Glutathione – Antioxidant
To understand the important role which the super antioxidant glutathione plays in preserving life (in the most literal sense) one needs a basic understanding of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that steal an electron from more stable ones, and by doing so they damage enzymes, unsaturated fats in cell membranes (omega 3 and 6 go rancid), and can even damage DNA. Such oxidative damage triggers inflammation, and when the inflammation gets out of control we develop serious diseases, including obesity, heart disease or cancer.
Glutathione and Free Radicals
Oxygen is the most common free radical, and will bind with many other less stable molecules. The result is oxidation, or rust. Basically, it’s the same process as we observe when we cut an apple in two and let it sit for a few minutes. The surface oxidizes and turns brown, because it reacts with the oxygen in the air. While oxygen is needed to burn energy in our cells, it can also damage important molecules that should not oxidize.
Glutathione is the antioxidant workhorse
Antioxidants are the anti-dote and prevent natural oxidation on cellular level. If you take one half of the freshly cut apple and rub it with lemon juice rich in antioxidants, then that vitamin treated half will oxidize more slowly. The vitamin C in the lemon is a preservative, and antioxidants like vitamin C work the very same way in our body. Eventually the antioxidant will be used up, because air keeps “attacking” the exposed (apple) cells.
Oxidation not only stems from the oxygen that we breath. Other free radical sources are pollution, toxins, radiation, non-fresh processed foods, viruses and bacteria. Internal processes that cause free radicals are besides breathing, our immune response, poor blood circulation, allergies, stress and inflammation. In short, living causes oxidation, and healthy living means that we reduce the environmental free radicals, that we minimize stress, increase happiness and consume as many antioxidants as we can.
Oxidation equals aging. Antioxidants equal anti-aging.
By far the most powerful antioxidant in our body is glutathione. It’s a sulfur molecule which eliminates free radicals. It’s the workhorse of the antioxidants. Two glutathione molecules donate their electrons, and then become non-reactive themselves by binding with each other. Glutathione is so important that it is commonly used as a blood marker for health. For example, when researchers want to measure stress levels they measure glutathione levels. Also, chronic disease, smoking, and alcoholism will deplete glutathione and cause glutathione deficiency. When cellular glutathione levels are low, oxidation will be occuring. The resulting damage to the cell membranes triggers inflammation. Common diseases caused or promoted by massive and chronic inflammation are cancer, obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease, arthritis, and most brain and mood disorders.
Foods that increase inflammation are omega 6 fats; mainly corn oil, soybean oil, safflower oil and sunflower oil.
Foods that decrease free radicals and inflammation are:
Salmon AstaxanthinOmega 3 fatty acids, such as fish oil and krill oil.
Vitamin and antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables; from oranges to acai.
Antioxidant rich meats; astaxanthin in salmon.
Supplements: vitamins and liposomal glutathione (regular glutathione is not absorbed at all).