COVID-19, Oxidative Stress and Glutathione Deficiency

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 800,000 Americans and millions more worldwide. Because new mutations continue to evolve, many experts believe that the virus will become endemic and continue to be something we must protect ourselves from in the future. As scientists continue to learn more about the new virus, we're learning more about who is most at risk for developing severe symptoms from COVID-19. Recent research suggests that oxidative stress and inflammation may play a role. Read on to learn more.

What is Oxidative Stress? Oxidative Stress Definition

Oxidative stress is the term for an imbalance between free radical and antioxidant levels in your body. All-day long, free radicals in ultraviolet energy and pollution bombard your body. Fortunately, you have some natural defenses to counteract the effects of free radicals. However, when free radical levels exceed your defenses, your body can go into a state of oxidative stress.

What Does Oxidative Stress Do?

Oxidative stress is believed to be what drives the aging process. Free radicals have the potential to damage a variety of proteins, tissues, and even the DNA in your cells. Studies have linked oxidative stress to:

  • Hardening of the arteries and heart disease
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Premature development of signs of aging like wrinkles and sagging skin

Benefits of Antioxidants for Oxidative Stress

So what is it that helps to keep free radicals in check? The answer is antioxidants. Antioxidants are substances that can break down free radicals into harmless components that the body can process and clear. Many antioxidants come from the foods that you eat and include:

  • Allium sulfur found in onions and garlic
  • Anthocyanins found in purple fruits and vegetables
  • Beta-carotene found in orange fruits and vegetables and some leafy greens
  • Catechins found in tea and red wine
  • Copper found in lean protein and nuts
  • Cryptoxanthin found in red and orange fruits and vegetables
  • Indoles found in cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables
  • Lignans found in whole grains
  • Lutein found in corn and leafy greens
  • Lycopene found in pink and red fruits and vegetables
  • Selenium found in lean protein and whole grains
  • Vitamin A found in many foods like eggs and carrots
  • Vitamin C is found in leafy greens, citrus fruits, and other fruits and vegetables
  • Vitamin E found in healthy fats and whole grains
  • Zinc found in lean protein and nuts

Some people choose to take antioxidant supplements to increase their antioxidants, especially when they struggle to eat a healthy diet.

Glutathione - The Master Antioxidant

Not all antioxidants come from the foods you eat. Your body also has the potential to manufacture its antioxidant protection. The liver makes glutathione to help defend the body from free radicals. Because of its effectiveness, people often refer to it as the master antioxidant. Medical conditions and dietary deficiencies can lead to low glutathione levels. In this case, a glutathione antioxidant supplement may be necessary to ensure adequate levels are present to protect the body.

Oxidative Stress and COVID Cases: What the Science Says

A recent study conducted by the Baylor College of Medicine found that people hospitalized for severe cases of COVID often showed signs of glutathione deficiency and increased levels of oxidative stress. The study compared glutathione levels in a small number of adults with COVID to levels in healthy people taken before the pandemic. Because the study group wasn't tested before developing COVID-19, researchers don't know whether they developed severe symptoms because they already were suffering from high levels of oxidative stress or COVID-19 was responsible for increasing oxidative stress levels and reducing the amount of glutathione.

Glutathione Benefits with COVID-19 Mitigation

Based on the latest research regarding glutathione deficiency and the severity of COVID symptoms, you may want to consider taking a glutathione supplement to increase levels of the antioxidant in your body. It's important to note that the antioxidant is not a cure for COVID-19. Taking reduced glutathione may benefit people with COVID-19 symptoms, but more research is needed to validate the potential benefits and further investigate the link.

As a result, a glutathione supplement should not take the place of other COVID-19 mitigation efforts. Your best defense against serious illness from COVID-19 is getting vaccinated and staying up to date with booster shots when the CDC recommends them. Wash your hands frequently and wear an N95 mask when you are around people whose vaccination status is unknown. When COVID-19 transmission is heavy in your area, consider not gathering in large groups to protect yourself. Also, take steps to improve ventilation when you are in groups. Meeting outdoors or opening windows can go a long way toward protecting you, especially if you combine ventilation with masking.

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