What’s the first thing that pops into your head when you think “antioxidants?” It’s probably not glutathione. But maybe it should be. Most people immediately think of vitamin C. However, glutathione is arguably the most important antioxidant in your body.
It’s staggering how many studies have been conducted on glutathione. In the National Library of Medicine database (PubMed.gov), there are nearly 168,000 entries for the compound. Compare that to the 197 listings for ‘shirataki,’ the style of noodle from Japan that served as the inspiration for the birth of Miracle Noodle in 2006. Glucomannan, the particular type of fiber derived from the yam-like konjac plant (which is then shaped into shirataki noodles) fares a little better, with over 1,000 listings.
In fairness to Miracle Noodle, glutathione has a big head start when it comes to research. The compound was discovered in 1888 and was originally named ‘philothion’ meaning love and sulfur in Greek. Keep that in mind because if you want to support your health and glutathione levels, you’ll need to eat plenty of sulfur-rich foods. But we’ll get to that later…
What Is Glutathione?
Glutathione has been one of the most popular natural health topics and supplements for several years. In case you’re not familiar with it, here’s the lowdown…
Made up of three different amino acids—Glycine, Cysteine, Glutamic Acid—glutathione is naturally produced in the body. So technically, you don’t need to get it from food. But you probably should. That’s because when your body undergoes stress, your levels of glutathione may plummet. Many studies show an association between low levels of active glutathione and serious health conditions.
Glutathione is called the body’s master antioxidant for a few different reasons. For starters, it helps recycle your body’s other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E. The big reason why it’s called the body’s master antioxidant is because it destroys free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms or molecules that “steal” electrons from healthy cells, thus causing damage to DNA, which in turn may cause premature aging.
In addition, glutathione helps detoxify the liver. One way it does this is by binding to heavy metals. Glutathione also helps recycle neurotransmitters like serotonin in the brain; studies have shown that a lack of glutathione is linked to depression and other mental imbalances.
Another important role glutathione plays is maintaining the integrity of telomeres. Telomeres are the endcaps of chromosomes, which are the coiled pairs of your genetic material (DNA). When DNA damage outpaces its repair, that’s when premature aging occurs. Much research over the last decade has focused on how the shortening of telomeres leads to premature aging. Glutathione may prevent the shortening of telomeres.
There are two forms of glutathione in the body: active (reduced) and inactive (oxidized). Once a glutathione tripeptide (a string of three amino acids) is spent wiping out a free radical, it becomes oxidized. Healthy people are better able to recycle oxidized glutathione back into reduced/active glutathione than people with chronic health issues.
Best Glutathione Foods
Although your body naturally produces glutathione, it’s a good idea to eat foods that are rich in sulfur compounds. Sulfur-rich foods are high in glutathione. In theory, when you eat foods rich in glutathione, your body will be able to produce more of the active form of it.
The best sources are dark, leafy greens and cruciferous veggies. Avocados and mushrooms are also excellent sources. Foods high in selenium like Brazil Nuts also help raise levels of glutathione in the body.
Is Glutathione Good For Keto?
Switching from a diet high in carbs to one that’s low in carbs and high in fat can be a stress to the body at first. And any form of stress may deplete glutathione in the body. But overall, is there any evidence as to whether a keto lifestyle is good for overall glutathione levels?
There is. For instance, in one study conducted on rats, the rodents fed a keto diet had higher levels of glutathione in their mitochondria, which is where energy is produced in the cell.
The Keto diet was invented approximately a century ago as a means to control epileptic seizures. In 2020, a study showed that people with epilepsy fed a keto diet experienced higher levels of glutathione (and reduced rates of seizures). “Our results may suggest a pivotal role of [glutathione] in the antioxidant neuroprotective effect of KD in the human brain,” the study co-authors concluded.
Is a Glutathione Supplement Necessary?
As these studies suggest, if you’re following keto, then maybe you don’t need to take a glutathione supplement since research shows that an ultra-low-carb-diet raises endogenous levels of the master antioxidant. But the only way to know for sure if you need to take a supplement is to get your blood tested—for both the active and oxidized form.
Do you take glutathione? Leave a comment…