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J Lab Clin Med. 1992 Nov;120(5):720-5.

Low blood glutathione levels in healthy aging adults.

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Department of Biochemistry, University of Louisville School of Medicine, KY 40292.


The objective of this investigation was to test the hypothesis that blood glutathione levels are lower in aging human subjects as previously found in blood and tissues of standard rodent models of aging. Thus a study was conducted with 39 men and 130 women, 20 to 94 years old, who were selected by the criteria of being ambulatory, healthy, and free from diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, anemias, and cancer. The reference group was comprised of the 20- to 39-year-old subjects, whose blood glutathione levels were 547 +/- 53.5 micrograms/10(10) erythrocytes (mean +/- SD) for 40 individuals and defined the reference range (95% confidence limits) of 440 to 654. Based on the 440 micrograms/10(10) erythrocyte cutoff, the incidence of low blood glutathione content in the older subjects increased significantly, particularly in the 60- to 79-year-old group. Their glutathione levels were 452 +/- 86.8 micrograms/10(10) erythrocytes, 17% lower than the reference group (p < 0.001). These findings demonstrate an increased incidence of low glutathione levels in apparently healthy elderly subjects, who thus may be at risk because of a decreased capacity to maintain many metabolic and detoxification reactions mediated by glutathione.

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