Glutathione is a tripeptide which means it contains three amino acids - cysteine, glycine and glutamate. It is present in every cell and fondly called as the king of antioxidants. It is produced in the cytosol and then pumped into the mitochondria.
Being a powerful antioxidant, it acts as a shield for our healthy cells against free radicals. In our cells, glutathione exists in two forms - reduced (GSH) and oxidised (GSSG). A healthy cell will always have a ratio of GSH/GSSG more than 100. It is because high GSSG in a cell makes it prone to damage.
During energy metabolism which takes place within the mitochondria, lot of byproducts are produced in the body with the potential to damage the healthy cells, but glutathione ensures safety by guarding against the radicals, toxins, etc.
Some of the key roles of glutathione in our body are -
1. Antioxidant - Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant which keeps our cells and tissues healthy by scavenging and neutralising free radicals. It neutralises various oxidants like toxins, superoxide, lipid peroxide and carbon radicals.
2. Detoxification - In our day-to-day life, we get exposed to various chemicals and toxins via car smoke, cigarette smoke, alcohol, air pollution, radiation, pesticides and many more. These toxins when entering our body might turn into carcinogens hence should be eliminated by the body. This is where glutathione comes into the picture. It works in removing them from the body by making them more water-soluble and hence easily removable.
3. Anti-Ageing - Glutathione is needed to keep cells healthy, prevent fine lines, wrinkles and healthy cells from dying. High levels of glutathione in our cells means longevity, beautiful skin and reduced risk of disease. Some studies also support glutathione’s anti-melanogenic effect for reducing skin pigmentation and causing skin-lightening.
4. Energy Metabolism - As already discussed that glutathione supports our mitochondria during energy production. Accumulation of toxins in the mitochondria might damage and affect the same. Glutathione ensures smooth functioning of mitochondria by eradicating toxins and neutralising radicals.
5. Boost Brain Health - Low levels of glutathione in the body is associated with an increased risk of age-related neurological decline and diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. It is because free radicals damage our brain cells and affect our cognitive functioning.
6. Support Cardiovascular System - Elevated levels of LDL or oxidised lipids increases the risk of cardiovascular disorders and heart attacks. It is because these low-density lipoproteins tend to deposit across our blood vessels, obstruct blood flow and damage the lining of arteries. Therefore, we need glutathione to prevent the formation of plaques, for smooth blood flow and lower heart diseases like coronary artery disease or stroke.
7. Anti-inflammatory - Glutathione aids in relieving inflammation while controlling the levels of inflammatory markers. It has been observed that people born with autoimmune disorders have low levels of glutathione in their body.
8. Enhances Immunity - Glutathione supports our immunity by augmenting the activity of T-cells which are white blood cells and exert an immediate immune response in fighting bacterial and viral infections.
9. Improve Athletic Performance - It has been found that glutathione has the potential to boost athletic performance as well. Athletes and active people might make use of glutathione supplement in boosting their stamina by causing a delay in lactic acid accumulation in the body.
To sum up, it is evident that Glutathione is critical for our health and serves many important roles in the body. It protects us from diseases, infections, brain-related disorders and aids in maintaining skin integrity. Therefore, the diet should include glutathione rich foods like avocados, cabbage, garlic, broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber, Brussels sprouts and nuts. Our body needs sulphur to synthesise glutathione therefore, sulphur rich foods are also necessary like onion, leeks, garlic and shallots. An oral glutathione supplement is also an alternative option in case of dietary inadequacy.
- Ghezzi P. (2011). Role of glutathione in immunity and inflammation in the lung. International journal of general medicine, 4, 105–113. https://doi.org/10.2147/IJGM.S15618
- Pizzorno J. (2014). Glutathione!. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.), 13(1), 8–12.
- Weschawalit, S., Thongthip, S., Phutrakool, P., & Asawanonda, P. (2017). Glutathione and its antiaging and antimelanogenic effects. Clinical, cosmetic and investigational dermatology, 10, 147–153. https://doi.org/10.2147/CCID.S128339
- Sitohang, Dr I. B. S. (2019).Oral Glutathione As A Skin Whitening Agent.ClinicalTrials.gov https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04105504
- Popa, Bogdan M.D.(n.d).Glutathione: The “Master” Antioxidant. Core Med Science. https://coremedscience.com/blogs/wellness/glutathione-the-master-antioxidant-1
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