Using Glutathione to Treat and Prevent Cataracts
Glutathione is one of the most potent antioxidants that exists in nature. Some clinical uses of glutathione include: detoxification, protection of healthy cells during cancer chemotherapy treatment, lung diseases (asthma, COPD and chronic bronchitis), HIV, liver diseases (Hepatitis B and C, and cirrhosis of liver), and now cataracts.
In a recent study conducted in Germany, glutathione levels were measured in normal human lenses (obtained from an eye bank) and from cataract lenses obtained from routine cataract surgery. In normal lenses, glutathione levels decreased gradually with advancing age. Cataract lenses contained only about one-tenth as much glutathione as normal lenses. As glutathione levels fell, oxidation of lens proteins increased. There is evidence that oxidation of lens proteins is a significant factor in the development of cataracts. Glutathione is one of the major antioxidants (which provide protection against oxidation) found in our lens tissue. The development of cataracts is often preceded by a decline in lens glutathione levels. Strategies designed to prevent glutathione depletion may therefore help prevent cataracts. Supplementing with N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), a natural precursor to glutathione, has been shown to increase glutathione levels in various tissues. Taking glutathione itself may not be as effective as taking NAC, since digestive enzymes largely eat up the former, with the exception of a patented form of glutathione called RecancostatÒ. Vitamin C is known to “spare” glutathione, and other antioxidants such as vitamin E, zinc, and selenium may also have a significant effect at actually raising glutathione levels in the liver and other tissues.
A diet high in antioxidants (fruits and vegetables) is recommended but may not be enough to treat clinically relevant symptoms. Please consult your physician if there is a family history or if interested in the prevention of cataracts or other diseases that may be caused by oxidative damage.
Suneil Jain, NMD