Perricone readers know that I am a huge fan of glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant.  Glutathione is a tripeptide (a molecule composed of three amino acids) and is the most abundant and important antioxidant protective system in our cells.  It is critical in the cell’s defense against inflammation-generating free radicals and oxidative stress, because whenever a cell is under severe oxidative stress, it is glutathione that comes to the rescue. 

Glutathione constitutes a critical part of our antioxidant defense system. It is also an important detoxifying agent, enabling the body to eliminate toxins and poisons providing protection against chemicals that promote cell transformation or cell death.  It 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 also 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 is almost impossible to overstate glutathione’s importance as the body’s primary antioxidant defense system.  It is required for the smooth functioning of all cells.  It is involved in protein synthesis, amino acid transport, and in the recycling of other antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and CoQ10, assisting their function in protecting the cell. 

Unfortunately, glutathione levels decrease as we age.  Fortunately, there are some foods and nutritional supplements that can help boost levels.

Glutathione Boosters

  • Cinnamon, Rhodila Rosea

A study that particularly piqued my interest, Antioxidative effects of Cinnamomi cassiae and Rhodiola rosea extracts in liver of diabetic mice, examined the effects of cinnamon and Rhodiola rosea extracts on blood sugar, lipid peroxidation (the breaking down of fats to form more free radicals), glutathione levels and the activity of the antioxidant in the livers of mice.  Researchers found that cinnamon and Rhodiola rosea extracts significantly lowered blood sugar.  At the same time this combination increased levels of glutathione. 

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid

Alpha lipoic acid (ALA), is of major importance in boosting cellular levels of glutathione.

  • N-acetyl cysteine

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.  One very important precursor is a slightly modified amino acid known as N-acetyl cysteine (NAC).  N-acetyl cysteine is a derivative of the amino acid L-cysteine.  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. 

  • Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle protects the liver from depletion of glutathione

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.