Glutathione is a type of protein that the human body synthesizes by using 3 amino acids: cysteine, glycine and glutamic acid. Glutathione is a vital antioxidant found in every single cell of the body and one of its most important jobs is maintaining optimal cell function.
Functions of Glutathione
Even though glutathione can be found in every cell of the body, its highest concentrations are in the liver, heart and muscle tissue. It is quickly synthesized in the kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract and other tissues.
Glutathione neutralizes reactive forms of oxygen, known as free radicals. This property makes it possibly the most potent antioxidant known at this time, slowing the aging processes in the body. Glutathione neutralizes and gets rid of toxins, drug metabolites and heavy metals. Since the kidneys and liver are at the highest risk of the effects of various toxins, it's no wonder that the level of this antioxidant is highest in them.
Glutathione works as an immunostimulant, helping produce phagocytes and lymphocytes - the 2 main types of cells in the immune system. The functions of glutathione do not end there. It is responsible for the transportation and function of some important amino acids and vitamins such as C and E. Glutathione regulates functions such as the synthesis of different proteins and DNA, as well as the activation and regulation of various enzymes in the body.
In some lung diseases such as COPD and bronchitis, glutathione protects the lungs from the oxidation processes by decreasing secretion and alleviating symptoms.
Benefits of Glutathione
Similar to other antioxidants, glutathione's main role is to protect cells from free radicals. When the body has a serious deficit of glutathione, the person is at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases, inflammatory problems, liver dysfunction, muscle fatigue, cancer and diseases typical of older people, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
Unlike other antioxidants, glutathione is intracellular, which means that it is found in the interior of the cells themselves, giving it the unique ability to boost the active function of the other antioxidants. In other words, glutathione not only provides its own health benefits but also optimizes the health benefits of the other antioxidants. For this reason, glutathione is often called a main antioxidant.
Deficit of Glutathione
A deficit of glutathione does not cause illness but speeds up the aging processes in the body and weakens the immune system. Normally when a person is healthy, their body is able to synthesize enough glutathione to meet its daily needs. With age however, production begins to drop by about 10-15% every 10 years after the person reaches 20 years of age.
Aside from all this, the person's way of life and eating habits can also significantly reduce its levels. Alcohol, drugs, refined foods all have a negative effect. Glutathione can also be exhausted by stress - mental, as well as physical, with weight training exercises falling into the latter.
Smokers are also at risk of glutathione deficiency since smoking increases the body's need of glutathione.
Maintaining high levels of glutathione in the body not only slows the aging process and stimulates the immune system but will also provide more endurance, energy and quicker recovery. Taken directly, glutathione is not absorbed well because the digestive system breaks it down into its 3 amino acid components which is why it's best to take additives that are its precursors.
One of the most effective of these is N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). NAC is an acetyl form of the amino acid cysteine, characterized by much better absorption. Dosage varies between 500 to 2000 mg, in most cases 500 mg being plenty for the antioxidant defense of the body. For people who work out intensively with weights or are subject to stress and harmful substances, dosage can reach up to 1000 mg. For better absorption, take it with food.
Excessively high levels of NAC are not recommended because it functions as an antioxidant and can cause symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and stomach pains. At the same time, homocysteine levels may also rise, with this amino acid considered to be a cause of certain cardiovascular diseases. Generally speaking, a daily dose over 2000 mg will not only not help but may cause harm, so it should not be exceeded.
Sources of Glutathione
Foods with the highest levels of glutathione are broccoli, avocado, asparagus, potatoes, green tea, tomatoes, carrots, yoghurt, oranges, turkey meat, pumpkin, salmon, spinach, soya, oatmeal and others. Asparagus is the best source of glutathione out of all the fruits and vegetables.
Numerous studies show that long-lived persons have a high level of glutathione in their blood but it decreases with age, meaning it needs to be taken as a supplement. Those who do not wish to take supplements need to consume the foods listed above to guarantee health and longevity. It's important to note that the level of glutathione is lower in cooked foods so it's best to eat those foods raw.