Glutathione - Not That Easy to Get
~ May 2009 No.226 ~
Walking down the vitamin / supplement aisle in the drug store is getting more and more challenging. Besides the traditional bottles of multi-vitamins, there are a myriad of new products, some familiar, some not. The arrival of these products in the stores often follows scientific studies that report new and exciting benefits for bioactive ingredients.
Glutathione has been known as an important cellular metabolite for some time; there is science to support this. But for the consumer, the most important question is how to increase the body's glutathione levels.
At the cellular level in all tissues, glutathione acts as an antioxidant that helps defend cells from a variety of metabolic and environmental insults. It also plays an important part in gene expression, apoptosis or programmed cell death, and cell proliferation. Its pivotal role in cell metabolism, reproduction and health is demonstrated by the fact that glutathione has been implicated in a variety of pathological conditions including diabetes, cancer, AIDS, neurodegenerative and liver diseases.
Many people are therefore interested in increasing their glutathione levels. Taking a supplement containing glutathione appears to be a simple way of doing that. However, studies have shown that glutathione levels cannot be increased to a clinically beneficial extent by orally ingesting a single dose of glutathione. This is because glutathione is manufactured inside the cell, from several building block amino acids - glycine, glutamate and cystine. Cystine, in particular, is an important amino acid, because it is one of the few amino acids that contains an atom of sulfur. It is the SH in the glutathione molecule that gives glutathione its protective properties.
Consuming foods rich in sulphur-containing amino acids can help boost glutathione levels. Raw eggs, garlic and fresh unprocessed meats contain high levels of sulphur-containing amino acids and help to maintain optimal glutathione levels
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