NMU 287 – Glutathione Helps Guard Against Age-Related Decline in Kidney Function
Nutrition/Natura Medicine Update No 287 (May 11, 2023)
With Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Glutathione Helps Guard Against Age-Related Decline in Kidney Function
Source: American Journal of Tanslational Research (2021)
It is well documented that as we age most people experience a decline in kidney function, as the kidneys are one of the fastest aging organs. The decline in kidney function usually begins after age 30-40 and often accelerates after age 50-60. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University estimate that more than 50 percent of individuals over 75 years of age have clinically significant decline in kidney function, and many don’t know they have the problem (mild insufficiency of kidney disease or chronic kidney disease), but it is major risk factor for heart attack. According to the National Kidney Foundation, kidney disease kills more people each year than breast and prostate cancer. Advanced or End-stage kidney disease is a various serious matter, requiring dialysis or even a kidney transplant, so if you are planning to live a long, healthy, functional life, you have to have a plan in place to preserve your kidney function as best you can, as the aging process can really impact it in a negative way. It’s a highly vulnerable organ. Risk factors for kidney disease include, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney stones, a family history of kidney failure, prolonged use of over-the-counter pain medications, and being over the age of 60. Patients with certain autoimmune conditions are also at increased risk for kidney damage and declining kidney function.
In recent years what has become apparent is the fact that free radical damage to various kidney cells and kidney structures is a main contributor to the decline in kidney function seen in aging and in various health conditions (i.e., diabetes, autoimmune conditions affecting the kidneys). A large 2012 study (J Rejuvenation Research) showed that higher blood markers of free radical damage (i.e., MDA or malondialdehyde) were strongly correlated with the rate of decline in kidney function with aging. This means that the higher the free radical concentration, the faster was the decline in kidney function with aging. Studies also show that the kidneys are heavily reliant on the antioxidant known as glutathione to protect them against free radicals as well as the release of kidney-damaging inflammatory cytokines (TNF, IL-1. IL-6 etc.). Unfortunately, as we age our glutathione levels decline, which appears to be an important factor in the more rapid decline in kidney function we typically see as people age.
So, the good news is that this can be prevented or reversed to some extent with targeted dietary supplements. In line with this thinking a number of studies have been conducted in recent years to assess the value of providing patients with existing acute and chronic kidney disease with supplements known to increase glutathione synthesis. For example, a large review paper published in the American Journal of Translational Research in 2021 concluded that providing patients with chronic kidney disease with N-acetylcysteine (NAC) improved their kidney function over time and reduced their risk of heart attack and other adverse cardiovascular events.N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an essential ingredient for kidney cells to increase their glutathione synthesis and whether administered intravenously or orally, NAC supplementation is shown to help reverse the loss of kidney function and reduce inflammatory cytokine levels in these high-risk kidney disease patients. But it’s not only supplementation with NAC that has been shown to raise kidney levels of glutathione and reverse kidney function decline from various causes. Supplementation with other natural agents that raise glutathione levels have also been shown to be effective. These would include, alpha-lipoic acid, silymarin (from Milk thistle) and L-glutamine. In addition to raising kidney glutathione levels, some of these nutrients provide additional types of protection. For instance, alpha-lipoic acid also acts as a direct antioxidant. The same is true for silymarin flavonoid from Milk thistle, and its cell rejuvenation effects and have been shown to improve the management of diabetes-induced kidney disease. Other studies also show the importance of supplementation with Coenzyme Q10 to protect kidney function, as well as ingesting choline (i.e., Lecithin capsules), which the kidneys convert into betaine. Betaine is a very important kidney osmoprotectant, helping to guard against kidney cell dehydration, which otherwise leads to cell death.
To make a long story short, by age 40-50 it makes sense to support your kidney glutathione levels by taking a supplement that contains a combination of:
- NAC (N-acetylcysteine)
- Alpha-lipoic acid
- Milk thistle (standardized to 80% silymarin content)
Taking a supplement containing CoQ10 is also advisable, along with one to two capsules per day of lecithin (1200 mg capsules). Kidney function is typically screened for by blood tests assessing your eGFR and creatinine levels. For individuals with established kidney disease, you should show the references I have provided below to your specialist and ask for their consent to use these supplements to help stabilize and/or improve your kidney function.
Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time.
National Kidney Foundation: Decline in Kidney Function with Aging and Incidence of Kidney Disease
Aging and Kidney Function
Decreased Glutathione in Aging:
NAC Supplementation and Kidney Function
Silymarin in Diabetic Nephropathy
Alpha Lipoic Acid in Renal Damage – Ferroptosis
Alpha Lipoic Acid in Diabetic Nephropathy
L-Glutamine Raises Glutathione Levels
CoQ10 Supplementation in Kidney Disease
Betaine in Kidney and Liver Function:
Betaine in Kidney Function (osmoprotectant)
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,