Glutathione is also referred to as glutathione sulfhydryl (GSH). It is a small protein naturally produced by the body through the synthesis of certain amino acids in the liver. It is composed of the three amino acids: cysteine, glutamic acid and glycine. Glutathione can be made by all cells and is also provided by fresh foods in the diet.
Some of its protective roles are:
The primary role of glutathione is to protect cells from damage by reducing oxidative stress and cellular damage from free radicals. In fact, this substance is essential to protect the eyes, skin, kidneys, liver and many other organs from toxic byproducts produced by the body through normal metabolism. In the liver, glutathione aids in the detoxification and removal of harmful toxins, including those from environmental pollution, and from the exposure to radiation.
Glutathione also plays an important role in promoting a healthy immune system. Research has shown a link between decreased glutathione availability and age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and cancer. One reason for this is because as the body ages, its ability to produce glutathione declines.
An imbalance or deficiency of this antioxidant also increases the body's susceptibility to oxidative stress and a host of related diseases. As well as being associated with aging diseases, decreased glutathione is also linked to inflammatory conditions from allergy to arthritis, asthma, and coronary and autoimmune diseases.
On the other hand, high glutathione levels have been associated with better health in old age, through studies that measure number of illnesses, blood cholesterol, blood pressure, body weight, and general physical and mental health.
Good Sources of Glutathione
Glutathione levels cannot be increased by simply eating a food or supplement that contains this antioxidant. This is because glutathione is manufactured inside cells, from its precursor amino acids, glycine, glutamate and cystine. Hence food sources or supplements that increase glutathione must either provide the precursors of glutathione, or provide sources that enhance its production in the body. For example, consuming foods rich in sulfur-containing amino acids can help boost glutathione levels.
asparagus is a leading source of glutathione. Foods like broccoli, avocado and spinach also boost glutathione levels. Raw eggs, garlic and fresh, organic meats also contain high levels of sulfur-containing amino acids which help to increase glutathione levels.
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