What is Glutathione?

What is Glutathione in Whey Protein - Glutathione Explained in AGN Roots Grass-Fed Whey Protein Isolate

What is Glutathione?

Often abbreviated “GSH,” Glutathione is a critical and powerful antioxidant. Although found naturally occurring in various fruits and vegetables, to fully harness the benefits of Glutathione, the primary source of 100% bioavailable glutathione is homemade, regulated, and produced by the body.

The glutathione molecule is an incomplete protein (tripeptide) by design and is composed of 3 non-essential amino acids: cysteine, glutamate (glutamic acid), and glycine, critical for production.

The body’s stores of this antioxidant deplete with time due to many factors, such as aging, a poor diet, or perhaps if you happen to be healing from injury in which your daily movement is reduced to levels contributing to a sedentary routine. 

Many athletes and health enthusiasts at a point in their fitness journey will recognize the need to increase the production of Glutathione to reinstate the many underlining benefits, and there are several!

What are the Benefits of Glutathione?

Quick Answer: The more common accolades of Glutathione consist of its ability to strengthen the immune system, reduce cellular inflammation, & protect against oxidative stress.

Antioxidant –

Antioxidants are incredibly active compounds that are capable of neutralizing threats around cell mutation and free radicals. These scavengers of oxidized cells are working around the clock to prevent or retard the destructive impacts that many neurological threats pose. 

As the body’s most abundant antioxidant, Glutathione serves as the head bouncer of your entire immune system, regulating the removal of toxins in your body on demand.

In this day and age, anything not produced by the body will more than likely contain what the body defines as toxic. Toxins include; pollutants in the air, synthetic chemicals you ingest, over the counter drug medication, synthetic food additives (colorant, artificial sweeteners, preservatives) heavy metals in your water, air fresheners, alcohol, car exhaust.

Immune system –

GSH serves as an energy source for healthy growth and activity of the immune cells themselves. When adequate Glutathione stores are available, GSH boosts the activity of immune cells while serving as the principal antioxidant from within. Studies have connected low GSH levels to mitochondria cell death; without a stable supply of Glutathione to keep these cells charged, the result leads to a lack of muscle function (strength) and stamina as the mitochondria become overly stressed.

Detoxification –

The mechanism of this removal occurs by GSH binding to the foreign body (pollutant) to yield a water-soluble compound. This critical step allows your body to then dispel the carcinogen through the regular waste management channels (sweat, urine, bile).

Repair –

We’ve learned that Glutathione first recognizes the pollutant, and immediately begins the bouncing process to remove the particular foreign particle from the body. Although this happens quickly, foreign particles tend to leach the electrons from surrounding molecules, substantially damaging the nearby tissue before being asked to leave the body.

These now stripped molecules are now unstable and often referred to as “free radicals.” Once the process of a volatile free radical cell begins, a chain reaction is likely to cascade through hundreds of more cells until the radicalized cells eventually die or mutate.  

The chain reaction process of radicalizing cells is known as “oxidative damage.” When the process takes place, these damaged cells fail to function correctly, and the disfunction compiles to a point where the cells are no longer able to support itself and dies. Numerous studies indicate that increased production of free radicals causes or accelerates nerve cell injury and leads to disease.

When a cell dies, this may be better than the alternative “mutation.” The mutation for lack of a better analogy is, by definition, cancer. One of the most amazing features of GSH is its ability to repair & heal free radicals by replacing the missing electron from the unstable cells.

What are the Benefits of Elevated Glutathione Levels?

Quick Answer: Normal to heightened GSH production in the body will keep your cells operating efficiently, thereby reducing the number of cell mutations that would occur otherwise. The more Glutathione, the less free radical cells there are that go un-repaired and have the opportunity to mutate or create cancer in the body.

Glutathione as a Dietary Supplement?

While some research suggests that consuming Glutathione as a dietary supplement by targeting foods rich in Glutathione may help the body realize the benefits of oxidative stress reduction, the contrary seems to be the consensus.

Most research suggests that Glutathione, orally consumed (passes through the gastrointestinal tract), becomes far too damaged (denatured) before reaching the bloodstream for the body to utilize effectively.

In a published study by SIBR Research [5] around this topic, less than one percent of dietary supplements like CoQ10 & Glutathione in powder form proved to be bioavailable. In a single study of 40 healthy adults, supplementation with oral Glutathione did not affect antioxidant concentration in the blood or significantly impact oxidative stress biomarkers.

Why is the Consumption of Glutathione Not Effective?

The digestive process (chemical breakdown via acid) is incredibly harsh on the integrity of the Glutathione structure.

Denaturing during the manufacturing and handling of Glutathione in dietary supplement form is also a factor worthy of consideration. The processes involved with extracting, isolating, filtering, and finally co-packing all pose denaturing risks.

For these two independent reasons, the best avenue for obtaining the benefits of Glutathione directly through consumption is through whole foods.

What Whole Foods Contain the Most Glutathione?

The following common foods contain naturally occurring Glutathione: tomatoes, avocados, spinach, okra, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, garlic, chives, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumbers, almonds & walnuts.

Although adding these whole foods to your diet is fantastically better than using a manufactured supplement, the Glutathione contained herein still has the hurdle of your digestive system.

What is the Best Way to Increase my Glutathione?

Going back to the building blocks of the GSH protein, these non-essential amino acids serve as GSH precursors that enable the body to create Glutathione. The answer is now clear; the best way to go about increasing Glutathione levels is to leverage the body’s natural glutathione production.

The Answer: Consume foods that are dense with Cysteine, Glutamic Acid, and Glycine.

What Supplements Can Increase My Glutathione Levels?

If you are not sure whether your diet is balanced correctly enough to support the effort of increasing your natural levels of GSH, the following supplements are considered over the counter and will undoubtedly help. 

  • Curcumin - Herbal supplement, member of the ginger family
  • N-acetylcysteine - “NAC” is the free form cysteine.
  • Selenium - Mineral
  • Silymarin - Milk Thistle
  • Vitamin C & E

Tip: Look for Liposomal delivery systems when purchasing the dietary supplement powders above. Liposomes are highly biocompatible, and they are capable of holding either water-soluble or fat-soluble molecules. Taking the above supplements with a liposomal carrier will allow your body to utilize the nutrients that otherwise are often destroyed by the digestive system.

How to Increase Glutathione (GSH) Levels?

A great way to fortify your glutathione stores is by consuming a diet rich in the amino acid Cysteine, an amino acid abundant in every serving of AGN Roots Grassfed Whey Protein as well as several other dietary sources. The amino acid Cysteine is particularly important and is very much considered a critical precursor of glutathione synthesis.

The Best Grassfed Whey Tip:

Cysteine (cystine) is up to 4 x more abundant in truly grassfed whey compared to organic grain-fed animals. Naturally advantageous grassland geography endemic to regions like Ireland or New Zealand will produce grassfed dairy protein with much higher concentrations of cysteine compared to those, for example, in California, USA.

Thankfully, appropriate levels of Glutathione can be produced through physical activity, avoiding beverages high in alcohol, ensuring a balanced diet, and consistent sleep. Thus, it is much more advantageous to focus on the supplementation of the precursors rather than Glutathione alone. By doing so, the body will create and utilize all the benefits of Glutathione with absolute efficiency.

How Much Glutathione is in AGN Roots Grassfed Whey?

As far as Glutathione concentration on our grassfed whey, although lab analytics yield > 190mg between batches, as previously mentioned, consuming GSH is less critical to capturing the benefits of increased glutathione levels. What’s most valuable is consuming the precursors while living a healthy lifestyle (balanced diet, physical activity, and consistent sleep).

Which Grassfed Whey Protein is Best for Glutathione Production?

AGN Roots Grassfed Whey, on average, contains 730 mg of cysteine, 520 mg of glycine, and 4,960 mg of glutamic acid, which in terms of density leads the industry per 25 grams protein. Check out our Amino Acid Profile to see our protein broken down by amino acid. Comparing to some of the leading selling “grassfed brands,” you’ll notice AGN Roots provides almost 4 x Cysteine quantity.

The quality differences of milk produced by grassfed cows living freely in the most magnificent grassfed environment known to the planet are why Irish truly grassfed dairy products lead the industry nutritionally. AGN Roots grassfed whey contains more of what you want in pure nutrition and less of everything else.

In terms of BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), our grassfed whey leads the industry in naturally occurring concentration gram for gram. There are 6.5 grams of BCAAs per serving in AGN Roots Grassfed Whey protein isolate, which is 10% more than the next best-grassfed operations in the world.

Most tub proteins, including the many that claim “100% Grassfed” round up to 5.9 grams of BCAAs per 25 grams protein, when tested, however, will yield closer to 4.3 grams per 25 grams protein.

Important to Note: Unlike the consumption of Cysteine & Glycine, which both can directly impact the body’s production levels of Glutathione, Glutamic acid doesn’t share the same relationship. Glutamate (one of the three amino acids that make up the Glutathione protein) is not dependent on getting high levels of is Glutamic Acid through food consumption. There are several ways the body produces glutamate. Still, in general, the body is extremely capable of producing high levels of glutamate (the most abundant amino acid in the brain) from glucose (sugar) intake through a metabolic pathway called glycolysis.

Which Brand of Grassfed Whey is Best for Glutathione Production?

When comparing whey protein powders from an increased glutathione production point of view, you’ll want to pay the closest attention and spot a truly grassfed brand that has the highest naturally occurring concentration of Cysteine and Glycine. Look for Cystine or Cysteine levels higher than 600 mg and glycine concentrations greater than 450 mg.

Is Whey Protein Isolate Best for Increasing Glutathione Levels?

Quick Answer: Yes, Whey Protein Isolate (WPI) is a better choice if your goal is to benefit from increased levels of naturally produced Glutathione.

Glutathione is a protein that resides within a thin (order of nanometers) membrane that surrounds a milk fat globule (MFG). The entire particle size of this MFG is anywhere between .1 - .15 microns. The average mesh filter size for cold processing whey protein concentrate (WPC) into a more pure whey protein isolate (higher protein content) is 125 microns. The MFG particle is not like that other fats and lactose that end up filtered out of a WPC when making a whey protein isolate; thus, the ability to give a consumer the best nutrition for increased glutathione production resides solely in the amount of protein, the quantity of Cysteine and Glycine.

The 125-micron filter is for traditional cold-processing (cold-filtering) whey protein only after the casein and fats removed via coagulation (cheese Making). Proteins marketed as “Native” extract their whey using a much more fine membrane filter also designed to remove fats and casein, thus drastically reduces MFG concentrations within the permeated whey isolate. Native whey contains almost zero GSH.

To learn more about Native Whey, please visit our Native Whey - Fact or Fiction blog.

The better the quality of grassfed whey (undenatured), and the higher protein content from an isolate, compared to concentrate, means higher levels of bonded cysteine and glutamyl cysteine used for glutathione production, this will then yield a better immune response and will increase your body’s natural glutathione production!

For any further details around Glutathione, please feel free to comment below or contact us.

~ AGN Roots Grassfed Whey Team

[1]Pizzorno, Joseph. “Glutathione!.” Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.) vol. 13,1 (2014): 8-12.
[2]Lee, Hanna et al. “Compositional Dynamics of the Milk Fat Globule and Its Role in Infant Development.” Frontiers in pediatrics vol. 6 313. 24 Oct. 2018, DOI:10.3389/fped.2018.00313
[3]Zhou, Y, and N C Danbolt. “Glutamate as a neurotransmitter in the healthy brain.” Journal of neural transmission (Vienna, Austria: 1996) vol. 121,8 (2014): 799-817. DOI:10.1007/s00702-014-1180-8
[4]Minich, Deanna M, and Benjamin I Brown. “A Review of Dietary (Phyto)Nutrients for Glutathione Support.” Nutrients vol. 11,9 2073. 3 Sep. 2019, DOI:10.3390/nu11092073
[5]Allen J, Bradley RD. Effects of Oral Glutathione Supplementation on Systemic Oxidative Stress Biomarkers in Human Volunteers.J Altern Complement Med. 2011 Sep; 17(9): 827–833. View Full Paper


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