GLUTATHIONE – A LIFE SUSTAINING MOLECULE
Ron Peters MD
Your life depends on a very small molecule called glutathione (GSH) that is found in every cell of your body. It is made of three amino acids and it serves three life sustaining functions:
- Glutathione is the most important and abundant antioxidant inside all the cells of the body, serving to neutralize free radicals.
- Essential for the immune system to fight infections and kill cancer cells.
- Detoxifying chemicals and heavy metals, and removing them from the body.
What medical science knows about glutathione
Intracellular GSH plays a central role in the functioning of all immune cells and is required for T and B cells to differentiate into fully active cells. Glutathione plays a critical role in maintaining cellular energy (ATP) production by protecting mitochondria from the oxidative damage from oxygen metabolism, and, reducing the damaging effects of mercury, lead and other heavy metals that can disturb and even destroy mitochondria.
The highest concentration of glutathione is found in the liver, making it critically important in the detoxification and elimination of free radicals. Accumulation of these dangerous compounds can result in oxidative stress, which occurs when the generation of free radicals in the body exceeds the body’s ability to neutralize and eliminate them.
Normal production of glutathione depends on the function of a biochemical cycle called the remethylation of methionine. When this cycle is compromised, the production of the many products associated with the cycle slow down. Methylation is involved with a wide range of functions including protein production, DNA regulation and neurotransmitter production. Methylation is required for the production of melatonin.
The importance of the methionine cycle has been shown in research on autistic children. Several biological markers pointed out that interruption of this cycle leads to decreased production of glutathione. It appears that decreased availability of methylcobalamin is part of this defect as injections of methylcobalamin help restore the methionine cycle in the situation. In a twist of biochemical irony, glutathione appears to be needed to maintain the production of methylcobalamin and the function of the methionine cycle.
Glutathione is used as a cofactor by multiple peroxidase enzymes, to detoxify peroxides generated from oxygen radical attack on biological molecules. Glutathione protects DNA and other essential body proteins because it is used as a cofactor by several transhydrogenase enzymes which reduce oxidative damage.
Glutathione S-‐transferases are enzymes that conjugate, or attach, glutathione to hormones such as estrogens, exogenous chemicals (e.g., arene oxides, unsaturated carbonyls, organic halides), and diverse xenobiotics in order for them to be excreted from the body.
The liver is the largest glutathione reservoir where it is part of the P450 detoxification pathways. Glutathione is carried in the bile to the intestinal luminal compartment. Epithelial tissues of the kidney tubules, intestinal lining and lung have substantial P450 activity.
Mercury has a high affinity for thiol (sulfhydryl (-‐SH)) groups. The thiol-‐containing antioxidant, glutathione (GSH), provides the major intracellular defense against mercury-‐induced toxicity. Glutathione and its metabolites also interface with cellular energy production and neurotransmitter syntheses through several prominent metabolic pathways. Glutathione availability down-‐regulates the pro-‐inflammatory potential of leukotrienes and other eicosanoids.
Glutathione depletion has been documented in a variety of degenerative conditions, including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, atherosclerosis, and the aging process in general. When GSH levels are fully depleted, the cell will die.
Supplementing elderly people with GSH makes them feel stronger and healthier with an increase T-cell function. Chronic viral infections, such as hepatitis C, are associated with GSH depletion in circulating immune cells. Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder are associated with lowered glutathione. Accruing data suggest that oxidative stress may be a factor in bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, and schizophrenia. Glutathione (GSH) is the major free radical scavenger in the brain.
Diminished GSH levels elevate cellular vulnerability towards oxidative stress; characterized by accumulating reactive oxygen species. Replenishment of glutathione using N-‐acetyl cysteine has been shown to reduce symptoms of both disorders.
Research on 33 people over 60 years old showed that those with the highest GSH levels in their blood had fewer illnesses, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressures, and healthier weights than those with lower levels. Glutathione does over 27 different things for the body.
Studies indicate it has a positive benefit for over 68 different diseases or conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, autism, cancer, chronic fatigue, COPD, diabetes, HIV, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, ALS, Huntington’s disease and cystic fibrosis.
How you can increase glutathione in your body:
Watermelon and avocado are the richest food sources. GSH is also found in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, Brussels’ sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. Raising GSH levels through direct supplementation of glutathione is difficult. Research suggests that glutathione taken orally is not well absorbed across the gastrointestinal tract. In a study of acute oral administration of a very large dose (3 grams) of oral glutathione, Witschi and coworkers found "it is not possible to increase circulating glutathione to a clinically beneficial extent by the oral administration of a single dose of 3 g of glutathione.
Liposomal glutathione is a new method for elevating glutathione levels in the body. It can also be nebulized directly into the lungs. High quality whey protein has been shown in numerous studies to increase glutathione content within the cell. A daily dose of vitamin C 500 to 1000 mg daily will elevate and maintain tissue levels of GSH. N-‐acetyl-‐cysteine 1000 mg daily between meals will increase GSH levels.
According to a group of researchers in France, vitamin D increases glutathione levels in the brain and appears to be a catalyst for glutathione production. The amount of activated vitamin D in the brain is tied to how much vitamin D3 one has, either ingested through supplements or created in the skin via sun exposure. This suggests taking vitamin D3 supplements and/or getting adequate sun exposure boosts glutathione production.
Alpha lipoic acid has also been shown to restore intracellular glutathione. Silymarin, an extract of the seeds of the milk thistle plant has also demonstrated an ability to replenish glutathione levels.
Dr Ronald Peters Md practices in Scottsdale AZ
13951 N Scottsdale Rd Suite 100