What are the benefits of glutathione to the human body?
Glutathione is an important natural antioxidant composed largely of three amino acids: glutamine, glycine and cysteine. It exists in two different forms; an oxidised form and a reduced form. The latter is the active form that works to prevent oxidative damage. It is also hailed as a master antioxidant because it possesses some potent health benefits. Without adequate levels of glutathione, a person is at risk of illnesses including stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and cardiovascular disease. The most natural way to boost up glutathione is by dietary intake such as whey protein, allium plants (garlic, onion, leeks), cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, bok choy), food rich with alpha lipoic acid (beef, spinach, tomato) and selenium-rich food (seafood, eggs, mushroom, whole grains). However, diets alone may not be sufficient especially for the busy working class. For this reason, glutathione supplement is becoming a growing trend.
- Glutathione is a potent antioxidant
Antioxidant essentially protects the cells from oxidative stress caused by harmful free radicals. These free radicals can come from our own body’s as a byproduct from energy production, infection and inflammation, or from external sources like pollution, alcohol, and smokes. Because free radicals are reactive oxygens that are short of electrons, they tend to steal electrons from molecules, causing oxidative stress and damaging the cell and DNA. As a powerful antioxidant, glutathione mitigates oxidative stress to cells by directly binding to harmful oxidant compounds and neutralizing them.
- Glutathione helps in detoxification
Besides preventing oxidative stress, glutathione ensures effective detoxification as it is needed in two of the three phases of detoxification. Firstly, toxins and xenobiotics that are processed in the mitochondria produce harmful free radicals, hence requiring adequate glutathione to neutralise them. Secondly, the enzymes that are responsible to degrade the toxins also require glutathione. Lastly, only then can toxins be safely removed from the body through the kidneys (urine) and liver (bile).
- Glutathione ensure safe energy production
The cell gains energy from its powerhouse, the mitochondria. As mentioned before, the process of energy production releases free radicals. Hence, glutathione is required to protect the mitochondria from its own oxidative damage. A damaged mitochondria produces less energy, slowing down metabolism and body functions. Furthermore, a damaged mitochondria is like a broken machine and produces more free radicals, leading to a vicious cycle of cellular destruction. Thus, glutathione helps to ensure safe and effective cellular energy production.
- Glutathione for beautiful skin
Amazingly, glutathione is good for the skin. Glutathione decreases pigmentation in skin by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme that makes melanin. Studies showed that both the oxidised and reduced forms of glutathione can achieve skin whitening effect. Besides, glutathione helps to improve wrinkles and skin elasticity as it slows down ageing caused by free radicals. Moreover, glutathione is shown to reduce psoriasis, a skin disease.
- Glutathione for healthier brain and heart
Studies have shown that patients with lower levels of glutathione have a clear link with reduced brain and heart health. As we age, our brain function reduces due to gradual neurodegeneration, or shrinking brain. In fact, patients with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease show high levels of oxidative damage to the brain. Glutathione can decrease the rate of brain tissue damage. As for the heart, glutathione decreases risk of heart attack by neutralising the lipid oxidation process. When lipid is oxidised, it forms bad cholesterol (LDL) that damages blood vessels and forms atherosclerotic plaques. The plaque can break off and block blood vessels that cause heart attacks or strokes. Thus, glutathione lowers the risk of brain degeneration and cardiovascular diseases.
- Glutathione boosts immune system
Studies have shown that active glutathione primes the white blood cells (natural killer cells and T cells) to fight infection. By enhancing T cells with glutathione, they are able to produce more infection-fighting substances. Additionally, glutathione has a potent antibacterial effect since it aids macrophages to fight bacteria causing tuberculosis. Another study found that glutathione helps to protect and regulate the behaviour of immune cells as many infections like EBV and hepatitis can deregulate and suppress the immune system.
Other health benefits of glutathione are fighting inflammation, improving lung functions in COPD, and boosting athletic performance.