How to boost your critical antioxidant levels through Glutathione
Did you ever hear about glutathione? If not, I would suggest that you know about this powerful antioxidant. This natural antioxidant protects against damage and regulates several essential functions, such as cell proliferation and apoptosis (death). It is the most abundant antioxidant in our cells. Glutathione also helps in the synthesis and stimulates the genetic expression of genetic material and proteins.
Although glutathione is needed for many vital life functions, intracellular glutathione levels are few ways to measure accurately. Baylor University College of Medicine researchers recently developed a fluorescent probe called RealThiol. It measures changes in the glutathione level in living cells in real-time. It provides scientists with another pathway to examine the role of antioxidants in aging, health, and conditions, including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
But can we do anything in the meantime while we await this new technology? How can we keep this critical antioxidant healthy, which is the first compound in environmental stress detoxification, air pollutants, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, and many other toxic insults, but also decreases with age, setting the stage for various aging health issues?
Supporting Glutathione Production
A new study published in the peer-reviewed Redox Biology journal could provide some answers. An altered form of the amino acid cysteine used in supplements appears to be a compound called N-acetsystem-cysteine (NAC) that may raise the amount of glutathione. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and our bodies are transforming NAC into cysteine and glutathione.
There are hundreds of scientific uses for N-acetyl cysteine. It is used, among others, as a therapy for acetaminophen ( Tylenol) and CO2 toxicity, for treating chest pain and blockage of the bile duct of children, and for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Alzheimer’s disease. It is currently used for medical detoxification in emergencies such as the intake of toxic concentrations of heavy metals. Researchers found that NAC could help maintain glutathione levels at much lower levels, preventing any age-related metabolic declines. The results of the study indicate several explanations of why animal health is deteriorating with age, but specifically a compound — NAC — which can help avoid such toxic processes.
It is a decrease in these detoxification pathways that could lead, among many others, to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer. The study showed how younger animal cells are much more stress-resistant than older animals. Stress does not cause such a rapid loss of glutathione in immature animal cells. Older animal cells, however, quickly lost and died of glutathione twice as soon. It turns out that pre-treatment with NAC increases the level of glutathione in older cells, mostly compensates for stress.
In this study, scientists attempted to identify the toxin resistance of young cells to that of older cells. The more immature cells lost substantially less glutathione under stress than older batteries, never falling to less than 35% of their first level. In contrast, in older cells, glutathione fell to 10% of its original level.
NAC, researchers said, can boost the metabolic function of glutathione and increase its synthesis rate. NAC is considered safe, even at extremely high levels, which explains why a low dose can help keep glutathione and improve health.
Food Sources of Cysteine
Of course, the next obvious question is, how can we add NAC safely to our regular scheme? While NAC is not naturally found in foods, cysteine is present in most high protein foods, along with the other ten essential amino acids. However, to facilitate the conversion to NAC, it requires the essential amino acid methionine, which explains why cysteines are also regarded as an essential amino acid. Pork, chicken, sauce, turkey, duck, fish, ricotta, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc. Significant sources of meatless cysteine are granola, oat flakes, broccoli, pepper, and onion, along with garlic, soybeans, linseed, and wheat germs.
NAC is available as a supplement if you do not feel like you are getting enough dietary cysteine. There is also evidence that mixtures of a variety of herbs like Ashwagandha, Bacopa, milk thistle, green tea, and curcumin “induce” glutathione. It’s always a good idea to consult first with a skilled health care provider! Everything strong enough to heal is also powerful enough to harm.
The Bottom Line
The results of the study are a welcome development. In general, glutathione or its precursors, such as NAC, tend to be very healthy in acceptable quantities. I am hopeful that NAC will play a significant role in preemptive medicine, where it is used to increase glutathione levels and avoid the increased toxicity that we face with aging as a prophylactic rather than a reaction.