Antioxidant Deficiencies & Aging
Dr. Perricone Discusses

Antioxidant Deficiencies & Aging

As my readers know, the body's antioxidant defense systems are critical to maintaining health and preserving beauty. Our cells have evolved these defense systems against inflammation-generating free radicals, which consist of antioxidants and enzymes that neutralize their damaging effects.

The Master Antioxdiant

Of these various protective substances, the tripeptide known as glutathione is the most abundant and critical for cellular defense against oxidative stress, as an excess of free radicals is called. It is almost impossible to overstate glutathione's importance as the body's primary antioxidant defense system. Here are some of the key functions of this master antioxidant:

  • Whenever a cell is under severe oxidative stress, it is glutathione that comes to the rescue. Glutathione protects enzyme proteins that inhibit collagen-digesting enzymes that cause damage to the skin, leading to wrinkles, or in the area of acne lesions, leading to scars.
  • It's an important detoxifying agent, enabling the body to eliminate toxins and poisons providing protection against chemicals that promote cell transformation or cell death.
  • Glutathione regulates and regenerates our immune cells. People with chronic illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, and autoimmune diseases generally have very low levels of glutathione.
  • Glutathione is necessary for aspects of cellular function such as protein synthesis, amino acid transport, and assisting other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and CoQ10, in protecting the cell.

However, glutathione levels naturally decrease as we age, which can lead to lower energy levels, thin, papery skin and other visible signs of aging. Replenishing levels of glutathione and other substances that protect against cellular free-radical damage is the key to looking and feeling forever young.

One of the focal points of my own research has been the development of a phospholipid carrier system that is capable of transferring glutathione into the cells. This transdermal delivery system allows the mitochondria (the "little furnace of the cells") to receive increased levels of this protective tripeptide. When applied to the skin, glutathione, via the phospholipid carrier, is able to penetrate various levels, reaching into the deep dermis and finally into the subdermal microvasculature, or the small blood vessels under the skin. From this point, glutathione begins circulating into our blood, providing protective glutathione molecules to all organ systems and cells. When delivered in this form, the glutathione is able to enter the cells and provide elevated levels for increased protection. Once in the cell, the higher levels of glutathione are available to the mitochondria, where they help to maintain health and prevent disease.

Natural Glutathione Boosters

Unfortunately, oral ingestion of supplemental glutathione has not been viable because of its rapid breakdown during digestion. However, there are some foods and supplements that help support healthy glutathione levels:

  • Cinnamon and Rhodila Rosea. Researchers found that cinnamon and Rhodiola Rosea extracts significantly lowered blood sugar - and at the same time this combination increased levels of glutathione in diabetic mice.
  • Alpha lipoic acid (ALA) is of major importance in boosting cellular levels of glutathione.
  • Milk Thistle protects the liver from depletion of glutathione.
  • N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is another strategy for providing glutathione to the cell and giving additional protection to the mitochondria is by providing precursors that are needed for the formation of glutathione. NAC contains a sulfur group known as a thiol, and it is the thiol that gives this amino acid its antioxidant effects. The cysteine portion of NAC is one of the three peptides that make up the glutathione molecule and by providing this building block, more glutathione is produced.

In combination with two other amino acids, glutamine and glycine, N-acetyl cysteine promotes the synthesis of glutathione in the liver. Both N-acetyl cysteine and alpha lipoic acid, when administered together, work synergistically to elevate levels of glutathione in the cell.

Foods to Boost Glutathione

We can also boost levels of glutathione via the foods we eat. Some of the best foods for this purpose include the following:

  • Avocado
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Peaches
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon
  • Walnuts

Spices that boost levels include the aforementioned cinnamon, as well as cardamom and curcumin (found in turmeric).

I strongly recommend adding these supplements and enjoying these delicious foods on a regular basis to keep this critically important antioxidant at optimum levels.

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