Glutathione, a peptide with three different amino acids, is considered the most important antioxidant in the human body. It works to prevent an individual’s cells from being damaged by free radicals from within the cell. Thus, this antioxidant is critical for fighting diseases that result from free radical damage that include, but are not limited to, diseases associated with aging.
Another important factor about glutathione is that it is found in all cell types, especially the liver. In the liver, studies have found that glutathione assists with the detoxification process of removing foreign chemicals (i.e, drugs, pollutants and metals) from the body. It is also involved in the bile acid-independent bile formation that represents 30 to 60% of an individual’s basal bile flow.
Furthermore, glutathione plays a role in the immune system where its ability to function optimally depends on the glutathione level in lymphoid cells. Moderate changes in glutathione levels can have significant, negative consequences on such functions as T-cell proliferation, cytotoxic T-cell blasts generation and other interleukin 2-dependent functions. Also, natural killer cells, a major component of the innate immune system, require glutathione to function.
Studies have found that individuals with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are deficient in cysteine (one of the amino acids found on glutathione) and glutathione. It is believed that cysteine deficiency is also linked to other diseases. In addition, altered glutathione levels have been linked to such diseases as those associated with aging, protein energy malnutrition, seizures, Alzehimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and sickle cell anemia.
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