Quackery Exposed: Glutathione for Autism

Glutathione, or GSH,  is an antioxidant made from the amino acids glycine, Justine and glutamic acid. It is naturally produced b the liver and the body uses it for many body processes. It is involved in tissue building and repair, making chemicals needed in the body and immune system function. 

Glutathione levels in the body can be reduced by poor nutrition, environmental toxins and stress. Its levels decline as people age. 

It is used to help balance free radicals. Having too many free radicals can cause damage at the cellular level. 

History

It was discovered by J. de Rey-Paihade in 1999 from extracts of yeast and many animal tissues and in fresh egg whits. He named the substance philothion which means love and suffer in Greek. 

In 1921, Hopkins suggested that the philothion isolated from the liver, skeletal muscle and test is dipeptide consisting cysteine and glutamate but they overlooked the presence of glycine in philothion due to misinterpretation of the date. Hopkins renamed the substance glutathione based on the content of nitrogen and sulfur in gluthione isolated from yeast, blood and liver. 

What are Free Radicals?

Free radicals are unstable atoms that can cause damage to cells, which cause illness and aging. They are linked to aging and number of diseases but there is little known in their role in human health or how to prevent them from making people sick. 

Atoms are surrounded by electrons that orbit the atom in layers called shells. Each shell needs to be filled by a set number of electrons, depending on what type of atom it is. When a shell is full, they begin filling in the next shell. 

If an atom has an outer shell that is not full, it may bond with another atom, using electrons to complete its outer shell. These types of atoms are known as free radicals. 

Atoms with a full outer shell are stable, but free radicals are unstable and in an effort to make up the number of electron in their outer shell, they react quickly with other substances. 

When oxygen molecules split into single atoms that have unpaired electrons, they become unstable free radicals that seek other atoms or molecules to bond with. 

If this continues to happen, it begins a process called oxidative stress. Oxidative stress can damage the body's cells, leading to a range of disease and causes symptoms of aging, such as wrinkles. 

Studies suggest that antioxidants cannot cure the effects of free radicals, at least not from artificial sources. It is possible that free radicals are an early sign of cells fighting disease or that it is inevitable with age. More data on them is needed to understand them fully. 


Legitimate uses

  • Hardened arteries
  • lyme disease
  • alzheimers disease
  • colitis
  • high cholesterol
  • osteoarthritis
  • asthma
  • cataracts
  • type 2 diabetes
  • glaucoma
  • heart disease
  • liver disease
  • Parkinson's disease
  • alcohol use disorder

Side effects

By mouth: It is possibly safe in doses up to 500 mg daily for up to 2 months. There is not a lot of information about its possible side effects. There is concern for cramping and bloating. Some people may be allergic to the supplements. This can cause a rash. 

Inhaled: It is possibly safe. There is not a lot of information on its possible side effects. 

Topically: There isn't enough reliable information to know if glutathione is safe. It may cause a rash when applied to the skin. 

Asthma: Do not inhale glutathione if you have asthma, it can increase some asthma symptoms.  

Glutathione for Autism

According to Treat Autism, located in Canada, glutathione is a substance that detoxes.

Dr. Jimmy Gutman made this more well known at AutismOne in 2014.  

Heavy Metals

It plays right to the antivaxxers claim that lead and mercury are in vaccines. They say that it causes autism. 

"Lead and mercury require two molecules of glutathione to be detoxified. Exposure to lead and mercury can very quickly deplete glutathione and exposure risk of autism and other neurodevelopment disorders. Other heavy metals like aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, gadolinium barium, antimony, etc are also detoxified with the help of glutathione. Research is now showing that incredibly small amounts of these mets can cause damage to cells. An emerging feel of nanotixicolgy is identifying that there are no safe levels of these metals."

Microbes

According to the Treat Autism website, they believe that it helps with the gut flora of autistics. 

"Bacteria, yeasts and viruses have to [be] removed from the body after they are killed or immobilized by the immune system. Detoxification of microbial metabolites is high dependent on glutathione status. Research has identified that children diagnosed with autism have altered gut flora. The gut flora create an ecosystem, termed the microbiome, that consists of bacteria, yeasts and viruses. Alternations in the microbiome plays a significant role in the pathophysiology of autism. Children dinged with autism have a different balance of microflora, which results in changes in the way the brain and immune system are functioning."

Science Proves the Quacks Wrong

There was a study in Molecular Autism called "Glutathione metabolism in the prefrontal brain of adults with high functioning autism spectrum disorder: an MRS study."

The researchers used a magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and analyses the GSH signal in the dorsal antioror cingulate cortex and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of 24 autistic participants. They thought they would find an decrease of GSH in both regions. 

They did not find overall group differences in neurobetabolities including GSH in either part pf the brain. They were unable to confirm thier hypothesis regarding GSH concentration in the autism group. 

Another study was published in the Medical Science Monitor called "A clinical trial of glutathione supplementation in autism spectrum disorders". It was an open label study of glutathione supplementation in autistic children that took place over a time period of 8 weeks. The children were 3-13 and there were 13 of them. 

James B Adams was a researcher on this study. This should speak volumes. 

No one in this study was blinded, there was no control group. The blood tests showed that there was an increase of glutathione in their blood. Of course if there are supplements being given, the levels will be increased. This study proved nothing. 

Sources:
https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-717/glutathione

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318652#What-we-do-not-know

https://www.verywellhealth.com/benefits-of-glutathione-89457

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/glutathione

http://treatautism.ca/glutathione-autism-treatment/

https://molecularautism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13229-017-0122-3

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3628138/

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