Glutathione: The Master Antioxidant
Glutathione is your body’s “master antioxidant”.
Every cell of your body contains glutathione. And glutathione makes any other antioxidant which you ingest more effective.
As we age, our glutathione levels decline. Indeed, low glutathione levels may be associated with aging quickly:
Glutathione is also central to many other basic mechanisms in our body, such as immune response, blood transport and protein synthesis:
Numerous studies have shown that glutathione can help protect cells against radiation damage, including studies published in the following journals:
This is not entirely surprising, given that it’s well-documented that all antioxidants help to protect against damage from radiation. Specifically, one of the main ways in which low-level ionizing radiation damages our bodies is by the creation of free radicals. (This 2-minute BBC video shows how damaging free radicals can be to your health.)
Columbia University explains the damaging effects of low-level radiation through free radical creation:
Some radiation experts argue that the creation of a lot of free radical creation is the most dangerous mechanism of low level ionizing radiation:
During exposure to low-level doses (LLD) of ionizing radiation (IR), the most of harmful effects are produced indirectly, through radiolysis of water and formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). The antioxidant enzymes – superoxide dismutase (SOD): manganese SOD (MnSOD) and copper-zinc SOD (CuZnSOD), as well as glutathione (GSH), are the most important intracellular antioxidants in the metabolism of ROS. Overproduction of ROS challenges antioxidant enzymes.
We’ve previously told you how to get past the hype to find the foods that are highest in antioxidants.
But glutathione – as the “master antioxidant”, which is in every cell of your body – is probably the most important one to focus on.
Dr. Jimmy Gutman – a practicing physician, former Undergraduate Director and Residency Training Director of Emergency Medicine at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, who has served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians – claims:
Raising glutathione levels protects cells from damage from the most dangerous of free radicals, the hydroxyl-radical, is released when ionizing radiation hits us.
Note also that exposure to radiation depletes glutathione in your body. You basically use up glutathione neutralizing the free radicals created by radiation. So it is important to keep your glutathione levels up when you are exposed to radiation.
How Can We Boost Glutathione Levels?
Despite the hype from the supplement industry, glutathione supplements don’t do anything. Specifically, our stomach acid destroys glutathione … so you’ll be throwing money away if you buy supplemenets.
Many companies are trying to sell various glutathione boosters which they claim bypass destruction by our digestive juices. There are glutathione patches, suppositories and special acid-resistant supplements. We don’t know which – if any – of these are effective in boosting glutathione levels or whether they have harmful side effects.
But you can eat foods that are high in the precursors to glutathione … and your body will use them to make more glutathione.
Specifically, 3 amino acids – cysteine, glycine and glutamate – are the precursors to glutathione production.
Protein-rich foods tends to be high in all 3. For example, raw eggs are loaded with cysteine. And raw meat is also high in cysteine. Many sources on the Internet say that cooking destroys cysteine. Given that a lot of industrially-raised meat is of poor quality, and large-scale egg producers have been riddled with salmonella and other problems in recent years, eating raw eggs or meat could be a problem.
But the “cooking destroys cysteine” claim may well be a myth … at least for eggs and meat. Fried eggs appear to have slightly more cysteine than raw eggs. And cooked meat may have more cysteine than raw meat.
Numerous scientific studies show that “undenatured whey protein” raises glutathione levels. See this, this, this, this, this, and this. (Whey protein is derived from milk or cheese, and “undenatured” just means that it is heated enough to kill bacteria … but not high enough to destroy the fragile whey chemistry.) You can buy it at most health food stores.
If you are a vegan – eating neither meat or dairy products – then you may want to make sure you get enough brown rice protein (because it’s high in the glutathione precursor cysteine).
Asparagus, spinach, avocados and cruciferous vegetables (brocolli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cress, and bok choy) are also fairly good sources of glutathione precursors.
Supplements available in health food stores – such as alpha lipoic acid (and here), N-acetylcysteine, S-adenosyl-L-methionine, and the herb milk thistle (and see this) – have also been shown to boost glutathione levels.
While there have only few a studies to date, preliminary indications are that deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi and the like may boost glutathione levels. Studies here, here, here, here, here and here.
Note: Read this for more information on how to protect yourself from radiation.