Could this powerhouse nutrient be the reason some people fare well while others get really sick from COVID? One doctor has a theory.
A doctor at the Research Institute for Genetic and Molecular Epidemiology in Russia proposes a viewpoint that glutathione – known sometimes as the master antioxidant of the body – holds the answer to why so many people have different clinical courses of COVID. Some mild, some severe, some short-term, some for months – the individual susceptibility varies dramatically. This paper illustrates how glutathione and its interplay with vitamin D, may be a huge clue.
For some people, especially the elderly and those with chronic inflammatory conditions, their ability to withstand the stresses – molecularly speaking, that is – of the world is compromised. The virus that causes COVID is one of these major stressors. The SARS-CoV-2 virus attack the body’s tissues, causing a major inflammatory cascade in some people. The ability to repair this viral-caused damage is largely dependent on our cells’ antioxidant function. In medical jargon, it would be termed “impaired redox homeostasis and associated oxidative stress” which is simply a way of stating that our antioxidant defenses are weak. This paper (linked below) suggests glutathione is the key to changing that.
When the COVID virus infects us, our cells should launch a targeted and effective immune response. But sometimes our immune response is either weak or not specific enough and sometimes it goes haywire and causes severe collateral damage. This is where glutathione shines. It is a super-potent antioxidant that has the double benefit of (1) helping immune cell function and (2) repairing cellular damage after the “fight.”
Glutathione has long been hailed as a superstar antioxidant. It is actually a tripeptide of three amino acids: cysteine, glycine, and glutamate. Most of the underlying health conditions that predispose someone to having severe COVID (age, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.) are linked to glutathione depletion, which is covered in the paper.
Dr. Polonikov (author of the paper) notes another interesting connection of glutathione with vitamin D. He cites how low levels of the amino acid glutathione precursor, cysteine, are correlated with a lower vitamin D binding protein and thus lower vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked with more severe COVID and this may at least partially explain such an association.
In fact, he states that glutathione deficiency “epigenetically alters vitamin D regulatory genes and, as a result, the suppressed gene expression decreases vitamin D biosynthesis, ultimately leading to a secondary deficiency of vitamin D.” The implication is that repleting glutathione will help endogenous vitamin D production, potentially having a double benefit on cell function.
He further explains his clinical experience with COVID patients and notes that those with glutathione deficiency “have a higher susceptibility for uncontrolled replication of SARS-CoV-2 virus and thereby suffer from an increasing viral load.” Interestingly, long-term therapy with N-acetyl cysteine has shown benefit for some COVID patients. Since glutathione is notoriously hard to replete via supplementation, its precursor cysteine is often used in order to replete glutathione function, suggesting this may be an efficacious and inexpensive therapy for some.
SpectraCell Laboratories measures glutathione, cysteine, and vitamin D status (plus 28 other nutrients + 4 cell function tests) in its Micronutrient Test.
(ACS Infectious Diseases, 2020)
LINK to FREE FULL TEXT Endogenous deficiency of glutathione as most likely cause of serious manifestations and death in COVID-19 patients.