Study Shows What One Antioxidant Can Do For Your Overall Motivation

If you have ever worked in an office, factory, or other on-site location, you have probably seen your fair share of corny motivational posters tacked up on the walls. You know, the kind that says something like, "The best view comes after the hardest climb," or, "Dreams don't work unless you do."

If all it takes is a pretty poster and a cute saying to motivate you, you may be one of the lucky 36% of workers across the United States who feel engaged in their work (per Gallup). However, many employees report feeling a lack of motivation, which can put a substantial dent in productivity and personal and company success (via Cornerstone). 

And lack of motivation doesn't just affect your work; it can impact many areas of your life. Medical News Today says that while many factors can influence motivation, including history, environment, and physical health, much of the driving force behind motivation remains unclear.

A new study published in eLife shows what one antioxidant might do for your overall motivation. The study suggested that glutathione levels in the nucleus accumbens are linked to motivational behaviors in both rats and humans. Glutathione is an important antioxidant produced by the body, and researchers in the study discovered that it may play a critical role in motivation.

The antioxidant glutathione may boost motivation

Researchers used a nutritional supplement called N-acetylcysteine to increase glutathione levels in the studied rats. The study results suggest that boosting antioxidant levels in the brain may help improve motivation.

Study author Professor Carmen Sandi, director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Genetics, Brain Mind Institute at EPFL in Switzerland, says, "We assessed relationships between metabolites in the nucleus accumbens — a key brain region — and motivated performance. We then turned to animals to understand the mechanism and probe causality between the found metabolite and performance, proving as well that nutritional interventions modify behavior through this pathway" (via EPFL News). 

The liver naturally produces glutathione, but production levels decrease with age. Sandi told Medical News Today, "Nutrition, including compounds that help the antioxidant systems, is a good way to improve the fitness of brain circuits regulating persistence in our motivated behavior. Other life experiences that would be good are doing regular exercise while avoiding high stress levels or high-fat meals and obesity." 

Foods high in glutathione include raw avocado, spinach, asparagus, and potatoes. According to EPFL News, glutathione can also be increased through the precursor cysteine, which is found in high-protein foods like meat, fish, and seafood, as well as whole grains and some vegetables, including onions, legumes, and broccoli.