Mercury toxicity and antioxidants: Part 1: role of glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of mercury toxicity

Altern Med Rev. 2002 Dec;7(6):456-71.


Mercury exposure is the second-most common cause of toxic metal poisoning. Public health concern over mercury exposure, due to contamination of fish with methylmercury and the elemental mercury content of dental amalgams, has long been a topic of political and medical debate. Although the toxicology of mercury is complex, there is evidence for antioxidant protection in the prevention of neurological and renal damage caused by mercury toxicity. Alpha-lipoic acid, a coenzyme of pyruvate and alpha-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase, has been used in Germany as an antioxidant and approved treatment for diabetic polyneuropathy for 40 years. Research has attempted to identify the role of antioxidants, glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid specifically, in both mitigation of heavy metal toxicity and direct chelation of heavy metals. This review of the literature will assess the role of glutathione and alpha-lipoic acid in the treatment of mercury toxicity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier
  • Chelating Agents / therapeutic use
  • Food Contamination
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Mercury / metabolism*
  • Mercury Poisoning / drug therapy*
  • Mercury Poisoning / etiology
  • Succimer / therapeutic use
  • Thioctic Acid / metabolism
  • Thioctic Acid / therapeutic use*
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Unithiol / therapeutic use


  • Antioxidants
  • Chelating Agents
  • Unithiol
  • Thioctic Acid
  • Succimer
  • Mercury
  • Glutathione