of us, had read an article ( Lancet I believe) in which this drug was given and saved a patent's life. We got a hold of some and gave it to her IV. Her greatly elevated liver enzymes began to drift downwards, she started to show signs of arousal on pinching, and then nearly miraculously came out of her coma. Very gratifying.

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