Glutathione: Antioxidant in the Cell

Diagram of a glutathione molecule

Glutathione (gamma-Glutamylcysteineglycine) is a small amino acid comprised of glutamic acid, cysteine, and glyceine. It is an antioxidant, a booster for the immune system, and a detoxifier. The substance is found within every cell of the body.1 Within the cell, it neutralizes free radicals, reducing DNA damage that causes cancer and accelerates aging. It does this by donating an ion to unstable molecules. It is then itself unstable but is quickly converted to glutathione disulfide, from which it can be reconverted to glutathione, to be used again.

Glutathione (C10H17N3O6S) is produced by combining L-glutamate and cysteine - powered by adenosine triphosphate (ATP). Next, cysteine is added using an enzyme. Though Glutathione can be produced in any cell, production in the liver is essential and acts as a detoxifier, helping to remove pollutants and drugs2. It functions as a regulator of the immune system, accelerating immune response in the face of a threat and then inducing cell apoptosis when the threat recedes.

The best way to get glutathione into the system may not be through oral consumption, as the digestive system breaks it down before it can be absorbed. However, some believe that taking the precursors for glutathione may have a positive effect. People who are lactose intolerant or have had organ transplants should not take the glutathione supplements. It is thought that glutathione plays a role in preventing cancer, but once cancer has set in, it may protect cancer cells from treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

Glutathione is also important in plants, helping to reduce hydrogen peroxide. Vegetables such as asparagus have natural concentrations of glutathione. Whether eating foods high in glutathione is beneficial or absorbed has not yet been fully investigated.

More About Good Nutrition


  1. MedicineNet on Glutathione
  2. Healthline: Glutathione

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