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What does glutathione do?
Glutathione is a small protein composed of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine.

Glutathione is involved in detoxification—it binds to toxins, such as heavy metals, solvents, and pesticides, and transforms them into a form that can be excreted in urine or bile. Glutathione is also an important antioxidant. In preliminary research, dietary glutathione intake from fruit and raw vegetables has been associated with protection against some forms of cancer.1 2 Glutathione has also inhibited cancer in test tube3 and animal studies.4 In preliminary research, higher glutathione levels have also been associated with good health in older adults.5

Glutathione supplements appear to be efficiently absorbed in rats.6 7 However, the same may not be true for glutathione supplements in humans. For example, when seven healthy people were given a single application of up to 3,000 mg of glutathione, there was no increase in blood glutathione levels.8 The authors of the study concluded "it is not feasible to increase circulating glutathione to a clinically beneficial extent by the oral administrating of a single application of 3,000 mg of glutathione." Absorption of glutathione may be better in rats because unlike the gastrointestinal tract of rats, the human gastrointestinal tract contains significant amounts of an enzyme (gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase) that breaks down glutathione. Preliminary evidence has suggested that absorption of glutathione can occur in the mouth when glutathione tablets are placed between the teeth and the inner cheek.9

Some researchers believe that supplements other than oral glutathione may be more effective in raising blood levels of glutathione. For example, in one trial, blood glutathione levels rose nearly 50% in healthy people taking 500 mg of vitamin C per day for only two weeks.10 Vitamin C raises glutathione by helping the body manufacture it. In addition to vitamin C, other nutritional compounds that may, according to preliminary research, help increase glutathione levels include alpha lipoic acid,11 glutamine,12 methionine,13 S-adenosyl methionine (SAMe),14 and whey protein.15 Vitamin B6, riboflavin, and selenium are required in the manufacture of glutathione. The extent to which any of these nutrients effectively increases glutathione levels in humans remains unclear.

Studies using intravenous or intramuscular glutathione have found it to be useful for preventing clot formation during operations;16 reducing the side effects and increasing the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs (particularly cisplatin in women with ovarian cancer);17 18 treating Parkinson’s disease;19 reducing blood pressure in people with diabetes who had high blood pressure;20 and increasing sperm counts in men with low sperm counts.21 22 A glutathione nasal spray has also reduced symptoms in people with chronic rhinitis.23 Whether oral preparations are also effective is unknown at this time. A small study in eight patients with liver cancer using oral glutathione showed modest benefits in women, but not in men, when given in a daily amount of 5,000 mg.24

An unpublished preliminary study of eight colon cancer patients also found that oral glutathione appeared to have anticancer activity.25 Nonetheless, because questions exist about the extent to which oral glutathione can be absorbed, some doctors are concerned that oral preparations may be either less effective than other forms or not effective at all.

Where is glutathione found?
Dietary glutathione is found in fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, fish, and meat.26 Asparagus, avocado, and walnuts are particularly rich dietary sources of glutathione.

Glutathione has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information)


Health Concerns



Benign prostatic hyperplasia

Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.


Who is likely to be deficient of glycine?

Few people are glycine deficient, in part because the body makes its own supply of the nonessential amino acids.

How much glycine is usually taken?

Healthy people do not need to supplement with glycine. A physician should be consulted before supplemental glycine is used for the support of serious health conditions.

Are there any side effects or interactions with glycine?

No clear toxicity has emerged from glycine studies. However, people with kidney or liver disease should not consume high intakes of amino acids without consulting a healthcare professional.

Are there any drug interactions?

Certain medicines may interact with glycine. Refer to drug interactions for a list of those medicines.