Subscribe to any internet supplement website or senior oriented publication and you will have your fair share of “articles” and advertisements on supplements that will reportedly turn back the hands of time. There is only surefire approach documented in the medical literature to extend lifespan in mammals.

Calorie restriction without nutrient restriction is, without a doubt, the most powerful tool to slow again. But by what method does this occur? Most of the evidence suggests that this approach increases the efficiency and number of the mitochondria in our cells. Regular readers know that the mitochondria, the little tiny factories inside of cells that generate ATP energy for the cell, are my favorite organelles and that I believe that preservation and support of the mitochondria is the holy grail of longevity.

Short of calorie restriction without nutrient restriction, there are many other ways to support the health and number of our mitochondria. One such method is to increase the body’s production of an antioxidant called glutathione.

Glutathione not only acts as an antioxidant, but also supports the detoxification of many of the heavy metals that enter our system. Taken orally, glutathione is not well absorbed, although in the form of reduced glutathione, it has been shown to increase levels of glutathione in the cells.

Another method is to increase the intake of the precursors that the body uses to make glutathione. The amino acids cysteine and glycine are known to do this. This particular study takes this concept further.

The authors evaluated the levels of glutathione in the red blood cells of elderly and young subjects and found that the elderly subjects had much lower levels of glutathione, lower levels of the precursors cysteine and glycine in addition to higher levels of oxidative stress (as measured by F2-isoprostanes).

After 2 weeks of supplementation with cysteine and glycine, the elderly subjects had almost double the levels of glutathione in their red blood cells and the cells’ production of glutathione increased by 230%, all in the context of lower levels of oxidative stress. Certainly a good thing.

So what does this mean? In our office we recommend a drink mix that is not only high in phytonutrients to protect our cells, but has whey protein. Whey protein is high in cysteine and has been shown to increase intracellular glutathione levels. We feel that the combination of these two aspects into a drink mix is a great combination to offer our patients.

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James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.


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  1. Been reading for some time that oral glutathione is not well absorbed, but is this a good study with only 8 “elderly” and 8 “younger”?

    I also thought NAC and L Glutamine were precursors of glutathione.

  2. NAC yes, but not that I’ve come across as far as gluatmine. This was a small pilot study, which means we always need to keep that in mind; however, the results make sense from prior studies and this, to me at least, makes this small study more generalizable to a larger population.

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