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The most powerful of all antioxidants – and nearly unknown

By Lee Euler / November 12, 2017
Glutathione - The most powerful antioxidant

Essential for life; critical for health; yet even most health-conscious people are unaware of it.

On his television show, Dr. Oz called this nutrient “the most powerful antioxidant you’ve never heard of.” He went on to describe it as “one of the keys to fighting off diseases that you fear the most.”

This protein complex, commonly dubbed ‘the master antioxidant’ by integrative health professionals, has been the subject of more than 126,000 published scientific articles, and more than 70 major diseases have been linked with to low levels.

It’s called glutathione. Here’s what you need to know. . .

Continued below…

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The most powerful of all antioxidants

Glutathione is one of the four main antioxidants produced by the body itself. The others are superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and coenzyme Q10. Glutathione, however, is head and shoulders above the rest in its importance to health.

It’s the most prevalent antioxidant in the body, being found in all cells. Glutathione levels are especially high in the liver, where it’s essential to detoxification, in the spleen, where it plays a role in immune defence, and in the duodenum, where it’s used to neutralize toxins in the food we eat. The duodenum is the next place food goes when it leaves the stomach.

The body’s most important detoxifier

Jimmy Gutman, MD, a leading authority on glutathione, declared, “Next to water, there is no more important detoxification system than glutathione.”

In fact, Emergency Rooms respond to one of the most common types of poisoning by trying to raise the patient’s glutathione levels. An overdose of acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol) causes the liver’s supply of glutathione to plummet. Acetaminophen overdose is the most common cause of liver failure in the United States.

ERs respond to it by giving massive amounts of a natural nutrient called NAC (N-acetylcysteine), which saves lives by detoxifying the drug and restoring glutathione levels in the liver. NAC provides the body with cysteine, an essential amino acid we need to create glutathione, but which we have to get from our food because our own bodies don’t make it.

Antidotes to poisons act in a specific way. They either prevent the poison’s absorption into the body, combine with the poison to render it harmless, or produce effects opposite to those of the poison.

In contrast, glutathione treats poisons and toxins in a non-specific way. The body’s premier detoxification organ – the liver – sends GSH – the “ready to work” form of glutathione — into the bloodstream to be distributed wherever it is needed.

Since virtually all toxins are pro-oxidants, a strong antioxidant electron donor like GSH can neutralize the toxicity and help repair the damage caused.

Protection against heavy metals and chemicals

Studies have shown that GSH can offset the harm caused by lead, mercury, cadmium, alcohol, organophosphorus pesticides and toxins produced by bacteria called cyanobacteria. It can also detoxify a wide variety of chemicals called xenobiotics by binding to them directly.

Humans were never designed to deal with the 80,000-plus environmental pollutants that we are exposed to today. This toxic load puts great strain on our glutathione resources.

In an article published in the medical journal Cancer in August, the authors examined, for the first time, the link between cancer and cumulative exposure to pollution in around 2,700 counties across the US over a period of four years.

The scientists found an extra 44 cancer cases per 100,000 people in areas with the worst air quality compared to those with the cleanest environments.

They wrote, “Environmental exposures can alter or interfere with a variety of biological processes, including hormone production and function, inflammation, DNA damage and gene suppression or over-expression.”

Moving to cleaner environments is the most effective solution, but if this is not possible, then maintaining high GSH levels is an absolute must.

Immune builder

Canadian scientists wrote in 2003, “The glutathione (GSH) antioxidant system is the principal protective mechanism of the cell and is a crucial factor in the development of the immune response by the immune cells.”

The ability of white blood cells to effectively mount an attack against threats that come from allergens, pathogens and cancer cells depends on GSH. They will be less responsive if GSH is below optimum levels. Even partial depletion of GSH has been shown to impair immunity.

GSH protects against oxidative stress in the immune system and allows newly formed cells to proliferate to attack bacteria, viruses and other threats.

Supplementation with glutathione has been shown to increase the proliferation of three types of immune system cells: lymphocytes, natural killer (NK) cells and T cells.

In one study, supplementing with a relatively low daily dose of NAC (a precursor of glutathione, as noted above) increased CD4 counts, showing an improvement in white blood cell immunity in HIV patients. In another study, two months of NAC “safely replenishes whole blood GSH and T-cell GSH in HIV-infected individuals.”

In another study published in 2014, NK cells doubled in 54 adults with an average age of 46, even though the volunteers were all healthy.

Lead researcher Dr. John P. Richie of Penn State University, who has spent more than three decades researching glutathione, said, “Seeing the two-fold increase in NK cell activity from glutathione supplementation indicates that glutathione could be playing an important role in boosting the body’s immune system.”

Thomas E. Levy, M.D. writes in his book GSH Master Defender, “GSH plays a major part in the body’s immune system. In addition to protecting all the body’s cells that are part of the immune system, GSH has essential roles in activating the body’s immune response. Overall immune status is intrinsically tied to GSH levels in the blood as well as GSH concentration in all the cells of the body.”

Logically, raising your glutathione levels should reduce your vulnerability to nearly all types of illness, from the common cold to the bubonic plague.

Vital protection against cancer

Considering all the accolades — the most abundant antioxidant; the first line of defense against oxidative stress and other cellular insults; a detoxifier of carcinogens and immune system promoter — you would expect GSH to have important protective roles against the development of cancer.

And that proves to be the case.

Scientists at the Beckman Research Institute, Duarte, California wrote that glutathione “is crucial in the removal and detoxification of carcinogens, and alterations in this pathway, can have a profound effect on cell survival.”

With aging, GSH levels decrease and the incidence of cancer increases. Back in 1992, Dr. Richie believed these factors could be linked — the fall in GSH may be directly involved with the development of cancer.

More recently (2003), researchers from the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia wrote that “Cause and effect links between GSH metabolism and diseases such as cancer…have been shown.”

In a review of the effects on mice of NAC in multiple studies, Italian researchers found that it significantly reduced the ability of several cancer-causing compounds to induce malignancies in many different types of tissue.

In one study, rats were injected with a potent carcinogen that gave them liver tumors. After administration with GSH, the tumors regressed and the animals survived.

This result suggests GSH may have a role beyond safeguarding against cancer. The study author believes that GSH “merits further investigation as a potential antitumor drug for humans.”

In another study led by Dr. Richie, blood levels of GSH and other antioxidants were measured in 65 patients suffering from oral cancer and 85 matched controls free of cancer. They found that low GSH levels increased the risk of oral cavity cancer.

Can GSH interfere with chemo and radiation?

One of the aims of chemotherapy and radiation treatments is to bombard tumors with free radicals.

This has led to concerns that patients taking antioxidant supplements can prevent conventional cancer therapies from working effectively because raised levels will protect cancer cells. The idea has been repeatedly discredited but some conventional doctors continue to raise it.

In a key study by researchers from Japan, average glutathione levels were no different between those who responded to therapy and those who didn’t. However, they did find a tendency for glutathione levels to increase in non-responders and decrease in responders.

No harm seen in these studies

When in residency, oncologist Brian Lawenda was told by oncology staff and radiation biologists that antioxidants interfere with treatment. He accepted this at the time, but after he carried out his own research, he wrote:

“Here comes the shocker: Did you know that there is NOT A SINGLE STUDY that shows that radiation therapy or chemotherapy is less effective when antioxidants are given during those treatments?!

“In fact, the FDA approved a very potent antioxidant drug for use during radiation therapy and chemotherapy to protect sensitive tissues from the damaging effects of our treatment.”

Renowned oncologist and immunologist Charles B. Simone, in an extensive review, found that antioxidants do not interfere with chemo or radiation. In fact, they become more effective and increase patient survival.

Integrative physician Keith Block, M.D., has also reviewed the use of GSH with chemotherapy in depth and came to the same conclusion as Dr Simone. He found no evidence for diminished efficacy. On the contrary, patients may have done better with GSH because it reduced the toxicity and side effects of chemo, resulting in fewer missed cycles.

In three human trials of ovarian cancer, Dr. Block found that where high-dose GSH given intravenously was combined with chemotherapy drugs, response rates, survival times and side effects were either the same or better than controls. For instance, rates of complete tumor disappearance in the three studies compared to controls were 46% vs 9%, 22% vs 11% and 46% vs 27%.

Those would seem to be a clear win for the use of glutathione.

In four other trials of lung, non-small cell lung, colorectal and gastric cancer, similar results were seen.

Boosting GSH

Although the body is able to manufacture glutathione, its production drops each year after the age of 45.

Today it is needed more than ever, in view of the huge number of toxins, pollutants, heavy metals, and chemicals in our environment. Our supply of glutathione is also used up with infections, burns, traumas, injuries, chronic stress and insomnia.

The average diet contains only 35mg. This is extremely low and reflects the fact that GSH is lost in all forms of food processing except freezing. Cooking reduces glutathione content.

Best sources are raw fruits and vegetables that contain sulfur. These are asparagus, avocado, cruciferous vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, kale, onions, leeks and garlic. Bioactive undenatured whey protein is a proven way of raising GSH levels.

Meat is also a good source but you’ll need to enjoy your steaks rare to get the full benefit.

As we have seen, supplementation with NAC will reliably raise glutathione. In contrast to taking NAC, a glutathione precursor, taking glutathione itself has been controversial because it’s believed the digestive tract breaks down glutathione before it reaches the bloodstream. Studies have been inconsistent in showing whether taking pure glutathione by mouth is effective.

Fortunately, technology has evolved and studies carried out by Dr. Richie and his team in 2015 and in August 2017 demonstrated that a form of glutathione called liposomal, and another called Setria®, manufactured through a proprietary fermentation process, are both effective at raising body stores.

How glutathione works in the body

Glutathione is concentrated in the cytosol of cells – the internal fluid where the majority of cellular metabolism takes place – to safeguard metabolic processes. But glutathione is also found in all extracellular biological fluids.

It’s made up of three amino acids – cysteine – mentioned previously –and glutamic acid and glycine. Cysteine is the most important member of this tripeptide because it is the limiting factor — the availability of cysteine determines how much glutathione is produced in the body. The body can make the other two amino acids itself, but not cysteine.

Because cysteine contains a thiol or sulfhydryl group it can easily donate electrons to neutralize free radicals. This ability to supply and promote the flow of electrons is a major reason why glutathione is able to exert such potent antioxidant properties.

As an antioxidant, one of glutathione’s most essential functions is to maintain cellular redox homeostasis – to keep a balance between creation and destruction of free radicals.

You see, free radicals aren’t always bad. They serve a useful purpose. But if the production of free radicals gets out of hand (oxidative stress), this can damage cellular proteins, lipids, and DNA. This in turn can trigger processes that go on to cause cancer and many other diseases.

Recycles other antioxidants

Glutathione is different from other well known antioxidants like vitamins C and E because it reaches concentrations thousands of times higher.

When glutathione performs its role as an antioxidant, it is in a reduced state (that is, it retains its electrons) and is abbreviated chemically to GSH. In a healthy cell of a young adult, 90% of glutathione will be in this form. This percentage drops considerably as we get older.

After it has neutralized a free radical by donating an electron, glutathione is now spent or oxidized to become glutathione disulfide. Then, with the help of another enzyme — glutathione reductase – it replaces the lost electron and reverts back to its reduced state. By this process glutathione avoids itself becoming a free radical.

What it means is that glutathione can be recycled and do its job over and over again. This represents one of its unique features.

Anitoxidants like vitamins A, C, E and lipoic acid, become free radicals themselves after they quench a free radical. Glutathione not only avoids this fate but actually repairs these other nutrients so they can act as antioxidants over and over again.

Bestselling author and physician Dr. Mark Hyman, who describes GSH as ‘the mother of all antioxidants’, puts it this way, “Dealing with these free radicals is like handing off a hot potato. They get passed around from vitamin C to vitamin E to lipoic acid and then finally to glutathione, which cools them off and recycles the other antioxidants. Then the body can ‘reduce’ or regenerate another protective glutathione molecule. And we are back in business.”

Protects the mitochondria

When it comes to energy production, GSH is in a class of its own for its ability to protect and replenish the mitochondria – the cells’ little energy factories – especially their DNA. Mitochondrial DNA is a unique form which is highly susceptible to damage because it doesn’t have the protective systems available to the main DNA in the nucleus that governs the entire cell.

Mitochondria are bombarded continually with a storm of free radicals as part and parcel of the energy production process. You can think of the free radicals as the dirty exhaust that belches from the smokestack of a power plant. These superoxide radicals create other types of free radicals, which in turn create other free radicals.

GSH comes to the rescue to stop this damaging chain reaction. It quenches the free radicals to protect mitochondrial DNA, thereby preventing the formation of other free radicals.

On top of this, GSH forms part of the enzyme system glutathione peroxidase which can directly quench peroxide radicals and prevent the secondary waves of free radical damage they produce.

Some scientists theorize that damaged mitochondrial DNA kicks off a chain of reactions that leads to cancer. If true, then protecting the mitochondria could be the most critical strategy in preventing the formation of tumors.

So long as sufficient GSH is available to neutralize oxidative stress, it can effectively defend the cell’s DNA, nucleus, organelles and membranes. If it is depleted, then cellular damage is inevitable.

If GSH levels drop too low, the cell will die. In fact, intracellular levels usually have to plummet before it’s even possible for a cell to die.

On an entirely different subject, do we really need to worry about EMFs? The answer is yes. I explained why in our last issue, but if you missed it, it’s running again below.

 Best regards,

Lee Euler,
Publisher

References Article #1:
The UltraMind Solution by Mark Hyman MD
Glutathione by Robert H Keller MD
GSH Master Defender by Thomas E Levy MD
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28480506
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12820403
https://kyowa-usa.com/news/2014/nearly-9-out-of-10-americans-give-their-immune-systems-a-failing-grade
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15386533
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12818476
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8538208
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6782675
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18584481
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3608468
https://integrativeoncology-essentials.com/2013/03/hey-doc-can-i-take-antioxidants-during-chemo-and-radiation
http://www.drsimone.com/Antioxidants_Part_I.pdf
http://www.drsimone.com/SimoneVitWithChemo.pdf
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17367938
http://lifeovercancerblog.typepad.com/life-over-cancer-blog/2013/07/glutathione-with-chemotherapy-part-1.html
http://lifeovercancerblog.typepad.com/life-over-cancer-blog/2013/07/glutathione-with-chemotherapy-part-2.html
About the author

Lee Euler

Hi I'm Lee Euler, I’ve spent over a decade investigating every possible way a person can beat cancer. In fact, our commitment to defeating cancer has made us the world’s #1 publisher of information about Alternative Cancer Treatments -- with over 20 books and 700 newsletters on the subject. If you haven't heard about all your cancer options, or if you want to make sure you don’t miss even one answer to this terrible disease, then join our newsletter. When you do, I'll keep you informed each week about the hundreds of alternative cancer treatments that people are using to cure cancer all over the world.

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