Nearly every second, our bodies are attacked by oxygen free radicals, which may damage our tissues and organs, leading to certain health conditions over time. But, the body has a natural defense: glutathione. This nutrient-like molecule is found in every cell and has many important jobs, including maintaining cell protein, supporting immunity and offering powerful antioxidant activity.
Oxidative stress is implicated in over 250 diseases, from heart disease to Alzheimer’s disease. Recent studies have shown that glutathione levels are depleted in people with these conditions, as well as in those with oral and pharyngeal cancers. Healthy people, too, can have depleted glutathione levels.
To help maintain proper levels for optimal health, supplementation with a high-quality glutathione is important. Kyowa Hakko USA, Inc.’s proprietary Setria® Glutathione is a powerful tripeptide (consisting of glutamate, cysteine and glycine amino acids) that can help increase the amount of glutathione in the body’s tissues. Research-backed benefits of Setria® Glutathione include antioxidant protection, proper detoxification and a healthy immune system.
Setria® Glutathione Workshop
New research on glutathione was presented by leading experts at a workshop held at the World Congress of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine in December 2009. Five leading researchers and physicians spoke at “Absorption of Oral Glutathione and Implications for Human Health” (a workshop sponsored by Kyowa Hakko USA) to give a broad perspective on the basic science of glutathione and its application in clinical practice.
“Today is a new era for glutathione,” said Toshikaza Kamiya, Ph.D. of Kyowa Hakko USA. “Its biochemistry and importance in the body have been known for many years by scientists; however, new research is giving us a better understanding of its metabolism and transport to target tissues, its essential roles in health, and the benefits of oral supplementation with glutathione.”
John P. Richie, Ph.D., of Penn State University School of Medicine, explained that glutathione functions not only as a direct antioxidant by interacting with and neutralizing oxygen free radicals, but also as a detoxifier by attaching itself to by-products of oxidation, heavy metals and other harmful chemicals and ushering them out of the body.
Richie also indicated that we can enhance glutathione levels through supplementation with ingredients like Setria® Glutathione. This is important because not having enough glutathione in one’s system impairs the body’s ability to repair oxidative damage.
The lungs, and the presence of glutathione within them, play a role in neutralizing inhaled toxins. Brian Day, Ph.D., a researcher with National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado, found that these organs selectively concentrate glutathione in the fluids that bathe the airway passages and detoxify inhaled pollutants. The normal concentration of glutathione in these fluids is 100 times higher than that in blood. While other antioxidants such as vitamin C are also present in airway fluids, glutathione is the only one whose concentration exceeds that in plasma.
Said Day, “Through our experiments, we identified a specific transport protein called CFTR that acts like an ‘express train’ to move glutathione into the lungs. People with cystic fibrosis have a defect in CFTR and can’t get enough glutathione into their lungs; that is why CF patients often develop serious and sometimes lethal lung disease.” Day’s group also found that glutathione levels can be gradually increased using low doses of oral glutathione.
Two practicing physicians, Hyla Cass, M.D., of Pacific Palisades, CA, and Lise Alschuler, N.D., of Bedford, NH, spoke about their experiences using glutathione with their patients.
Cass explained that heavy metal toxicity affects all body systems, especially the cardiovascular system, brain and immune system, and is at the root of many common conditions. “[Heavy metals] deplete glutathione, and indeed, low glutathione levels are found in patients who have had these kinds of exposures. A recent study showed that glutathione significantly enhances the release of mercury from brain cells,” she stated.
Glutathione supplementation also benefits children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). “Children with ASD have low glutathione status, accompanied by frequent gastrointestinal infections, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders and neurotoxicity from environmental toxicants and heavy metals. A clinical trial recently showed that glutathione supplementation of autistic children improved behavioral, cognitive, social and physical symptoms along with raising blood levels of glutathione. These results were statistically significant,” Cass said.
Alschuler shared several case histories in which glutathione supplementation improved both subjective and objective measures of health in her patients. One woman with low-glutathione levels had improvements in energy, outlook and pain-free mobility arthritis and lowered blood pressure after starting a regimen of glutathione supplementation, exercise and a diet high in glutathione-rich foods.
Harry Demopoulos, M.D., head of The Glutathione Corporation, talked about the benefits of glutathione for chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma as well as acute conditions such as cerebral ischemia.
“Many people with diabetes are producing abnormally high levels of sugar-induced free radicals, which consume glutathione and directly promote complications of diabetes,” he said. “Without sufficient glutathione inside cells, the genes that control the complex insulin signaling network are distorted, resulting in elevated blood glucose. When glutathione is replenished, it inhibits these changes, enhances insulin signaling and lowers blood sugar levels.”
Demopoulos’s company currently has a new drug application for a therapeutic form of glutathione that can correct underlying mechanisms in diabetes and help prevent circulatory and other complications. “We are working on the development of glutathione forms that can quickly enter cells, so as to provide benefit in situations such as stroke where there is a short window of opportunity to prevent extensive damage,” he said.
For everyday health maintenance, glutathione intakes associated with good health range from 150 mg to 200 mg per day. Most Americans currently consume only about 50–60 mg of glutathione in their diets, mainly because they do not eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables. Foods rich in glutathione include asparagus, spinach, avocados, squash, garlic, potatoes, melons, grapefruit and peaches. “It’s not hard to eat a glutathione-rich diet,” said Alschuler. “For those with poor diets, glutathione supplementation should be considered.”
Kyowa Hakko USA’s Setria® Glutathione is available to dietary supplement ingredient makers in the form of a raw ingredient. For more information, please visit www.setriaglutathione.com orwww.kyowa-usa.com.
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2010.