Explaining the benefits of glutathione, physician Alvin Francisco, who has over 885,000 followers on TikTok, claimed that taking oral glutathione helps in reversing fatty liver. This is unproven.
In a three-minute video, Francisco addressed his followers’ questions on the use of oral glutathione. At least two asked if glutathione, specifically mentioning a brand called Nekothione, destroys the human liver.
“Hindi po nakakasira, actually baliktad. Hindi siya nakakasira, nakakatulong pa siya sa sakit na kung tawagin ay NAFLD or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
(It’s not destructive, actually it’s the opposite. It’s not destructive, it actually helps with the disease called NAFLD or non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.)
“Since ang glutathione ay very potent antioxidant, nakakatulong siya sa pagre-reverse ng fatty liver.”
(Since glutathione is a very potent antioxidant, it helps in reversing fatty liver.)
Source: watch from 0:46 to 0:51
To back his statement, the doctor cited a 2017 study that examined the “potential therapeutic effects” of oral glutathione in 34 Japanese patients diagnosed with NAFLD. This is a condition where excess fat builds up in a person’s liver, not due to heavy alcohol use. This typically affects people who are overweight or who have insulin resistance such as diabetes patients.
Later in the video, Francisco added that taking oral glutathione should be accompanied with lifestyle modification and exercise.
Taking oral glutathione is not included in the guidelines to reverse NAFLD, hepatologist Arlinking Ong-Go told VERA Files Fact Check. “All patient[s] with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease should have diet [and] lifestyle modification, and exercise as [a] form of therapy,” explained the physician, sitting as treasurer of the Philippine Society of Gastroenterology, an organization of doctors promoting the highest quality of digestive healthcare.
Ong-Go added that to date, no pill has been fully recommended by guidelines to reverse fatty liver, even for patients with liver tissue scarring and stiffness.
Oral glutathione is also not listed as part of the Asian-Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver clinical practice guidelines for the management and treatment of NAFLD. The study states that patients who are not at risk for liver scarring and stiffness should “receive counseling for a healthy diet and physical activity” and do not need medication.
It also demonstrates that doctors use various approaches in addressing NAFLD, ranging from lifestyle modification and exercise to surgeries and transplants for severe cases.
“Ang ibig sabihin ng diet is [ang] food option mo, dapat ‘yung tama, hindi ‘yung diet na wala kang kakainin kasi hindi mo masu-sustain na gano’n katagal ‘yung isang food option. Ang reversal no’n is meron tayong activity, meron kang exercises, meron ka ding proper na mga food option na pinipili,” Ong-Go explained.
(By diet, I mean that your food options have to be correct, not the kind of diet where you won’t eat anything because you can’t sustain that kind of food option. To reverse NAFLD, you have [to address a person’s] activity, exercise, and proper food options that they choose.)
The study that Francisco cited in support of his statement noted that large-scale clinical trials are still needed to verify oral glutathione’s efficacy on NAFLD patients.
Nekothione is registered by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration as a food supplement with no approved therapeutic claims.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Definition & Facts of NAFLD & NASH, April 2021
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Symptoms & Causes of NAFLD & NASH, April 2021
National Library of Medicine (BMC Gastroenterology), Efficacy of glutathione for the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: an open-label, single-arm, multicenter, pilot study, Aug. 8, 2017
Dr. Arlinking Ong-Go, Personal communication (interview), April 13, 2023
Philippine Society of Gastroenterology, Mission and Vision, Accessed April 13, 2023
Philippine Food and Drug Administration, Nekothione, Nov. 3, 2022
Asian Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver, About, Accessed April 17, 2023
Springer (Hepatology International), The Asian Pacific Association for the Study of the Liver clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis and management of metabolic associated fatty liver disease, Oct. 1, 2020