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How Does Glutathione Play a Role in Male Fertility? A Wholesome Guide
A natural antioxidant, glutathione is essential to male and female fertility because it improves sperm health and egg quality by maintaining metabolic balance. Lack of glutathione can cause cellular defects, negatively impacting any stage of sperm maturation, fertilization, implantation, and early growth. Clinical studies show a link between L-glutathione and fertility because low levels of glutathione reflect poor DNA packaging and fragmentation in sperm.
Glutathione levels in men decline after the age of 30. Hence, men need to maintain adequate levels of L-glutathione from outside sources. GSH, or glutathione, is a molecule naturally found in the human body, including the liver, which is a part of the central nervous system.
Oxidative Stress: What Is It?
Oxidative stress (inflammation) results from an imbalance between ROS and antioxidants. It affects every aspect of human physiology, but for our purposes, it can negatively influence men’s and women’s reproductive systems.
ROS, or reactive oxygen species, often referred to as “free radicals” or collectively “oxidative stress,” are molecules caused by normal body functions and stressors. H2O2, superoxide (O2•-), and hydroxyl radicals (•OH) are ROS in the body. Viruses such as these can in excess, disrupt normal cellular function and can damage various parts of our cells’ (specifically the sperm, egg, and other reproductive organ tissues’ membranes) mitochondria.
Fertility and Oxidative Stress: What is the Relationship?
Embryos, spermatozoa (sperm), and oocytes (eggs) suffer from oxidative stress (inflammation). ROS affects the microenvironment of the egg, fallopian tube, and abdominal fluids directly (cell membranes, mitochondria, DNA), the interaction between sperm and egg (fertilization), sperm-mediated egg activation, implantation, and early embryo development.
However, low levels of ROS exert critical functions in normal sperm physiology, such as fertilizing ability and sperm motility; research on males’ infertility demonstrates that sperm are vulnerable to higher levels of reactive oxidative species.
A key mechanism for ROS-induced sperm damage resulting in infertility involves lipid peroxidation of sperm membranes. Sperm contain large quantities of polyunsaturated fatty acids in their plasma membrane and cytoplasm, making them especially vulnerable to ROS. ROS-induced sperm damage manifests itself as follows:
- Sperm motility decreases because mitochondria are damaged, resulting in a loss of ATP [energy], and tails are damaged.
- Sperm viability (the length of time they remain alive) declines.
- Increased mid-piece morphology defects (predominantly mitochondrial).
- The inability of sperm to fertilize eggs due to harmful effects on sperm capacitation and acrosome reaction.
- Sperm DNA damage and apoptosis (cell death) increased.
- It could cause a possible congenital disability.
The presence of ROS in the human ejaculate is directly related to lifestyle and environmental factors (consumption of sugars, oxidized vegetable oils, smoking, alcohol, exposure to environmental toxins, emotional stress, abnormal circadian rhythms, lack of exercise, infection, and a lack of antioxidants), as well as from abnormally shaped sperm. The impact of ROS on L-glutathione and fertility is not simply a matter of if they exist (as mentioned earlier, some oxidative stress is required for several reproductive processes). Still, when levels of ROS are too high (or antioxidant levels are too low), they can become pathological to sperm and the ability to get pregnant.
The research that shows lower levels of antioxidants (including glutathione) in seminal plasma from infertile men will be discussed later.
Glutathione: What Is It?
An antioxidant, glutathione helps fight free radicals. Three amino acids make up glutathione: l-cysteine, glycine, and glutamate. Your diet and environment can result in the formation of free radicals, which are unstable molecules. Oxidative cell damage occurs when the number of free radicals exceeds the number of antioxidants. Various health problems, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s, can result from inflammation.
Antioxidants are crucial to maintaining a healthy balance. The body produces some antioxidants, but others are obtained from external sources, such as your diet or supplements such as GSH, that can help overcome infertility. To know more about the benefits, continue reading about the 9 Amazing Benefits of L-Glutathione.
What is Glutathione’s Function?
The GSH in your body also plays a role in:
- Toxic substances and cancer-causing substances are metabolized.
- Creating and repairing DNA naturally
- Prostaglandin, a hormone-like compound produced in the body.
- Enzyme activation
- Regulates essential body processes, such as the immune system.
- A variety of health problems, including heart disease and Alzheimer’s.
Glutathione also regulates nutrient metabolism and cellular events like:
- Gene expression (methylation)
- Genes and proteins
- Growth (proliferation)
- The process of controlled cell death (apoptosis)
- Cellular communications
As well as playing a part in protein glutathionylation, which has some biological functions, including;
- Metabolic pathways are regulated
- Calcium homeostasis
- Cytoskeleton remodeling
- Protein folding
Supplementation of L-glutathione for Fertility
Glutathione is abundant in fruits and vegetables. Generally, according to a study in Nutrition and Cancer, dairy products, cereals, and bread are low in GSH. Freshly prepared meats have relatively high levels of GSH, as do fruits and vegetables. When diet alone is not enough, natural health food stores, drugstores, and vitamin shops sell glutathione as a dietary supplement.
Although glutathione plays an essential role in the body, the benefits are believed to be mainly due to cysteine, which forms it. It is possible to raise glutathione levels in the body with other fertility supplements, such as N-acetylcysteine (NAC).
According to limited research, increasing glutathione levels through diet or supplements may benefit certain health conditions. Fortunately, the most effective way to improve glutathione levels directly is through intravenous (IV) injection since it avoids the digestive system and is absorbed at a higher rate. Studies indicate that increasing glutathione levels in the body can improve the quality of sperm, eggs, and embryos. Supplemental use of glutathione typically ranges from 2000 to 4000mg to help overcome infertility.
Intravenous injections are typically given once weekly for 2-3 months to enhance egg and sperm quality.