What is Glutathione?

Glutathione is a natural chemical compound produced by your body. It is synthesized using the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. It is an important agent that helps the body get rid of damaging free radicals and is already being marketed for its antioxidant properties.


The first step in the glutathione synthesis is the combination of l-glutamate and cysteine, upon the action of the enzyme called glutamate cysteine ligase or GCL, to produce gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase. The second step involves the addition of glycine to the C-terminal of the preceding product by the enzyme glutathione synthetase. All the cells of your body can produce glutathione. However, the liver is the primary organ for the metabolism of toxins into less or nonharmful substances. Therefore, this organ is also the most important source of glutathione.


The biochemical functions of glutathione are varied. It neutralizes free radicals and other reactive oxygen compounds (ROS), which promote the death of cells. It also helps recharge and maintain the active form of vitamins C and E, which are also antioxidants.

Glutathione is important in maintaining an adequate immune defense. When you have sufficient glutathione levels, it makes it easier for your immune cells, particularly the CD8 lymphocytes, to recognize invaders and kill them. Glutathione helps in the detoxification of carcinogens and foreign compounds called xenobiotics. It does this by serving as a reductant. When glutathione combines with drugs in a process called conjugation, the glutathione-drug becomes more water soluble, and therefore facilitates the drug’s excretion through the urine. As such, it is believed to help smokers and alcoholic individuals. It also helps to detoxify metals including copper, cadmium, lead and mercury, all of which have a potential for accumulation.

It has been said that high glutathione levels enhance your longevity. Low glutathione levels in the body are correlated with the speed at which you age. As you grow older, the glutathione concentrations diminish, thereby decreasing the ability to detoxify free radicals. This is why many glutathione supplements are being touted as anti-aging solutions.

Maximizing the Effects

Glutathione cannot do its work if you lack the amino acids already mentioned. Foods rich in amino acids are also protein sources – these include meats and legumes. Two essential vitamins for keeping the levels of glutathione adequate include riboflavin and vitamin B6.

Food Sources

Glutathione can be found in fruits, vegetables, meat and fish. Avocados, strawberries, watermelons, grapefruits, oranges, asparagus, broccoli, okra, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes and walnuts are all good plant sources of glutathione. As mentioned, cysteine is an important component of glutathione. Cysteine can be found in poultry and bovine meat. It is also present in cottage cheese, granola, oat flakes, wheat germ and yogurt. Other important components of glutathione are glutamine and glycine. These two amino acids are also found in high-protein foods.

While you may opt to buy glutathione supplements, there are also sources readily available from nature. By consuming foods rich in glutathione, you are able to protect yourself from diseases while enjoying good food and gaining other nutrients at the same time.


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