L-ergothioneine supplements have become tied to age-related diseases as research has identified their remarkable capacity for combating oxidative stress. It is important to understand where ergothioneine is naturally found, how it is produced, and what benefits you can expect from taking a supplement.
What is Ergothioneine?
Ergothioneine, EGT, is an amino acid – i.e., a component of proteins – and a derivative of histidine, containing a sulfur atom. This natural, water-soluble compound was first isolated in 1909 in a parasitic fungus, Claviceps purpurea, or ergot of rye, although it has taken more than a century to synthesize it in the laboratory. It has been given GRAS status (generally recognized as safe) by the US FDA. It can therefore be used in functional foods and drinks as well as in supplements.
L-ergothioneine is synthesized from fungi and mycobacteria. Contained in plants, it is ingested by animals and humans through food. The main dietary sources of it are edible mushrooms, black and red beans, oat bran, garlic, and specific meat products (liver and kidneys).
In human and animal tissue, L-ergothioneine is concentrated in organs that are subject to significant oxidative stress: the liver, kidneys, heart, skin, lungs, spleen, small intestine, and blood (particularly in erythrocytes), as well as in ocular tissue and seminal plasma.
Ergothioneine was first used for major liver damage, cataracts, complications of diabetes and heart disease. Its cosmetic applications were also noted – it can be applied directly to the skin to fight wrinkles and other signs of aging caused by sun-induced photo-oxidative damage. Naturally present in the skin, it counteracts the effects of key mediators involved in skin aging, particularly photoaging.
While L-ergothioneine mushrooms is associated with a wide range of bodily functions. it cannot be produced by the body. Vital for healthy cell function, it has been compared by some to a vitamin, and fortunately, this essential substance can now be obtained via supplementation.
Let's take a closer look at L-ergothioneine benefits, specifically in skin care and as an antioxidant.
Ergothioneine in Skin Care
The Mitochondrial Theory of Aging states that cellular function and energy loss comes from free radical damage to the cells. This process happens over time, every time damage occurs, capacity diminishes.
Low-grade inflammation and oxidative damage lead to signs of aging and diseases related to age.
However, some vitamins and supplements, such as L-ergothioneine in mushrooms, may combat aging. Without any vital nutrients, the body cannot prevent disease or aging. Unfortunately, nutrient deficiencies are rampant, which leaves us at a greater risk for premature aging and chronic disease.
If you are interested in receiving the cosmetic benefits of L-ergothioneine, you have probably looked into current agricultural practices and found that L-ergothioneine-rich foods are hard to find, and that leaves you reliant on L-ergothioneine for skincare. However, in conjunction with the boost to skin appearance and aging, you may find additional benefits with this supplement.
Additional Ergothioneine Health Benefits
L-ergothioneine is exceptional in that it can reach the very core of certain cells such as erythrocytes, unlike other classic antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. It actually has a gene that codes for a carrier protein, enabling it to be taken right to the heart of cells. It is therefore a potent intracellular antioxidant, as important as L-glutathione. In addition, it has also been shown to be a powerful chelator, enabling it to bind to toxic heavy metals while protecting blood cells from all types of damage.
Encouraged by its antioxidant properties, researchers have investigated its anti-inflammatory effects, since ergothioneine acts on, among others, the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin.
Ergothioneine, therefore, has multiple properties actively working inside the human body:
- Neutralizes reactive oxygen molecules (free radicals), therefore combating oxidative stress and reducing damage to mitochondrial DNA, oxidation of proteins, and lipid peroxidation.
- Chelates – or traps – various positive metallic cations.
- Activates antioxidant enzymes, such as glutathione peroxidase or SOD, while inhibiting enzymes that generate the superoxide radical.
- Reduces oxidation of various hemoproteins, such as hemoglobin and myoglobin.
- Protects mitochondria.
- Reduces the harmful effects of UV rays.
- Preserves and maintains levels of other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, glutathione, and SOD.
- Protects the brain from neurotoxins and thus plays a combative role against cognitive decline.
- Encourages cellular respiration and fat lipolysis, increasing energy and stamina for physical exercise.
There are several benefits of L-ergothioneine that can be found in recent studies. Below are just a few.
What do studies say about Ergothioneine?
Ergothioneine has been the subject of multiple studies related to acute respiratory illnesses and skin diseases. But common in all the research is a focus on the mechanisms of inflammation and the way ergothioneine acts not so much as a classic antioxidant but more of an antioxidant anti-inflammatory.
Another fundamental characteristic of ergothioneine is that it has a very long half-life – around 30 days – compared with the half-life of classic antioxidants of between 30 seconds and 30 minutes.
All these studies indicate that it might be beneficial to take L-ergothioneine for DNA repair and L-ergothioneine for mitochondria support.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.