Send to

Choose Destination
Diabetes Care. 2011 Jan;34(1):162-7. doi: 10.2337/dc10-1006. Epub 2010 Oct 7.

Glutathione synthesis is diminished in patients with uncontrolled diabetes and restored by dietary supplementation with cysteine and glycine.

Author information

Translational Metabolism Unit, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA.



Sustained hyperglycemia is associated with low cellular levels of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH), which leads to tissue damage attributed to oxidative stress. We tested the hypothesis that diminished GSH in adult patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes is attributed to decreased synthesis and measured the effect of dietary supplementation with its precursors cysteine and glycine on GSH synthesis rate and oxidative stress.


We infused 12 diabetic patients and 12 nondiabetic control subjects with [²H₂]-glycine to measure GSH synthesis. We also measured intracellular GSH concentrations, reactive oxygen metabolites, and lipid peroxides. Diabetic patients were restudied after 2 weeks of dietary supplementation with the GSH precursors cysteine and glycine.


Compared with control subjects, diabetic subjects had significantly higher fasting glucose (5.0 ± 0.1 vs. 10.7 ± 0.5 mmol/l; P < 0.001), lower erythrocyte concentrations of glycine (514.7 ± 33.1 vs. 403.2 ± 18.2 μmol/l; P < 0.01), and cysteine (25.2 ± 1.5 vs. 17.8 ± 1.5 μmol/l; P < 0.01); lower concentrations of GSH (6.75 ± 0.47 vs. 1.65 ± 0.16 μmol/g Hb; P < 0.001); diminished fractional (79.21 ± 5.75 vs. 44.86 ± 2.87%/day; P < 0.001) and absolute (5.26 ± 0.61 vs. 0.74 ± 0.10 μmol/g Hb/day; P < 0.001) GSH synthesis rates; and higher reactive oxygen metabolites (286 ± 10 vs. 403 ± 11 Carratelli units [UCarr]; P < 0.001) and lipid peroxides (2.6 ± 0.4 vs. 10.8 ± 1.2 pg/ml; P < 0.001). Following dietary supplementation in diabetic subjects, GSH synthesis and concentrations increased significantly and plasma oxidative stress and lipid peroxides decreased significantly.


Patients with uncontrolled type 2 diabetes have severely deficient synthesis of glutathione attributed to limited precursor availability. Dietary supplementation with GSH precursor amino acids can restore GSH synthesis and lower oxidative stress and oxidant damage in the face of persistent hyperglycemia.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center