Glutathione is a tripeptide (cysteine, glycine, and glutamic acid) found in surprisingly high levels—5 millimolar—concentrations in most cells. As can be seen in Figure 1, this is the same concentration in cells as glucose, potassium, and cholesterol! Considering the high level of metabolic activity required to produce glutathione, such a high level underlines its importance.
Glutathione is involved in the detoxification of both xenobiotic and endogenous compounds. It facilitates excretion from cells (Hg), facilitates excretion from body (POPs, Hg) and directly neutralizes (POPs, many oxidative chemicals). Glutathione facilitates the plasma membrane transport of toxins by at least 4 different mechanisms, the most important of which is formation of glutathione S-conjugates. Low levels of glutathione and/or transferase activity are also associated with chronic exposure to chemical toxins and alcohol, cadmium exposure, AIDS/HIV, macular degeneration, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurodegenerative disorders.
Glutathione directly scavenges diverse oxidants: superoxide anion, hydroxyl radical, nitric oxide, and carbon radicals. Glutathione catalytically detoxifies: hydroperoxides, peroxynitrites, and lipid peroxides.11 Another way glutathione protects cells from oxidants is through recycling of vitamins C and E
For those looking for a nonsupplemental solution, 500 mL of alcohol-free beer per day raises RBC glutathione 29%!33 There are many other examples of foods that increase glutathione. For example, 83 g/d of almonds increases glutathione in smokers by 16% and decreases their DNA damage by 29%.34
Finally, there is meditation—practitioners have 20% higher levels of glutathione.35
Direct administration and promotion of production of glutathione have been used effectively in a wide range of diseases: Parkinson’s, peripheral obstructive arterial disease, cystic fibrosis, emphysema, COPD, preterm infants autism, contrast-induced nephropathy, chronic otitis media, lead exposure, nail biting(!), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, exercise-induced fatigue—the list is long and surprisingly diverse
"Human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice and a profound tendency to see what they want to see rather than what is really there." - M. Scott Peck