Glutathione is your body's most powerful antioxidant and detoxifying agent, and it's also something of a well-kept secret. Outside the wellness community, few people have even heard of it, but it's now time to lift the curtain on this life-saving molecule that delivers incredible benefits, and even helps slow the aging process.
Glutathione is commonly described as the "mother of all antioxidants," and is one of the most important supplements that you could ever take. The reason for this is that glutathione is used by each and every cell in the body and increasing glutathione levels provides a significant number of research-proven health benefits. Glutathione is classified as an endogenous antioxidant, which means it is produced by the body naturally, however healthy glutathione levels can easily be exhausted from disease and/or temporary illness, stress, and toxin exposure.
What Is Glutathione?
From a chemical perspective, glutathione is composed of three amino acids (cysteine, glutamate, and glycine) and is referred to as a tripeptide. While every single amino acid has its own vital part in the body, glutathione with the assistance of cystine becomes a powerful antioxidant and disengages harmful free radicals, deadly drugs, and dangerous heavy metals. Moreover, glutathione's detoxification properties provide protection for the body's cells, organs, and tissues from disease and malfunction.
Although many people may not have heard about glutathione until recently, it is actually one of the most abundant compounds in cells; under normal conditions, the concentration of glutathione is comparable to that of glucose, potassium, and cholesterol, a fact that highlights its importance in supporting healthy cell function.
Glutathione is similar to other antioxidants which include vitamins A, C, and E. However, the similarity ends there because unlike the aforementioned similar antioxidants, the body can make glutathione. Interestingly, the body should be making glutathione regularly in healthy individuals for life. Studies performed by scientists even suggest that the level of glutathione in a person's cells is indicative of their longevity.
And although glutathione has long been on the supplement shelf alongside go-tos such as vitamin C, D and fish oil, oral forms weren't very successful because they were poorly absorbed — the stomach would diligently break down about 90 percent of it, preventing most of the glutathione from getting to where it needed to go. Now, however, an easily absorbed version, known as acetyl glutathione, has been developed, and at last, the benefits of glutathione can be enjoyed conveniently in pill form.
Over the last few decades, in vitro research on glutathione has indicated that it plays a variety of critical roles in cellular function, primarily through its activities as an antioxidant. Glutathione directly neutralizes several different types of free radicals that cause cellular and tissue damage, including singlet oxygen radicals, hydroxyl radicals, and superoxide radicals.
It also plays a detoxifying role in the body by neutralizing the free radicals that are produced during the first phase of liver metabolism. Importantly, these antioxidant activities do not just occur in the cytosol; they are also crucial to the functioning of mitochondria (organelles involved primarily in cell energy generation) and the protection of mitochondrial DNA from damage. This key connection between glutathione and mitochondrial function is significant because of the importance of the mitochondria in cellular longevity and metabolism — two crucial aspects of health maintenance.
Glutathione Anti-Aging Benefits
Glutathione prevents DNA cellular damage by reducing the levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) as well as oxidative stress in the body. Fundamentally, lowering persistently elevated levels of oxidative stress can result in lowered risks of brain damage, cancer, inflammation, and many other health issues. Similarly, Brighter Health points out that for anti-aging glutathione is important in the regeneration of certain antioxidants such as vitamins C and E which are also required by the body.
When the body has less glutathione, the activity of free radicals greatly accelerates the aging process, impairs the body and produces cognitive decline. Inequity in the levels of glutathione also has a profound influence on weakening the immune system so its ability to fight infections is lessened. Numerous clinical studies have concluded that as the body ages, it produces less of this super antioxidant.
Having a strong immune system is key to good health. Glutathione is critical to helping the immune system fight infections and prevent diseases like cancer. Glutathione is found in all cells of the body, including the cells of the immune system, which fights disease.
Glutathione's role in strengthening the immune system is two-fold. First, glutathione increases the count of T-cell lymphocytes, or white blood cells. White blood cells are the star players of your immune system that work to destroy bacteria and viruses.
Energy production occurs within all cells (except red blood cells) via the mitochondria. Glutathione protects mitochondria from free radicals and the oxidative damage they cause. In this way, glutathione is paramount to energy production. If mitochondria are damaged, they slow down and start to make less energy. The affected "diseased" mitochondria leads to decreased bodily function and efficiency.
To make things worse, damaged mitochondria output more free radicals. In turn, these free radicals cause further mitochondrial damage and create a vicious cycle of less energy and more damage. GSH binds these free radicals and relieves oxidative stress — not just on the mitochondria, but on the rest of the cell.
Glutathione is in an advantaged position for fighting free radicals because it is intracellular. Glutathione also teams up with other antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium to support them in destroying free radicals.