How glutathione helps guard against heavy metals
If your mouth waters from the smell of pasta dishes, here's another reason to enjoy them besides the taste. Some common ingredients in these dishes — such as red peppers, garlic and onions — are highly prevalent in this cuisine. They're also common forms of cysteine. Cysteine is one of the precursor molecules that makes up glutathione, an antioxidant that helps guard the body against deadly toxins.
Glutathione molecules are made from cysteine, glutamic acid (glutamate as a salt) and glycine. Cysteine can also be found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oats and wheat germ. Glutamate, another way to obtain cysteine, is found in MSG and protein-rich foods, such as beans, fish and meat.
But what exactly does glutathione do and why is it useful for the body?
Glutathione is an antioxidant that detoxifies foreign compounds known as xenobiotics and carcinogens. If the body is depleted of either of these, especially in the brain and liver, lead toxicity may rise and possibly lead to brain cell death.
In a study completed by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the effects of rat pups from their mothers' diets were tested to find out how lead poisoning on glutathione metabolism would affect them.
One group of dams were fed a laboratory diet with 0.5 percent lead acetate. The rat pups of that group weighed far less than the rat pups from dams who were fed a laboratory diet. Lead ingestion decreased hematocrit levels and hemoglobin values. Lead ingestion also increased the weights of brain, kidney, liver, kidney and spleen.
Although glutathione reductase and glutathione peroxidase were unaffected by lead poisoning, there were other issues that affected the rat pups.
Concentrations of plasma free histidine, glutamic acid and serine were lower in lead-poisoned rats, but glycine levels were higher. Both male and female rat pups had a higher glutathione concentration in erythrocytes, liver and kidney after four weeks. Cystine-35S was significantly increased in glutathione but decreased in protein in the lead-fed rats' liver and kidneys. Lead ingestion also made a noticeable increase in glycine-1-14C.
Of course in everyday life, people are not studied the way that these rat pups are. However, they are being subjected to lead poisoning more often in certain regions. Heavy metals, such as arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury, can lead to severe illnesses and possibly death. Although manufacturing jobs come and go, for people who are living in industrialized communities, their risks of premature death and heightened exposure to heavy metal toxins increase.
Those who don't live near industrialized communities are not in the clear either. Heavy metals are also found in the air, drinking water and soil. Consumers purchase items with heavy metals as well, including appliances, cosmetics, fuel, medicines, personal care products (hair cream and soaps) and processed food.
Of all of these items, drinking water may be the most common product that all people use on a regular basis. Drinking water is exposed to arsenic poisoning because of galvanizing, refining, smelting and power plants. Although filtered water may try to remove some of these toxins, others still have the ability to circulate into the water.
Animal feed ingredients, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides, pesticides and wood preservatives also have a high risk of lead. The mouth, hair and nails are all ways for lead to get into the body. When lead is exposed and ingested, it affects the brain and liver, as mentioned above, as well as the aorta, kidneys, skin and spleen.
Producing glutathione keeps toxic pollutants from hurting these organs. People who are glutathione deficient slowly store away poisons in their brains, muscles, organs and tissue.
But there is also a common habit that people partake in every day that can severely increase mercury rates: smoking. Cigarette smoke contains nanograms of mercury as high as 11.5 and up to 16.6 nanograms of mercury from second-hand smoke. Mercury is grown into tobacco plants from air exposure. When a smoker releases tobacco smoke into the air, there is a higher risk of mercury.
So even a non-smoker who eats a healthier diet can be exposed to a high toxin count if that same person is regularly inhaling second-hand smoke. Although some companies have gone above and beyond to restrict smoking in private locations, such as hospitals; libraries; and grocery stores, there are still bars; restaurants; and nightclubs in some regions that put people at higher risk for higher mercury counts from tobacco usage. If there is a no-smoking policy, there is nothing stopping those toxins from floating from person to person.
This makes glutathione even more important to fight against risks that may not be as easy to avoid. A gardener will have to make certain choices about pesticides and insecticides. A waitress may need to be pickier about a work location. A hair stylist may have to think twice about cosmetic and hair products to use for customers. A resident who prefers the solitude of industrial communities may want to consider a move. But with all of these choices to be made, there's still the matter of lead toxins in food and drink. Those are products that can't be so easily escaped.
However, with the proper nutrition, fitness and health goals, glutathione can guard people against the toxins that they can't escape. For people who are weary of supplements, the best part about glutathione is that it's a natural molecule in a healthy functioning body.
As long as people do their part to keep themselves healthy, including practicing safe sex to fight against sexually transmitted diseases like HIV/AIDS that decrease the rates of glutathione, they'll help glutathione do its job: keeping the body free of toxins and healthy.