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March 06, 2023 5 min read
Glutathione is a naturally occurring antioxidant molecule that is found in every cell of the human body. Glutathione is comprised of three amino acids (cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine) and performs an essential role in many biological processes, including detoxification, immune function, and cellular metabolism.
Glutathione’s main action is through its antioxidant capacity where it neutralizes harmful molecules called free radicals, which can damage cells and contribute to the development of various diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease.
Additionally, glutathione is involved in the synthesis and repair of DNA, the metabolism of toxins and carcinogens, and the regulation of cell growth and apoptosis (i.e., programmed cell death).
The body’s supply of this antioxidant depletes with time due to many factors, such as aging and poor nutrition.
Many athletes and health enthusiasts recognize the need to increase the production of glutathione to take advantage of the many underlining benefits.
Antioxidants are incredibly effective compounds that can neutralize threats around cell mutation and free radicals. These scavengers of oxidized cells are constantly working to prevent or stop the destructive impacts that many neurological threats pose. As the body’s most abundant antioxidant, glutathione serves as the “head bouncer” of your entire immune system, regulating the removal of toxins in your body on demand.
Glutathione serves as an energy source for the healthy growth and activity of the immune cells. Research indicates a link with low glutathione levels and mitochondria cell death. When there are inadequate levels of glutathione to keep mitochondria cells charged, the result is a lack of muscle function (strength) and stamina as the mitochondria become overly stressed.
This mechanism involves the binding of glutathione to the foreign body (pollutant) to yield a water-soluble compound. This critical step allows your body to then dispel the carcinogen through the regular waste management channels (sweat, urine, bile).
It seems that glutathione initially recognizes the pollutant, and immediately begins the process to remove the particular foreign particle from the body. Although this happens quickly, foreign particles tend to leach the electrons from surrounding molecules, substantially damaging the nearby tissue before leaving the body.
These molecules become “stripped” and are unstable and often referred to as “free radicals.”
Once volatility of the free radical cell begins, a chain reaction is likely to cascade through hundreds of more cells until the radicalized cells eventually die or mutate.
The chain reaction process of radicalizing cells is known as “oxidative damage” which causes the damaged cells to function incorrectly and eventually die.
Numerous research indicates that increased production of free radicals causes or accelerates nerve cell injury and leads to disease.
The death of a cell may be better than the alternative “mutation.” One of the most amazing features of glutathione is its ability to repair & heal free radicals by replacing the missing electron from the unstable cells.
Glutathione helps to preserve the muscle protein synthesis pathway by protecting nitric oxide from free radicals. Nitric oxide is produced within skeletal muscle fibers and has various functions in skeletal muscle. It is essential for normal glucose uptake during muscle contractions.
Two other antioxidants, Vitamin C and vitamin E are both recycled by glutathione, allowing them to be re-used to remove free radicals and decrease oxidative stress. The brain and nervous system are particularly susceptible to oxidative stress, in part because of the high percentage of oxygen required for healthy brain function.
In addition, glutathione can help mitigate inflammation.
Oxidative stress and inflammation interact in a vicious cycle, creating a chronic state of systemic inflammation which can cause loss of muscle mass. Increasing glutathione availability within the body enhances the activity of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. Evidence from animal models and cell lines indicate that whey protein may regulate multiple intracellular pathways related to reactive oxygen species (ROS) production .
Consuming glutathione directly is not effective due to the digestive processes (chemical breakdown via acid) being incredibly hard on the integrity of the glutathione structure. In fact, research demonstrates that <1% of glutathione in powder form is actually bioavailable .
Research showed that supplementation with oral glutathione had no affect on antioxidant concentration in the blood or any significant impact on oxidative stress biomarkers .
The non-essential amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine are the building blocks that serve as glutathione precursors that enable the body to create glutathione .
The best way to go about increasing glutathione levels is to leverage the body’s natural glutathione production.
We can do this by consuming foods that are dense with Cysteine, Glutamic Acid, and Glycine. If you are not sure whether your diet is balanced correctly enough to support the effort of increasing your natural levels of glutathione, the following supplements are considered over the counter and will undoubtedly help.
Look for Liposomal delivery systems when purchasing the dietary supplement powders above. Liposomes are highly biocompatible, and they can hold either water-soluble or fat-soluble molecules. Taking the above supplements with a liposomal carrier will allow your body to utilize the nutrients that otherwise are often destroyed by the digestive system.
A great way to fortify your glutathione stores is by consuming a diet rich in the amino acid Cysteine. This amino acid is particularly important and is very much considered a critical precursor of glutathione synthesis.
Glutathione is a protein that resides within an extremely thin (order of nanometers) membrane that surrounds a milk fat globule .
The average mesh filter size for cold processing whey protein concentrate into a more pure whey protein isolate (higher protein content) is 125 microns. The milk fat globule particle is unlike other fats and lactose that end up filtered out of a whey protein concentrate when making a whey protein isolate. Therefore, the ability to produce the best nutrition for increased glutathione production resides solely in the amount of protein, the quantity of Cysteine and Glycine.
The better the quality of whey (undenatured), and the higher protein content from an isolate, compared to concentrate, means higher levels of bonded cysteine and glutamyl cysteine used for glutathione production. This will then yield a better immune response and will increase your body’s natural glutathione production .
STEEL has a fantastic line of whey isolate protein that will provide your body the necessary nutrients to optimize your glutathione and muscle building potential. It comes in several incredible flavors so you can try one every month to find the one that you like best!
1. Draganidis, D., et al., Inflammaging and Skeletal Muscle: Can Protein Intake Make a Difference? J Nutr, 2016. 146(10): p. 1940-1952.
2. Allen, J. and R.D. Bradley, Effects of oral glutathione supplementation on systemic oxidative stress biomarkers in human volunteers. J Altern Complement Med, 2011. 17(9): p. 827-33.
3. Minich, D.M. and B.I. Brown, A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support. Nutrients, 2019. 11(9).
4. Lee, H., et al., Compositional Dynamics of the Milk Fat Globule and Its Role in Infant Development. Front Pediatr, 2018. 6: p. 313.
5. Bounous, G., G. Batist, and P. Gold, Whey proteins in cancer prevention. Cancer Lett, 1991. 57(2): p. 91-4.