Glutathione (GSH) is considered a master antioxidant not just in humans but in plants and all animals. Glutathione is capable of preventing damage to important cellular components caused by reactive oxygen species. It’s a key for preventing aging, cancer, heart disease, dementia, and other chronic diseases. Glutathione is a combination of three amino acids − cysteine, glycine, and glutamine − and it is produced naturally in the liver. It is called “the master antioxidant” because it can regenerate itself in the liver after each fill-up of free radicals and go back to work.
Image: Glutathione is a combination of cysteine, glycine and glutamine.
How does Glutathione work as an antioxidant?
Glutathione is a tripeptide (see image above) with a gamma peptide linkage between the carboxyl group of the glutamate side chain and the amine group of cysteine, and the carboxyl group of cysteine is attached by normal peptide linkage to a glycine.
The thiol group (C-SH) acts as a reducing agent.
Glutathione reduces disulfide bonds formed within cytoplasmic proteins to cysteines by serving as an electron donor. In the process, glutathione is converted to its oxidized form, glutathione disulfide (GSSG), also called L-(–)-glutathione.
Once oxidized, glutathione can be reduced or regenerated back by glutathione reductase, using NADPH as an electron donor. The ratio of reduced glutathione to oxidized glutathione within cells is often used as a measure of cellular oxidative stress.
Research has shown that raised glutathione levels decrease muscle damage, reduce recovery time, increase strength and endurance, and shift metabolism from fat production to muscle development. Glutathione is critical in helping the body’s first line of defense against disease and illness – the immune system
Age and Glutothone
Your supply of glutathione seems to decrease as you get older, possibly because your body can't create as much. Lower glutathione levels appear to go hand-in-hand with poorer health. For instance, lower levels may play a role in many conditions that are more likely to develop in older people.
Readings and References
Glutathione - Editorial - NIH