Glutathione – The Alpha Molecule for Health and Weight Loss

Glutathione is a potent antioxidant produced by our cells often called ‘The Alpha Molecule’ due to its power. 

The structure of glutathione is relatively simple and comprises of three amino acids:

  • Glutamine
  • Cysteine
  • Glycine

But this molecule, as simple as its structure might be, is one of the most potent antioxidants in our body, mostly because it protects our cells from toxicity and oxidative damage. Glutathione also maintains redox homeostasis – the capacity cells have for dealing with challenges coming from a wide variety of stressors and toxins. [1] 

In healthy people, glutathione is found in high concentrations in most cells, even though producing high levels of this molecule requires much metabolic activity. This goes to emphasize the importance of this molecule for supporting health. 

Unfortunately, glutathione levels may drop significantly as a result of several factors. These factors include a poor diet, stress, and an overwhelming amount of environmental toxins

In the modern world of today, glutathione’s ability to fight toxins is more critical than ever, due to the pollution that exists in almost every city around the world and to the toxins that enter our bodies from virtually all the products we use.

Let’s take a look at some of the other ways glutathione benefits the body.

Glutathione’s Positive Effect on Our Health and Weight

  • Most importantly, glutathione’s ability to lessen oxidative stress to the cells provides it with an indirect ability to reduce the risk of various diseases that come as a result of oxidative stress, including heart disease, stroke, Neurodegenerative disorders (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s diseases, ALS), and autoimmune disorders. [2]
  • Glutathione is vital for mitochondrial function, the energy power plant of the cells.
  • Studies have shown that glutathione can have an impact on liver cell damage caused by alcoholic and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Glutathione can reduce the damage as it improves protein, bilirubin, and enzyme levels in the blood. [3] [4]
  • An older study has found that glutathione can improve circulation, as it enabled participants in the study to walk pain-free, despite having peripheral artery disease, affecting their legs. [5]
  • When it comes to body weight, scientists are finding connections between glutathione levels and weight loss. A study has found this connection in people who have followed dietary therapies for metabolic syndrome conditions (increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess belly, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels) that together increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. [6]
  • Additionally, glutathione might have the ability to reduce the effects or symptoms of several other disorders including inflammatory bowel syndrome, allergies and HIV 
  • Glutathione is also an effective anti-aging molecule, (glutathione levels tend to decline as we age) which even helps reduce the greying of our hair, as well as being involved in other age-related diseases (hearing impairment, glaucoma, cataract, and macular degeneration)
  • Glutathione also offers brain and cell protection from mercury and other toxic metal damage.
  • Adequate glutathione levels also prevent nail biting.

All of this shows how vital the molecule is for our bodies. Since glutathione levels drop as we age, and during stress, and poor dietary habits, thankfully, you can increase the levels of glutathione in your body following these several tips.

How to Increase the Levels of Glutathione in the Body

First of all, one should aim to decrease the need for glutathione by reducing toxic load.

Other ways that increase of levels of glutathione naturally include consumption of specific foods, herbs, supplementation, and through beneficial lifestyle habits.

Let’s look into these now.

The foods and herbs that can boost glutathione production in the cells include:

  • Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, kale, and Brussels sprouts
  • Foods rich in the plant polyphenol fisetin including red apples, red grapes and strawberries which up-regulate glutathione production [7-8]
  • Garlic and all types or onions (consumed raw)
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Flaxseed
  • Almonds
  • Guso seaweed 
  • Milk thistle

The lifestyle habits that boost glutathione levels include:

  • Getting sufficient sleep, since Insomnia has been found to have adverse effects on glutathione levels.
  • Preventing exposure to toxins when possible including toxins in hygiene and cleaning products.
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Meditate—meditation has been shown to increase glutathione levels by 20%.

Supplementation to increase glutathione levels includes:

  • Alpha-lipoic acid has been shown to increase mitochondrial glutathione levels
  • N-acetylcysteine (NAC), because cysteine availability is the rate-limiting step in the production of glutathione.
  • Direct supplementation with glutathione is not effective on a regular basis but is excellent in a hospital setting for Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, COPD, nephropathy, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Athletes may supplement with glutathione after extreme exercise bouts

Supporting your body to produce sufficient levels of this molecule is critical for the proper functioning of the whole body. It is the perfect anti-aging molecule and supporting its presence in sufficient quantity in the body is of crucial importance for healthy aging and healthy living for all ages.

References:

  • [1] Forman HJ, Zhang H, Rinna A. Glutathione: overview of its protective roles, measurement, and biosynthesis. Mol Aspects Med. 2009;30(1-2):1–12. doi:10.1016/j.mam.2008.08.006
  • [2] Pedro Diaz-Vivancos, Ambra de Simone, Guy Kiddle, Christine H. Foyer. Glutathione – linking cell proliferation to oxidative stress. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, Volume 89, December 2015, Pages 1154-1164. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2015.09.023
  • [3] Dentico P, Volpe A, Buongiorno R, Grattagliano I, Altomare E, Tantimonaco G, Scotto G, Sacco R, Schiraldi O. Glutathione in the treatment of chronic fatty liver diseases. Recenti Prog Med. 1995 Jul-Aug;86(7-8):290-3.
  • [4] Honda Y, Kessoku T, Sumida Y, Kobayashi T, Kato T, Ogawa Y. Efficacy of glutathione for the treatment of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: an open-label, single-arm, multicenter, pilot study. BMC Gastroenterol. 2017 Aug 8;17(1):96. doi: 10.1186/s12876-017-0652-3.
  • [5] Enrico Arosio, MD, Sergio De Marchi, MD, Massimo Zannoni, MD, Manlio Prior, MD, Alessandro Lechi, MD. Effect of Glutathione Infusion on Leg Arterial Circulation, Cutaneous Microcirculation, and Pain-Free Walking Distance in Patients With Peripheral Obstructive Arterial Disease: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Volume 77, Issue 8, 754 – 759. https://doi.org/10.4065/77.8.754
  • [6] Goutzourelas N, Orfanou M, Charizanis I, Leon G, Spandidos DA, Kouretas D. GSH levels affect weight loss in individuals with metabolic syndrome and obesity following dietary therapy. Exp Ther Med. 2018;16(2):635–642. doi:10.3892/etm.2018.6204
  • [7] Gupta, SC; et al. (1 October 2014). “Downregulation of tumor necrosis factor and other proinflammatory biomarkers by polyphenols”. Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics. 559: 91–9.
  • [8] Khan, N; Syed, DN; Ahmad, N; Mukhtar, H (Jul 2013). “Fisetin: a dietary antioxidant for health promotion”. Antioxidants. 19 (2): 151–62. 
  • [9] Pizzorno J. Glutathione!. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014;13(1):8–12.