Acetyl-Glutathione May Improve Glutathione Status
Acetyl-Glutathione May Improve Glutathione Status – Chris Kresser, a practitioner of integrative medicine discusses in interview fashion the importance of glutathione and whether or not acetyl-glutathione supplementation is beneficial.
Glutathione is extremely important. It’s the master antioxidant in the body, and a lot of studies show that glutathione depletion is associated with everything from autoimmune disease to cardiovascular disease. One of the main functions of glutathione is to promote healthy T regulatory cell function, and the T regulatory cells’ job is to, as the name would suggest, regulate and balance the immune system.
So if you don’t have enough T regulatory cells or they’re not functioning properly, then the immune system is going to go out of whack, and of course, that is what happens in autoimmune disease.
There aren’t too many diseases that don’t have some immunological basis, so glutathione is extremely important. Then we have studies that show that people who have autoimmune disease and cardiovascular disease often have low levels of glutathione.
So we want to do what we can to keep our glutathione levels up, and the best way to do that if you’re not ill and you don’t have glutathione depletion already is just eat a healthy diet. Glutathione precursors are present in a lot of nutrient-dense foods.
As far as S-acetyl-glutathione, I have seen quite a few studies about this lately, and let me just back up a little bit and say what glutathione is and what the problems with supplementing orally are, because otherwise this isn’t going to make much sense. Glutathione is a tri-peptide, so it’s composed of three amino acids that are connected in tandem: glycine, cysteine, and a kind of unusual bond to its acidic group, glutamate. So what happens is, because these are just three amino acids, once glutathione reaches the stomach it’s rapidly degraded and broken down and it’s not absorbed intact as glutathione into the cells. The other problem is that glutathione is not taken up by the cells directly but needs to be broken down into amino acids and then resynthesized to glutathione intra-cellularly. And that process is often impaired in people who are ill with inflammatory conditions and people that have viral infections. So taking oral glutathione in its reduced form is not a really effective way of raising serum or intracellular glutathione levels. So there’s been this search for a way of supplementing with glutathione. Mostly the way that people do it now is taking glutathione precursors like lipoic acid and N-acetyl-cysteine.
Acetyl-glutathione has come up in the literature a few times over the past several years. It is an orally stable form of glutathione that’s absorbed intact, and it appears to increase intracellular glutathione levels.
The acetyl group in this case is attached to the sulfur atom of cysteine in the glutathione molecule, and placing the acetyl group on the sulfur atom of cysteine protects it from oxidation in the digestive tract, essentially. Then once S-acetyl-glutathione reaches the bloodstream, the acetyl group protects it from breakdown by peptidases. And then some studies have shown that S-acetyl-glutathione crosses the cell membrane more easily than glutathione itself, and once it’s inside the cell, the acetyl group on the S-acetyl-glutathione is removed and the glutathione molecule is free inside the cell, which is exactly where it’s needed.
So that was a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo, but the long and the short of it is that I could cautiously say that based on the studies that I have reviewed, it appears that S-acetyl-glutathione is effective in raising intracellular and serum glutathione levels. But these are small studies. Some of them are animal studies. I think there are about six to seven studies in total that I reviewed. So I’m not certain about it. We definitely need more research in this area before we know, and I haven’t had a chance to use it much in my practice.
Liposomal glutathione: There’s only one study that I could see in the peer-reviewed literature on liposomal glutathione, and it did suggest that it was effective, but that’s one single study, and I sure would like to see a lot more research on that as well. Lack of proof is not proof against. So it doesn’t mean that S-acetyl-glutathione isn’t effective or that liposomal glutathione isn’t effective.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you have autoimmune disease, you’re likely to be glutathione deficient. We know that doesn’t mean that this is true in every case – that there’s even a causal relationship – but there are a lot of known mechanisms, and I think the overall evidence base is pretty solid on this.
There are a lot of cycles in the body, and each step in that cycle requires specific enzymes to complete and go to the next step, and each of those enzymes requires particular nutrients. If one of those enzymes isn’t functioning properly, you’ll get a buildup of the metabolite prior to that step on the cycle, and that will spill over into the urine — if it’s in the digestive tract, it will go through the gut barrier in the blood and it’ll be filtered out by the kidneys and end up in the urine (there are other ways it can end up in the urine, too). And then based on which metabolite is showing up in higher concentrations in the urine, you can trace it backwards and say: OK, so that enzyme in that cycle is not working very well, and what nutrients does that enzyme require? OK, glutathione is something that enzyme requires. So there are a number of markers on the organic acids panel that when elevated or low can signal a glutathione deficiency, and they can also signal a glutathione demand, meaning the body is under some kind of oxidative stress and glutathione is being required to deal with that. And so in that situation, that person might not be glutathione deficient at that time, but if oxidative stress, or whatever is causing the glutathione demand continues, they will be eventually. So [the organic acids] test is pretty helpful for that. There is a serum test for glutathione, but I’m not sure how helpful that is because where you really want glutathione is inside of the cell. The intracellular levels are most important.
Glutathione, the master antioxidant, is an important component to a healthy lifestyle that puts your body in a position of strength. We think the best way to keep glutathione in a healthy range is by eating a healthy diet. Since glutathione precursors are present in a lot of nutrient-dense foods, it is possible a diet like that in the Health-e-Solutions lifestyle, which emphasizes nutrient dense foods can supply adequate precursors for sufficient production of glutathione. Because people with autoimmune disease may be deficient in glutathione, we encourage you to discuss with your medical professional whether or not glutathione supplementation would be beneficial for you.
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