Glutathione, referred to as GSH is one of the most powerful and ubiquitous antioxidants in the cells of the human body. As an antioxidant, GSH neutralizes free radicals and peroxides, preventing them from damaging cells and tissues. Glutathione is essential for repairing DNA. GSH also keeps other antioxidants active, such as vitamins C and E.
While essential in all cells, glutathione is essential to both the liver and kidneys, and especially during the second phase of liver detoxification. Without sufficient glutathione, environmental chemicals and heavy metals such as mercury would have devastating effects upon the brain, kidneys, liver, nervous system, immune system, gut and endocrine system. In fact, sufficient levels of glutathione are what inactivate and move these toxins into an excretable form.
Glutathione is called a “tripeptide”, because it is comprised of 3 amino acids: cysteine, glycine and glutamine. Also essential for the synthesis of glutathione: vitamin C,lipotrophics such as inositol and choline, and the minerals magnesium and selenium (selenium is essential for the peroxidase forms of glutathione).
Deficiencies of glutathione and the nutrients that are essential for its synthesis is believed to be a significant factor in the development of a number of disease processes.
Indirect Factors For Assessing A Possible GSH Deficiency
There are 2 possible factors which may be used to indirectly assess a decrease of GSH activity. These factors can be obtained from a routine blood test. They are:
- GGTP (gamma glutamyl transpeptidase)
Albumin is one of the primary blood proteins. It is made almost entirely in the liver. If low, it can correlate with blood pressure irregularities, as well as nutrient deficiencies. Albumin is a nutrient transport. It “delivers the goods” to the cells. Studies have shownthat sufficient levels of albumin are essential for maintaining GSH.
Therefore diminished values of of albumin, (typically less than 4.0 g/dl), may reflect a decrease in glutathione.
Possibly an even more sensitive factor for indirectly identifying GSH insufficiency is the metabolic enzyme gamma glutamyl transpeptidase (GGTP). GGTP is heavily concentrated in the liver cells, and as such is critical for the biosynthesis of glutathione via the gamma glutamyl cycle. GGTP is a magnesium-dependent metabolic enzyme. Magnesium is a catalyst for GSH synthesis.
Much is discussed regarding elevated levels of GGTP, such as biliary tract obstruction and liver cell damage. However decreased levels of GGTP should also be discussed as being a significant factor, indicating possible magnesium and GSH insufficiencies. Decreased GGTP values (typically 10 U/L or less) may reveal a depression of Mg and GSH.