An Immunologist Says This Is The Most Underrated Antioxidant Of Them All
With antioxidants, it's pretty difficult to play favorites. Each impressive bioactive helps squelch free radicals and modulate oxidative stress, which has numerous benefits for full-body health (your skin, your brain function, your longevity, and the list goes on).* Antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E are quite popular in these conversations, as are up-and-comers like quercetin. But according to allergist and immunologist Heather Moday, M.D., we shouldn't forget about the less obvious players.
"A pretty big one is glutathione," she says on the mindbodygreen podcast. "Glutathione is something people have been going crazy with." If you haven't yet heard of this powerful antioxidant, allow us to explain why it has so much buzz.
What makes glutathione so great?
Moday isn't the only expert to sing the praises of glutathione. In fact, this one-of-a-kind bioactive has been called "the master antioxidant," the "mother of all antioxidants," and the "maestro of your immune system" by researchers and doctors alike.
Its main gig is to support detoxification: "Glutathione is a very simple molecule produced naturally from three amino acids: cysteine, glycine, and glutamine,"* functional medicine doctor and mbg Collective member Mark Hyman, M.D., previously writes for mbg. "Its sulfur chemical groups provide glutathione's benefits. Sulfur is a sticky, smelly molecule that acts like flypaper. All the bad things in your body stick onto it, including free radicals and toxins like mercury and other heavy metals."*
Glutathione is also essential for immune function: Research suggests that glutathione helps "fine-tune" our immune response, and it even helps support the production of various cells that are essential for immunity.* On a similar note: "It's very powerful in the lungs," says Moday. Studies have shown glutathione's benefits for healthy lung function, thanks to its ability to fend off free radicals and regulate oxidative stress.*
And while we do naturally make glutathione in our bodies (it has the highest concentration in the liver, says Moday), a bunch of factors can deplete this crucial antioxidant in our bodies—including a less nutrient-dense diet, pollution, aging, and the overall stress of modern living. To increase your supply, Hyman recommends eating more sulfur-rich foods like garlic, onions, and cruciferous veggies (since sulfur helps your body make glutathione).
You can also opt for targeted supplements that contain the powerful antioxidant (allow me to plug mbg's ultimate multivitamin+, which boasts 100 milligrams of Setria® glutathione, which is clinically backed for bioavailability and efficacy).* Research has shown these factors can really make a difference when it comes to increasing glutathione levels in the body. In fact, a clinical trial found that when people supplemented with Setria® glutathione daily for four weeks, they saw a 40% increase in blood levels of glutathione and had reduced markers of oxidative stress and increased markers of immune health.*
Tons of antioxidants can supercharge your health, but many experts love glutathione for its extra-powerful health benefits, including detoxification, immunity, and lung function.* Plus, there are plenty of ways you can increase your natural stash, both with food and supplements.
Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.