What is Glutathione?
If you’ve read any of our previous blogs, you may be aware of glutathione and its role in protecting our bodies from oxidative damage... but what is glutathione? How does glutathione work? What are glutathione functions in the body?
What is glutathione? Glutathione is the most abundant antioxidant in our body, and it can be found in very high concentrations in our cells (especially in detox-related organs such as the liver) throughout the day, in normal conditions. In fact, intracellular concentrations of glutathione are comparable with those of glucose and potassium, which tells us a lot of how important glutathione is for our overall health and glutathione functions in the body.
The glutathione molecule is a tripeptide, which means it’s made of three smaller molecules called amino acids…the same ones we use to synthesize proteins and enzymes. These amino acids have several interesting properties that contribute to the correct functioning of glutathione; but one of them in particular, called cysteine, is worth mentioning when it comes to the antioxidant properties of glutathione.
Cysteine is very important in understanding how glutathione works and how glutathione functions in the body, as it contains sulfur in its structure. Sulfur is crucial when it comes to fighting toxic compounds and oxidative damage. You may think of it as the "chemical bullet" that neutralizes free radicals and reactive oxygen species produced by our metabolism and by our daily habits.
Now that we know what glutathione is made of, you may be asking how does glutathione work?
How Does Glutathione Work?
Glutathione exists in our cells in two states: Reduced and Oxidized, which we will call "Active" and "Inactive", respectively. The ratio of Active and Inactive Glutathione determines the potential of our cells to protect us against oxidative damage, one of if not the most important glutathione functions in the body; healthy cells have an Active/Inactive glutathione ratio of greater than 100, while cells exposed to oxidant stress present a ratio of 1 to 10.
When we talk about "Reduced" or "Active" glutathione, we mean that the sulfur contained in cysteine is ready to fight toxic compounds, and while most of the time it wins, it doesn't leave without a few scars.
To effectively neutralize free radicals and reactive oxygen species, sulfur must lose electrons and give them to toxic compounds as you would shoot a tranquilizer dart to a dangerous wild animal. By receiving sulfur's electrons (in a process called reduction), reactive oxygen species and free radicals find their chemical stability and thus lose their harmful potential.
After donating its electrons, glutathione becomes "Oxidized" or "Inactive". Oxidized glutathione is also called glutathione disulfide, and it is formed by two glutathione molecules that have given away their electrons, which bind together by their now inactive sulfur atoms.
Another one of glutathione functions in the body is that glutathione also works as a catalyzer for many antioxidant enzymes which require its help to function. Besides, glutathione is involved in the detoxification of many other compounds and toxins that would eventually cause oxidative damage, as is the case of mercury, which is excreted from our cells with the help of glutathione.
Another one of glutathione functions in the body is that glutathione protects our cells by actively recycling both vitamin C and vitamin E, which has a direct impact in many processes involving our immune and cardiovascular system, muscle growth, and our metabolism.
So, as long as we are able to replenish "active" glutathione and increase this ratio, the greater our defenses will be against oxidative damage. As you may have already figured out, an increase of inactive glutathione is a bad sign, and in some cases it may trigger auto-induced cell death.
How Do We Get More Active Glutathione?
The obvious answer is by reducing exposure to oxidant stress. Reducing alcohol consumption, not smoking, doing some physical activity, getting enough sleep and eating healthier will definitely improve our defenses.
But there's more. Our bodies are able to re-convert inactive glutathione into its active form by using an enzyme called glutathione reductase, and while that is pretty amazing, it is not enough. Unfortunately, we are exposed to oxidative damage coming from every corner, and recycling inactive glutathione can't stand by itself against it, so our bodies are constantly producing new active glutathione molecules.
To improve glutathione production, we must provide our bodies with the building blocks to synthesize it. A good diet and proper supplementation will get us up and ready to defend ourselves against the undesired effects of oxidative damage. As science has demonstrated through the years, regular consumption of N-acetylcysteine, artichoke, broccoli, milk thistle extract, curcumin, garlic, green tea and many more sulfur-containing foods and supplements, can actively increase glutathione levels in our system.
At Celera, we care about your health and your wellbeing. That is why our products have been carefully formulated by expert scientists to provide the building blocks for glutathione production, and the benefits are there for you to experience them.
It’s time for you to start improving your defenses against oxidative damage and become Younger, Stronger and Alive!
Written by Ignacio Morales, Team Celera
Ignacio Morales is a biotechnology engineer at Celera- he has dedicated his career to research, going from plant biology and crop science to microbiology and human genetics, with a strong passion for molecular biology. He also loves sharing scientific knowledge, so everyone can learn and be amazed at the wonders of the world.
Link to scientific studies:
- https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14988435/- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684116/pdf/8-12.pdf