Our body’s master antioxidant and best kept secret is a protein with antioxidant functions called glutathione.

The glutathione benefits are many, but most of us have not heard about this important antioxidant protein.

 

What is Glutathione?

Glutathione is the body’s own natural antioxidant. Antioxidants neutralize unstable compounds called free radicals in the body, and are vitally important for the function of a healthy immune system, lowering the risk of chronic disease, and slowing down the aging process.

Glutathione (GSH) is naturally found in all the cells of mammals. It is a tripeptide composed of three amino acids: cysteine, glutamine, and glycine. It is slightly different from other antioxidants in that it can be produced in the liver by the body itself, but that doesn’t mean we always have all the glutathione we need.

Glutathione production naturally declines with age. It is also depleted by oxidative stress caused by free radicals, since it is used up while neutralizing these unstable molecules.

GSH levels in the body can also decrease with inadequate protein intake, particularly diets that are low in the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine is needed to make glutathione.

Eating a diet high in protein, but specifically protein that is high in those three glutathione-producing amino acids, is critical to maintaining adequate GSH levels and possibly the key to health and longevity.

 

What Does Glutathione Do?

The main function of GSH is to act as an antioxidant and defend against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there is an excess amount of free radicals in the body. This usually occurs due to illness, infection, trauma, medication, poor diet, excessive mental stress, or surgery.

When there are inadequate antioxidants in the body to neutralize free radicals, this leads to disease. Glutathione deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases like cancer. Increased levels of glutathione can be a  stress reducer,lowering oxidative stress, decreasing the risk of disease.

Glutathione has many other important functions in addition to being an antioxidant, including:

  • Making new DNA
  • Immune system function
  • Optimal enzyme function
  • Forming of new sperm
  • Regeneration of vitamins C and E
  • Fat breakdown in the gallbladder and liver
  • Assisting with cellular death

Glutathione has quite a few functions in the body, therefore it has been found to have a variety of health benefits.

 

Glutathione Benefits

Glutathione has many incredible benefits for health due to its ability to fight oxidative stress. Here are a few of the most important glutathione benefits:

 

Slows the Aging Process

It is known that as we age, there is a precipitous drop in GSH levels. Lower glutathione levels are implicated in many diseases associated with aging, including cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, arteriosclerosis and others. Having enough GSH in the body, by eating foods that help boost levels, may help slow the aging process.

 

Supports liver health

A deficiency in antioxidants, such as GSH, can cause cellular death in the liver leading to conditions like fatty liver disease. Glutathione-boosting foods and supplements have shown to support healthy liver function.

Due to its ability to optimize liver function, GSH detoxifies many pollutants, carcinogens and toxins, including many found in fuel exhaust and cigarette smoke. The liver is the main detoxification organ of the body. In the liver we find very high concentrations of GSH, as it is a major factor in numerous biochemical detoxification pathways.

 

Improves insulin sensitivity and increases fat burning

Glutathione production decreases with age. Aging is also associated with decreased insulin sensitivity and weight gain.

But, research has found that correcting GSH deficiency through supplementation with cysteine and glycine may help improve insulin sensitivity and decrease the rate of fat storage in the body. Maintaining a healthy body weight lowers the risk of diabetes and improves insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of diabetes.

Diabetes complications have also been linked to GSH deficiency.

 

Supports Brain and Neurological Health

Glutathione is essential for protecting the brain from damage caused by oxidative stress. Low GSH has been connected with neurodegenerative diseases such as MS (Multiple Sclerosis), ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, among others.

Studies have also found that supplementation with GSH may help reduce the incidence of the debilitating symptoms caused by diseases such as Parkinson’s.

 

May Help Decrease Risk of Autoimmune Disease

Glutathione is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent. This means it may have the ability to help mitigate the inflammation caused by autoimmune diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.

It may help normalize the body’s immune response, reducing the damage caused by an overactive immune system, the underlying cause of autoimmune disease.  It may also help eliminate oxidative damage caused by disease progression.

 

AIDS Survival Rates

HIV is a debilitating virus that attacks the immune system, eventually turning into AIDS. Low glutathione levels correlates with poor survival in AIDS patients.

Much literature has been written demonstrating the role of enhancing GSH levels in AIDS to increase survival rates and decrease complications.

 

Glutathione Foods and Supplements

With all these incredible benefits, you might be scanning the shelves for a glutathione supplement or glutathione foods. However, oral glutathione supplements themselves have not been found to be beneficial for improving glutathione levels. They are broken down by the digestive system before they are able to be utilized as antioxidants.

For the biggest benefit, glutathione should be used intravenously, which is not feasible for the average day-to-day consumer.

If you are curious how to reduce oxidative stress by boosting your glutathione levels, what should you do? Rather than take glutathione supplements, you need to give your body the raw materials it needs to make its own glutathione. There are a few foods and supplements that can help the body naturally produce more glutathione, including:

  • Whey protein
  • Fresh, raw milk
  • Rare, lean meat
  • Vegetables high in sulfur, such as broccoli and cabbage
  • Allium vegetables, such as onions and garlic
  • Freshly picked fruits and vegetables, such as asparagus
  • Milk thistle
  • Eggs
  • Nuts
  • Legumes and beans
  • Flaxseed
  • Guso seaweed
  • N-acetyl cysteine

These foods are high in certain amino acids, like cysteine, and other nutrients the body needs to make glutathione. 

The more a food is cooked or processed, the faster it loses the important glutathione precursors. Overcooking or heating can denature some of the delicate amino acids that help the body make glutathione. While you don’t want to eat raw meat due to the potential for food-borne illnesses, practicing lower temperature cooking methods like steaming or sauteing can help.

Eating a variety of foods high in protein as well as fresh vegetables prepared in a variety of ways is the best way to naturally boost your glutathione levels.

 

Whey Protein: The Best Way to Raise Glutathione Levels

True non-denatured whey protein concentrate is the optimal nature-prescribed precursor (required for the production) of glutathione. It contains non-denatured cysteine and glutamine, the amino acids required for intracellular GSH production.

These molecules are found in a larger ratio in non-denatured whey protein compared with any other proteins ingested by humans. Additionally, non-denatured whey naturally contains the full range of additional proteins that enhance immune function, including the protein bound fats that have been removed in whey protein isolates.

Non-denatured whey protein is acknowledged by the medical establishment as a dietary supplement that supports immune function and detoxification.

There are many whey proteins to choose from. How can you choose the best for you? The critical factors are:

  • How was the whey produced?
  • Where was the whey sourced from?
  • What type of processing has it undergone? If any, it should be minimal.
  • What are the additives in the product?
  • How much sugar does it contain, if any?
  • What are the actual amounts of the important proteins measured by independent lab analysis?

These questions are addressed in our FAQ Page and throughout our website.

Choosing the highest quality whey protein is the most effective way to give your body the raw materials it needs for adequate glutathione production and to reduce oxidative stress. It is the best “whey” of life.

 

 

 

 

References:

  1. Traverso, N., Ricciarelli, R., Nitti, M., Marengo, B., Furfaro, A. L., Pronzato, M. A., Marinari, U. M., & Domenicotti, C. (2013). Role of glutathione in cancer progression and chemoresistance. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2013, 972913.
  2. Liu, S. M., & Eady, S. J. (2005). Glutathione: its implications for animal health, meat quality, and health benefits of consumers. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 56(8), 775–780.
  3. Maher, P. (2005). The effects of stress and aging on glutathione metabolism. Ageing Research Reviews, 4(2), 288–314.
  4. Honda, Y., Kessoku, T., Sumida, Y., Kobayashi, T., Kato, T., Ogawa, Y., Tomeno, W., Imajo, K., Fujita, K., Yoneda, M., Kataoka, K., Taguri, M., Yamanaka, T., Seko, Y., Tanaka, S., Saito, S., Ono, M., Oeda, S., Eguchi, Y., … Nakajima, A. (2017). Efficacy of glutathione for the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: an open-label, single-arm, multicenter, pilot study. BMC Gastroenterology, 17(1), 96.
  5. Correcting glutathione deficiency improves impaired mitochondrial fat burning, insulin resistance in aging. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2021, from https://www.bcm.edu/news/glutathione-deficiency-fat-insulin-aging
  6. Lutchmansingh, F. K., Hsu, J. W., Bennett, F. I., Badaloo, A. V., McFarlane-Anderson, N., Gordon-Strachan, G. M., Wright-Pascoe, R. A., Jahoor, F., & Boyne, M. S. (2018). Glutathione metabolism in type 2 diabetes and its relationship with microvascular complications and glycemia. PloS One, 13(6), e0198626.
  7. Smeyne, M., & Smeyne, R. J. (2013). Glutathione metabolism and Parkinson’s disease. Free Radical Biology & Medicine, 62, 13–25.
  8. Perricone, C., De Carolis, C., & Perricone, R. (2009). Glutathione: a key player in autoimmunity. Autoimmunity Reviews, 8(8), 697–701.
  9. Dröge, W. (1993). Cysteine and glutathione deficiency in AIDS patients: a rationale for the treatment with N-acetyl-cysteine. Pharmacology, 46(2), 61–65.
  10. Schmitt, B., Vicenzi, M., Garrel, C., & Denis, F. M. (2015). Effects of N-acetylcysteine, oral glutathione (GSH) and a novel sublingual form of GSH on oxidative stress markers: A comparative crossover study. Redox Biology, 6, 198–205.
Jaime Rangel, RD

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