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Glutathione supplementation for immune support and healthy aging
Kyowa Hakko

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WATCH: Immune support and healthy aging - why glutathione’s antioxidant and detox capabilities are key

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Consumer interest in health and wellbeing shows no sign of slowing.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst in fuelling this ongoing trend and has had a long-term impact on people’s relationship with their health, particularly their immune health. Since the pandemic, 60% of consumers now view improving their general health and wellness as a main priority.1

Healthy aging is another key health focus for consumers. As people worldwide live longer, the health and quality of life of aging populations is an important factor. Maintaining a healthy immune system is one way to promote this.

As we age, the function of the immune system declines. Its capacity to defend the body against infections and cancers reduces, and it may struggle to effectively support wound healing. Slowing down this process and maintaining healthy immune function is significant to aid healthy aging.

The use of supplements one way of achieving this. During 2020, 91% of supplement users increased their usage; for 57% of consumers, immune health was the main health driver.2​ As consumers seek effective ways to enhance their immune systems, glutathione is emerging as an ideal ingredient to support immune health.

Glutathione and the immune system

Glutathione is key for the body’s immune system. It is a crucial antioxidant made up of three amino acids – glutamine, glycine, and cysteine – forming a tripeptide (a peptide derived from three amino acids). The tripeptide is naturally produced in every living cell and is found in high concentrations in the liver – the body’s primary detox organ.

Because of this, glutathione plays a pivotal role in biotransformation – a detoxification process within the liver – as it actively participates in modifying foreign xenobiotics (harmful substances which can disturb the body’s normal cellular functions). This process renders these substances more water-soluble and makes their removal more efficient.3

It is important that glutathione completes this detoxification process because if xenobiotics are not eliminated, they can result in cell death, irreversible damage to the function of the liver and can ultimately lead to liver failure.

Glutathione is also concentrated in other detoxification-associated organs, including the kidneys, intestines, and lungs. Mucosal barriers in both the intestines and lungs have high concentrations of glutathione, serving as the frontline defense for the immune system. In particular, within the fluid lining the lungs, glutathione stands as the main defense of oxidative stress alongside a diverse range of antioxidants.

Reducing oxidative stress is a key function of glutathione. As a tripeptide, glutathione acts as a crucial shield against oxidative stress for cells. And glutamate, the immediate precursor for glutathione synthesis, plays a significant role in the removal of oxidants and the regulation of immune responses.4​ The lungs are especially vulnerable to oxidative stress and glutathione is a crucial antioxidant defense system within the lungs.

Another way in which glutathione decreases oxidative stress is by reducing free radicals in the body. The body produces free radicals, reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species, through various internal processes, exposure to diverse physiochemical conditions, or in response to pathological states.6

Maintaining a balance between free radicals and antioxidants is crucial to ensure that the body functions correctly. When the production of free radicals overwhelms the body's ability to regulate them, it leads to oxidative stress. And, if left unregulated, free radicals can cause damage to cells, proteins and DNA that may lead to various harmful medical conditions.

Declining glutathione levels

Although the body produces glutathione naturally, the need for glutathione sometimes exceeds the body's ability to make it. Glutathione levels naturally decrease with age, making older populations more vulnerable to oxidative stress and age-related chronic conditions. Poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle can also lead to reduced levels.

In turn, the aging process can affect immunity and immune functions start to naturally decline. As the body cannot fight infections as well as it once did, it is important to ensure immune function is supported during this time.

Healthy glutathione levels can be achieved through a nutritious diet. However, individuals who do not consistently consume enough fruits and vegetables may find their glutathione stores to be initially low. Also, because glutathione is also present in lean meats, vegetarians and vegans are at risk for low circulating levels.

Supplementation to increase glutathione levels

Setria® ​is a branded form of glutathione designed to increase the body’s stores of glutathione. Manufactured according to good manufacturing practice (GMP) standards, it is a pure, vegetarian, and allergen-free product designed for easy formulation and can be administered via capsules, tablets, gel caps and powders.

The benefits of increasing the body’s stores of glutathione include helping to support the body’s immune system and respiratory health, helping to fight oxidative stress, supporting detoxification of the liver and promoting healthy aging.

A 2015 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition​ demonstrated the efficacy of Setria®​ in increasing the body’s stores of glutathione, a crucial antioxidant. The six-month randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial involved 54 healthy adults who received either a placebo, or a 250mg or 1,000mg dose of glutathione daily.7

The results revealed elevated glutathione levels in the blood for both supplement groups after one, three, and six months. The higher-dose group experienced a significant increase of 30-35% in various blood biomarkers and a 260% increase in buccal cells.

“The data shows that Setria®​ increases glutathione levels, and science shows that the higher the glutathione levels, the lower the risk of developing many different diseases,” says Danielle Citrolo, VP, Scientific & Regulatory Affairs, Kyowa Hakko, USA.

“The increase in buccal cells indicates that absorption is happening at the cellular level in the mucosa, which could be helpful, as these cells could be considered a first line of defense for harmful substances we ingest.”

This research not only highlights Setria®​'s role in enhancing glutathione production, but also indicates a reduction in oxidative stress after six months. The study notes a substantial increase in natural killer (NK) cells of the innate immune system in the high-dose group, showcasing the potential of Setria®​'s to aid the body's natural defense against oxidative stress.7

As the body’s natural levels of glutathione depletes, impacting essential functions, supplementation such as Setria®​ offers a convenient and effective solution to ensure a consistent supply that can support immune function and protect against the challenges of aging.


1.​ Innova. Lifestyles and Attitudes Survey (2022).
2.​ Grebow J. 2020. Americans confident in dietary supplement effectiveness and quality in 2020, including during COVID-19 pandemic, CRN surveys show.​ Nutritional Outlook.[NB1]​ 
3.​ Potęga A. (2022). Glutathione-Mediated Conjugation of Anticancer Drugs: An Overview of Reaction Mechanisms and Biological Significance for Drug Detoxification and Bioactivation.​ Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 27(16), 5252.
4.​ Li, P.; Yin, Y-L.; Li, D.; et al. (2007). Amino acids and immune function.​ British Journal of Nutrition. 2007;98(2):237-252.
5.​ Rahman, I.; & MacNee, W. (2000). Oxidative stress and regulation of glutathione in lung inflammation.​ The European respiratory journal, 16(3), 534–554.
6.​ Rahman, I.; & MacNee, W. (2000). Oxidative stress and regulation of glutathione in lung inflammation.​ The European respiratory journal, 16(3), 534–554.
7.​ Richie, J. P.; Jr, Nichenametla, S.; Neidig, W.; et al. (2015). Randomized controlled trial of oral glutathione supplementation on body stores of glutathione.​ European journal of nutrition, 54(2), 251–263.