Glutathione, known as the body’s ‘master antioxidant’ is produced in all tissues of the body and especially in the liver. It is formed via a two step enzymatic process. The first joins the amino acids glutamate and cysteine to make gamma-glutamylcysteine (GGC) and the second adds another glycine molecule to make glutathione. But this system degrades as cells age, with the first enzyme losing its capacity to produce enough GGC to sustain the body’s glutathione needs. Free radical damage to DNA and other cellular structures then accelerates, hastening the senescence of cells.
Instability of molecule presents challenge
Glutathione supplementation has always been problematical because the ingredient is highly reactive by nature. The molecule tends to quickly fall apart into its component amino acids. That could still supply the building blocks for endogenous glutathione synthesis within the cells but it doesn’t address the degradation of the enzymatic function. Some existing ingredients have shown statistically significant increases in cellular glutathione levels but only after months of supplementation.
Now a supplement brand called Continual-G had debuted on the market featuring a proprietary form of GGC branded as Glyteine. The ingredient has been under development in Australia for decades. That development culminated in a peer reviewed pilot study published in the journal Redox Biology. That study showed that Glyteine was taken directly into the cells, where it was available for the second stage of the glutathione synthesis pathway. The result was glutathione levels that peaked at two to three times above basal levels within 90 minutes of supplementation.
Research interest in glutathione continues apace. A search of the PubMed database maintained by the National Institutes of Health using the term ‘glutathione’ returns more than 150,000 results, with more than 7,500 studies just in the past year alone. The first mention of the molecule in the database stretches back to 1923.
Long development history
The development of Glyteine was begun more than two decades ago by Wallace Bridge, PhD, who is a faculty member of the biotechnology program at the University of New South Wales in Australia. During a previous stint working with an industrial yeast manufacturer Bridge became interested in working with GGC, but discovered the difficulty of manufacturing the ingredient meant there were only tiny, expensive quantities available to use in his studies.
Bridge, working with his PhD student, Martin Zarka, perfected a cost effective process for producing a stable form of the ingredient. That process was further refined with the help of MIT-trained chemical engineer Rajan Shah, who is president of Cypress, TX-based INID Research Lab, where the Continual-G finished products are manufactured.
Shah foresees a bright future for his company’s finished product.
“The number of studies done on glutathione is a massive amount for one molecule,” Shah said. “There have been correlations between depleted glutathione levels and a whole range of chronic diseases.”
General health, anti aging and sports nutrition possibilities
Shah said Continual-G can be positioned to support general health and can make a strong case for its healthy aging benefits. But the data showing a quick rise in cellular glutathione levels means the product could have a future sports nutrition applications as well.
Quelling inflammation in sports nutrition is always something of a double-edged sword. Some inflammation is necessary to provide the stimulus for the body’s adaptation to training inputs. But inflammation during events is something else, and might be part of what causes athletes during events to ‘hit the wall’ so to speak.
“We suspect that performance benefit to be there. If you are running a marathon you are stressing yourself significantly and we believe an increase in glutathione levels is going to systematically help you,” Shah said.
While Bridge and his colleagues may have solved the supply bottleneck, Glyteine is still a premium-priced ingredient. A one month’s supply of Continual-G is being sold on the company’s website for about $140, which drops to $110 if a consumer is willing to sign up for a monthly auto ship deal. Slightly greater discounts are available on 60-day and 90-day quantities.