Whey protein contains many proteins and amino acids that promote healthy cellular activity and overall wellness in the human body. The macronutritional content of whey is important (e.g. low-carb, lean protein supplementation is great for the body), however, the specific types of proteins and amino acids contained in whey contribute much to the overall benefits of whey protein supplementation. Although whey contains each of the nine essential amino acids necessary for cellular protein synthesis, one amino acid is special among the others — Glutathione.
Benefits of Glutathione
Glutathione is an amino acid that acts an an antioxidant in mammals and prevents damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals are electronically-active atoms, molecules, and ions that can affect cellular health and DNA by “stealing” electrons from cellular processes. Thereby, free radicals degrade the health of the body’s organs and tissues via their constituent cells. Overtime these cellular effects manifest as substantial and catastrophic effects on health and wellness, including accelerated aging, heart disease, and increased risk of cancer. Free radicals occur in the body primarily due to exposure to harsh chemicals, radiation, and pollution (as well as through normal metabolism), which are nearly impossible to avoid in the modern world. Therefore, a natural solution for neutralizing the effects of free radicals in the body, like Glutathione, has tremendously positive health effects.
Glutathione is one of the most powerful naturally occurring antioxidants, along with pomegranate and blueberry juice. The advantage that Glutathione has over pomegranate and blueberry juice is that it is much more cost effective (e.g. 3 servings of pomegranate juice is about $6!) and does not come with the extra sugar associated with fruit juices. Glutathione is a particularly effective antioxidant because, as an amino acid, it is present in mitochondrial activity and protein synthesis. Glutathione is present in virtually all of your body’s cells. This results in cells that are healthier and safer from free radicals, from the inside out.
Glutathione also plays a critical role in regulating the Nitric Oxide cycle in living cells. Nitric Oxide is a naturally occurring free radical that acts as a biological signalling agent for inhibiting muscle contraction and growth. Nitric Oxide also plays a role in platelet aggregation. Thus, regulation of Nitric Oxide in the body by the antioxidant activity of Glutathione promotes proper muscle function and reduces the instance of arterial blood clots.
Glutathione is an integral ingredient in many other metabolic and biochemical reactions including DNA synthesis and repair, protein synthesis, and enzyme activation. Since the human body is almost 80 percent protein by dry weight, Glutathione is a natural ally in the promotion of effective cellular processes and overall health and wellness. Glutathione also plays a crucial role in the body’s natural detoxification process. Beyond its role as an antioxidant and regulation of the Nitric Oxide cycle, Glutathione has many benefits for detoxification and cellular activity.
Despite its benefits, Glutathione is not considered an “essential nutrient”, since the body can synthesize it from other amino acids. Unfortunately those amino acids (Cysteine, Glutamic Acid, and Glycine) are relatively rare in any usable form in a typical diet. Consequently, finding a supplemental source of Glutathione and/or its constituent building blocks is critical to maintaining optimal wellness.
To make matters worse, Glutathione is not well absorbed when taken orally (it’s destroyed by stomach acid) — fortunately, many of the building blocks that the human body uses to synthesize Glutathione are not destroyed by stomach acid and, therefore, can be naturally supplemented.
When the amino acids that the body turns into Glutathione are deficient in the body, the synthesis process is slowed or stopped in the same way that a building cannot be constructed without wood and other materials. The key to increasing natural Glutathione production in the body is identifying and using the supplements that contain the building blocks of Glutathione in a form that the human body can absorb and use.
Whey is one of the best sources of Glutathione and its amino acid building blocks as whey protein is engineered by nature to include an amino acid profile that stimulates growth in living mammals. Furthermore, the Glutathione contained in whey protein, especially an undenatured whey protein [internal link to quality page], is most readily absorbed by the body.
Glutathione is just one of the many reasons to boost your protein intake through whey protein supplementation, more about the benefits of whey protein supplementation here. [internal link, protein isolate]
Best Whey Protein for Glutathione
As discussed in the sections above, whey protein supplements are an excellent source of Glutathione and the building blocks the body uses to synthesize Glutathione. Numerous clinical studies and experiments have measured and confirmed the specific benefits increased Glutathione levels have for natural detoxifcation and reduction of cancer risks. It is notable that the majority of these medical studies use experimental preparations for whey protein that are gently processed and not exposed to extreme temperatures.
Unfortunately, most commercially available whey protein supplements on the market are produced with intense processing and high temperatures which damages the proteins and transforms the amino acids into forms that body cannot use in Glutathione synthesis (and other cellular processes). As a result, most whey protein supplements on the market do not have the great detoxification and cancer prevention benefits associated with Glutathione confirmed by medical studies.
The best whey protein supplements for boosting Glutathione levels are cold-temperature, low kinetic energy processed products made from the whole milk of healthy cows. Although this requirement sounds simple, there are a few key steps in the production of whey that can make this go awry, which you can read about in our whey production quality section. Alternatively, you can skip straight to our recommendations for whey protein products and which whey protein product would best boost Glutathione production in the human body.