Glutathione in the same manner as carnitine is technically not one of the amino acids essential for the synthesis of proteins. Glutathione is more properly classed as a tripeptide. Being mainly produced by the body from the a combination of the amino acids cysteine, the glutamic acid and glycine in varying proportions - it is thus a complex of amino acids. As it is formed from these three amino acids, it is usual to consider glutathione in connection to these three amino acids.
The liver is the site of glutathione synthesis as well as its largest store. Glutathione's main role is as a powerful antioxidant to rid the body of free radicals. Glutathione is found at the highest levels in the liver - here, the compound actively detoxifies all the harmful compounds excreted through the bile along with the breakdown products of the body's metabolism. Glutathione is also released directly into the bloodstream in small amounts throughout the day. In the bloodstream, the compound helps in the maintenance of the integrity of the red blood cells and actively protects white blood cells from metabolic toxins. The lungs and the intestinal tract are other areas where active stores of glutathione are to be found. Glutathione is essential for carbohydrate metabolism; it also displays some anti-aging effects. This action helps in the breakdown of oxidized fats - one of the main contributors to atherosclerosis in people.
The nervous system is the first area in which the ill effects of glutathione deficiency shows itself. Glutathione deficiency can bring on physical symptoms such as lack of coordination, all sorts of mental disorders, tremors, and great difficulty in maintaining proper balance. The development of lesions in the brain is thought to be the main cause of these disorders.
Glutathione levels in the body tends to decline as the body ages - it is not certain, if this decrease in the glutathione levels has something to do with it's greater utilization or if it is a result of reduced production in the liver in older people. The long term ill effects of glutathione deficiency, if left as such are the acceleration of the aging process - this is the most unfortunate and serious of glutathione deficiency in the body.
The effectiveness of oral formulas used to supplement glutathione is doubted and the cost is prohibitive. The ideal way to supplement and raise general glutathione levels in the body, is to give the body a supply of the raw materials used to manufacture the compound, namely the amino acids cysteine, the amino acid glutamic acid and the amino acid glycine. The most effective compound for cysteine supplementation to this purpose is the N-acetyl form of cysteine, called N-acetylcysteine.
Toxins in the body are bound by glutathione and the compound then transforms them into a chemical form which can be easily accumulated and expelled from the body via the excretory organs. The treatment of certain types of cancer tissues using glutathione has also shown positive results. Glutathione has been measured as possessing anti-cancer effects in preliminary research as well as specific tube tests and animal studies - the use of glutathione as an anti-tumor agent is full of promise. Older people with exceptional health and fitness levels tend to have higher levels of glutathione than other individuals of a similar age.
Animal tests indicate the efficient absorption of glutathione supplements, the same supplements are not necessarily absorbed at the same rate in human test subjects. Large amounts of the enzyme gamma-glutamyltranspeptidase is found in the gastrointestinal tract, this enzyme breaks down glutathione before any significant amount of the compound can translocate into the blood stream. The ideal way suggested for maximizing the absorption of glutathione into the body has been to place glutathione tablets between the teeth and touching the inner cheek - taking supplements in this way may maximize absorption of glutathione.
The best and most effective way of putting glutathione into the blood stream as suggested by some health care professionals is to supplement with the oral route of glutathione supplementation. The ability of the supplements of vitamin C can to help raise blood levels of the compound glutathione are also pointed out as a possible benefit by certain researchers. Glutathione levels in the blood stream is raised by the vitamin C and some other supplements like the fatty acid lipoic acid, the amino acid glutamine, the amino acid methionine, the s-adenosyl form of methionine, the vitamin B6, the mineral selenium, the B vitamin riboflavin, as well as whey protein - all of these compounds and minerals may aid in increasing the production of glutathione in the body.
The use of intramuscular or intravenous injections of glutathione is suggested by other medical professionals, as they believe such a method of supplementation can greatly help to reduce the side effects and increase the efficacy of glutathione absorption into the body.
The potent and powerful anti-oxidant action of glutathione is not doubted. The real pathways in which the compound works in the body and the main benefits of its use as a supplement are still not clear. Glutathione supplementation and its beneficial effects is supported by some evidence that suggests its potential usefulness in the management of some forms of cancers, as well as its use in the treatment of atherosclerosis, its treatment in treating diabetes, as well as lung disorders. It is also thought to have potential as a supplement to treat hearing loss induced by noise, problems like male infertility, as well as to help prevent or lessen the effect of various toxic compounds in the body. Glutathione is also believed to possess some anti-viral activity and could become useful in the treatment of viral diseases. AIDS associated cachexia is often treated using glutathione as a secondary supplementary compound.
Supplements of glutathione are available in the single ingredient dietary supplement form as well as mixed in the form of combination supplements. The dosage requirement usually ranges from about 50 to 600 milligrams of the compound taken once every day for the duration of the treatment period.