Glutathione: The Mother of All Antioxidants
It’s the most important molecule you need to stay healthy and prevent disease — There are more than 89,000 medical articles about it, yet you’ve probably never heard of it.
It’s the secret to prevent ageing, cancer, heart disease, dementia and more, and necessary to treat everything from autism to Alzheimer’s disease.
I’m talking about the mother of all antioxidants, the master detoxifier and maestro of the immune system: Glutathione.
The good news is that your body produces its own glutathione. The bad news is that poor diet, pollution, toxins, medications, stress, trauma, ageing, infections and radiation all deplete your glutathione.
This leaves you susceptible to unrestrained cell disintegration from oxidative stress, free radicals, infections and cancer. And your liver gets overloaded and damaged, making it unable to do its job of detoxification.
What Is Glutathione?
Glutathione GSH) is a very simple molecule that is produced naturally all the time in your body. It is a combination of three simple building blocks of protein or amino acids — cysteine, glycine and glutamine.
GSH is the most abundant endogenous antioxidant and is a critical regulator of oxidative stress and immune function.
Throughout the body GSH acts as an antioxidant, neutralising free radicals, while also regenerating vitamins C and E (two of the body’s other important antioxidants).
It is most concentrated in the liver, spleen, kidneys, intestines, lung fluid, lens, erythrocytes and leukocytes; the liver being the largest GSH reservoir where it is involved in detoxification.
GSH & Liver Detoxification
GSH status is a sensitive indicator of cell functionality and viability. Its intracellular depletion results in progressively reduced cell functionality and ultimately in cell death.
One known way GSH is involved in immune activity is by increasing natural killer (NK) cell activity. NK cells mediate early non-adaptive immune responses as well as being involved in regulating immune response.
Oxidative stress reduces GSH, activates transcription factors and increases production of interleukin-1 (IL-1) and tumour necrosis factor (TNF), and low GSH levels are associated with increased risk of numerous conditions.
GSH levels naturally decline with age, beginning to weaken around age 45 and declining quickly after 60 years. Intense physical exercise also reduces glutathione levels in blood, muscle and the liver.
Oxidative stressors that can deplete GSH include: ultraviolet and other radiation; viral infections; environmental toxins, household chemicals and heavy metals; surgery, inflammation, burns, septic shock; age; intense exercise; and dietary deficiencies of GSH precursors and enzyme cofactors.
In the past, glutathione bioavailability has been questioned. More recent research however has demonstrated that orally ingested GSH does in fact achieve significant increases in intracellular GSH levels.
One recent trial of 54 people administered doses of 250mg or 1000mg of Setria® reduced glutathione for a 6 month period.
GSH levels were measured at 1, 3 and 6 months. Both GSH groups achieved dose-dependent increases in GSH at various sites including the blood, erythrocytes, lymphocytes and buccal cells.
Both groups were also observed to have reductions in oxidative stress, as indicated by decreases in the oxidised to reduced glutathione ratio in whole blood. After just three months NK cell cytotoxicity was increased more than two-fold in the higher dose group.
This research suggests that oral glutathione supplementation can be a useful adjunct to treatment protocols for patients presenting with disease states associated with GSH depletion.
Management of illnesses associated with chronic inflammation may benefit from dietary and supplemental approaches that address oxidative stress and mitigate GSH depletions.
Reduced glutathione itself is a useful supplement at doses between 250mg and 1000mg, whilst NAC, curcumin, alpha-lipoic acid, fish oil, selenium, and vitamins B and D can also be considered.