COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Supplements that help the body create a particular antioxidant may also prevent some of the damaging physical effects caused by malnourishment, new research has shown. The finding may ultimately help provide relief to millions of people.
Malnutrition essentially causes the body to feed on itself, a process that produces high levels of cell-damaging toxins called free radicals. Some antioxidants, scarce in malnourished people, can combat those free radicals.
A new study found that when malnourished rats produced more of the antioxidant glutathione (GSH), it boosted the free-radical fighting capacities of the animals, lungs and livers, said Tammy Bray, professor of human nutrition at Ohio State University. The research appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Nutrition. Results showed that using a supplement to help the body produce more GSH was more effective in protecting the rats from free-radical damage than simply replenishing the protein lacking in their diet.
"Free radical production is often increased in malnourished people," Bray said. "This can impair their antioxidant defense system. We can help counter that by helping the body produce GSH."
Bray said she is looking for opportunities to test GSH therapy on malnourished children in developing countries. These children would receive antioxidants orally in addition to a well-balanced diet.
Bray said that when antioxidants are not available to fight free radical production, the body is more susceptible to debilitating conditions like edema, an illness often characterized by a swollen belly caused by a build-up of fluid in body tissues and cavities.
While high levels of GSH can protect the body from free
radical damage, previous research showed that
supplementation of GSH itself is not effective. The key
to Bray's research was giving rats supple
Contact: Tammy Bray
Ohio State University