Antioxidants play a crucial role in protecting our cells from damage. That includes the cells responsible for healthy bone remodeling.
Today, we'll delve into the Master Antioxidant known as glutathione. As its impressive title suggests, glutathione is a uniquely potent antioxidant.
The studies we’ll review have established that it also provides special benefits for building and maintaining strong and healthy bones. You’ll learn how to increase your glutathione levels, and why it's so important for avoiding fracture.
Glutathione: The Master Antioxidant
Glutathione was first accurately described in 1935, but it wasn’t until the 80s that research on the function of the molecule started to reveal its incredible abilities. On a molecular level, glutathione is a tripeptide, which means it's composed of three amino acids – glutamate, cysteine, and glycine – joined by peptide bonds.
These components combine to form a unique molecule that helps to maintain cellular homeostasis or balance. It supports cell homeostasis largely by protecting against oxidative damage. This protective attribute is what renders glutathione exceptionally potent.
Many diseases and conditions are associated with reduced glutathione levels including Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic liver disease, cognitive impairment, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, bone loss, and more.1
Given that glutathione safeguards cells throughout the body, it's logical that a deficiency could be associated with various health issues.
Glutathione is a molecule composed of three amino acids: glutamate, cysteine, and glycine. Combined, they form a molecule that helps maintain cell homeostasis throughout the body. Low glutathione levels have been linked to a wide variety of diseases and conditions.
Where Glutathione Comes From
Maintaining optimal glutathione levels is vital for good health. Fortunately, every cell has the ability to produce glutathione in a cellular liquid called cytosol– provided it has access to the required precursor amino acids: glutamic acid (glutamate), cysteine, and glycine.
The process happens in two steps and requires special enzymes to complete. Then glutathione is pumped into mitochondria, the organelles that create the energy that fuels every cell in our body. Glutathione protects mitochondria from oxidative damage caused by radical oxygen species.
Your body inherently knows the amount of glutathione required to fend off oxidative damage to your cells. But certain obstacles can prevent it from accomplishing that production.
Without the building blocks of glutathione and the enzymes that enable its production, your body can’t maintain healthy levels of this powerful antioxidant.
Glutathione, synthesized from its constituent amino acids in a cellular fluid known as cytosol, is subsequently transported into mitochondria, the cell's energy-producing organelles. Glutathione protects mitochondria from oxidative damage.
How To Increase Glutathione Levels
For our cells to function optimally and avoid oxidative damage, it's imperative to ensure an ample supply of glutathione in our bodies. Its antioxidant action directly benefits the health and quality of our bones and our bone remodeling process.
Recent research indicates that glutathione plays an even broader role by maintaining a balanced relationship between osteoclasts and osteoblasts cells responsible for bone resorption and formation, respectively – primarily by inhibiting osteoclast production. This action naturally increases bone mass.2
These strategies can help us maintain a healthy level of the Master Antioxidant.
- Eat Sulfur-Rich Vegetables – Glutathione production requires sulfur, which is found in plant foods like broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, watercress, and mustard greens. Studies have linked a diet high in cruciferous vegetables with reduced oxidative stress and increased glutathione levels.
- Eat Glutathione-Rich Foods – Foods that are naturally rich in glutathione, such as spinach, avocados, asparagus, and okra, all reduce oxidative stress. Our digestive system isn't adept at absorbing glutathione from food, so it's not likely that the glutathione in these foods is making it to our cells. However, since they reduce oxidative stress, they help keep glutathione levels high.
- Increase Vitamin C – Vitamin C has a similar effect as the glutathione-rich foods mentioned above. It's a powerful antioxidant itself, so an abundance of Vitamin C takes the pressure off of glutathione, allowing levels to remain robust. Additionally, studies have found that Vitamin C helps replenish glutathione molecules.3
- Eat Selenium-Rich Foods – Glutathione needs selenium to operate. Incorporate selenium rich-foods into your diet, like chicken, fish, brown rice, and Brazil nuts. Selenium is a Foundation Supplement in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program.
- Add Foods High In Cysteine – Cysteine, one of the three amino acids that comprise glutathione, is found foods such as whey protein, tuna, lean chicken, lentils, oatmeal, yogurt, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, almond butter, and sunflower seeds. Providing this building block allows your body to generate more of the master antioxidant.3
- Turmeric Extract Curcumin Curcumin is an extract of the spice turmeric. Studies with animals have found that curcumin has the ability to increase glutathione levels. You can find curcumin in a supplement form.4
- Take Milk Thistle – Milk thistle is a plant that contains a collection of compounds called silymarin. Silymarin is known for its antioxidant properties, and studies have shown that it increases glutathione levels. 5
- Get High-Quality Sleep – Glutathione, like all antioxidants, is waging a battle against oxidative stress. Poor sleep quality can increase oxidative stress, making it harder for glutathione production to keep up. Prioritize consistent, high-quality sleep to increase and maintain healthy glutathione levels.6
- Regular Exercise – Exercise helps our body maintain and increase antioxidant levels. Research has found that combining cardio workouts with weight training has the most beneficial effect on glutathione levels. 7
Keep glutathione levels strong to protect your bone remodeling process. See the list of strategies above, which covers dietary changes, supplements, sleep quality, and regular exercise.
What This Means To You
You have the capability to equip your body with the essentials to shield itself from oxidative damage. Every cell in your body is ready and able to produce the Master Antioxidant if you provide the right materials and conditions.
For tips on incorporating foods rich in sulfur, selenium, Vitamin C, and glutathione into your diet, try Bone Appétit, the Save Institute’s pH-balanced cookbook and meal planner. For help building a regular workout routine you love, try SaveTrainer, the Save Institute’s online video workout platform.
You're not alone in navigating healthy changes to improve your health. Seek out the support you need, in whatever form you need it, and celebrate having the wisdom to use the resources available to you!