The Role of GSH in Heart Disease
GSH is the principal antioxidant in our cells. This applies to the endothelial cells of the arteries, including every red blood and platelet cell.
As a result, fighting oxidative damage by raising your GSH levels may help prevent the following complications of heart disease:
- heart attack & stroke
- protect the lining of the arteries
- diminish oxidation of cholesterol
In addition, having high GSH levels may help by:
- providing Immune System support
- slowing the disease progression
This is where it all begins. The process of your arteries hardening – often ending with the big one – a heart attack or stroke. Even the lesser consequences are disasterous – high blood pressure and impaired circulation – slowly depriving vital organs and muscles of oxygen.
Say's Dr. Gutman, “Without the anti-oxidant protection benefit of GSH to combat free radicals and lipid peroxidation, your vascular systems are systematically overcome by arteriosclerosis”.
Arteriosclerosis, previously thought of as an ‘old age' condition, has now been conclusively linked to diet, smoking and lifestyle issues.
University of Louisiana researchers found overweight children ages 6 through fifteen years, in the beginning to advanced stages of arteriosclerosis. It is now common for 30-year-old persons to suffer significant damage.
A study published in Neurosurgery, titled: ‘Reduction of intracellular glutathione levels produces sustained arterial narrowing', found convincing evidence that low GSH levels allow free radical damage to go unchecked – narrowing the arteries.
It depends where arteriosclerosis develops – as to where you feel the outcome.
The pain of angina comes from blocked blood flow.
If a major artery to the neck or brain becomes narrowed – you're primed for a stroke.
If the arteries to your kidneys become narrowed – you're on the path to kidney failure.
If the blockage is in your leg – poor circulation could lead to fatigue, muscle cramps – even gangrene.
However, the process of fatty deposits sticking to inflexible arteries is literally a gradual ‘buildup' - this entire insidious process – can culminate in one sudden event. No warning.
Commenting on this, Dr. Pressman notes, “Angina or a heart attack could be your first – and maybe you're last – warning."
The prevention of LDL cholesterol from oxidizing (turning rancid) should be a priority if you have high cholesterol readings.
GSH is the cells endogenous antioxidant – thus it's your body's principal mechanism for combating the oxidation of fats, known as lipid peroxidation.
The process that creates rancid cholesterol deposits - that stick to your artery walls.
Lipid peroxidation in-turn creates even more oxidative damage and subsequent hardening of your arteries - giving you the disastrous consequences of arteriosclerosis.
Increased GSH levels have been shown to reduce overall cholesterol levels by raising the activity of the enzyme cholesterol hydroxylase.
The British Journal of Nutrition published researchers X. Zhang and A.C. Beynen's findings had the aim of comparing various proteins that reduce cholesterol in the blood and the liver.
They found that by restoring the level of glutathione in the liver – the liver inhibited the synthesis of cholesterol – thereby, lowering a persons cholesterol level.
In a double blind study, P.V. Luoma's team was able to improve the ratio of HDL (good) to LDL (bad) cholesterol in healthy subjects by raising GSH levels.
An Italian research group had similar success altering HDL to LDL cholesterol ratios – by boosting the GSH levels in patients.
Other researchers continue to confirm the link between low GSH levels - and the epidemic of ‘high' and ‘bad' cholesterol - and the progression to heart disease.
GSH has been shown to lower cholesterol - by naturally inhibiting the production of cholesterol in the liver.
Yet, the current cholesterol-blockers known as Statins - interfere with an enzyme needed for cholesterol production.
While lowering overall cholesterol levels, statin drugs have known side effects, such as liver damage and arthritis.
In addition, weight gain, insomnia, migraine, eye hemorrhage, fatigue, impotence and breast enlargement and impotence in men, and hair loss in women, are also commonly reported.
American Journal of Medicine, December 1, 2004, reports that a new side effect is reduction in mental and memory functions. A team of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh has found that statin drugs reduce brain levels of an essential fatty acid, known as Omega-3.
Click here for an excerpt from Lipitor.com on the side effects.
If you are experiencing any of these side effects, especially muscle fatigue and memory loss, we urge you to consult your physician.
He may take a cautious, but open-minded approach to raising your GSH levels – as a safe and effective method – in conjunction with – and complimentary to - his recommendations.
Similar to glutathione's protective role in a stroke, when there is adequate GSH within the cells, the damage from a heart attack is kept to a minimum – dramatically increasing your odds of a better outcome.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and reported by USA Today, was so conclusive on the link between low GSH levels and heart attack – it stated, “low levels of… glutathione suggest a coming heart attack.”
According to the report, by measuring GSH blood levels, doctors will now have “a way to diagnose an imminent heart attack and act to prevent it.”
Click here for a reprint of a USA Today article
The Japan Heart Journal published a study that measured the red blood cell GSH count in patients with heart attacks – they found an evident GSH depletion.
This joins the mountain of scientific evidence pointing to a heart event – as presenting major demands for GSH.
When the blood flowing to your heart is suddenly blocked, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen. Some heart cells are irreversibly injured and stop working. Your heart has been attacked.
During the time when the heart cells aren't getting any oxygen (ischemia stage), they undergo a free radical build up.
When the blockage is surgically cleared - blood floods back into the injured tissue – bringing new oxygen - creating further unrestrained free radical damage (reperfusion injury).
This occurs at a time when your heart's antioxidant defense mechanism is critically low – it now becomes overwhelmed.
Remember, in a surgical procedure, any incision exposes your cells to oxygen. Surgery by definition generates massive amounts of oxidative stress on your body.
Both Japanese and Canadian researchers have found raising your levels of antioxidant protection – prior to procedures such as angioplasty, coronary bypass and thrombolysis to help prevent complications – significantly improving recovery.
You risk having a stroke – often referred to as a "brain attack" because of:
- Family history
- High blood pressure
- High stress
- Smoking or exposure to second-hand smoke
- History of mini-strokes
- Low antioxidant mechanism
Neurologists from the University of California at San Francisco showed the importance of GSH in protecting the brain from a stroke. They found when GSH levels were low – the result was significantly greater brain damage suffered after a stroke.
Neurosurgeons at the University of Washington went further, demonstrating that GSH depletion also leads to further narrowing of the critical arteries taking oxygen to your brain.
According to a study done by Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, brain cell levels of glutathione drop by as much as 80 percent when injured.
Specifically of interest, they noted, ”Levels of glutathione, - protect brain cells from death when they're deprived of oxygen”, concluding, “brain cells die much more quickly when there's a drop in glutathione levels.”
Dr. Alan Pressman, in his book 'The GSH Phenomenon – Natures Most Powerful Antioxidant and Healing Agent' sums up, “Stroke victims whose glutathione levels are low have a poorer prognosis than those whose glutathione levels are higher.”
As in the case of a heart attack, if you experience a stroke, GSH intervenes to protect and increase your odds – by minimizing injury to your brain.
Gum Disease and Stroke
Columbia University researchers found people with gum disease (periodontal) were more likely to suffer from arteriosclerosis - a narrowing of blood vessels - the condition preceding a stroke or heart attack.
They found that people who had a higher level of the specific bacteria that causes gum disease also had an increased carotid artery thickness, the artery that carries blood from the heart to the brain, and which is measured to identify arteriosclerosis.
In another landmark study, the Veterans Administration followed the medical history of over 1000 outwardly healthy men, starting in the 1960's. Those with gum disease suffered about twice the death rate – mostly from heart disease – than those with healthy gums.
As Robert Genco, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Periodontology has said, “It seems clear that gum disease, far from being just an oral health problem, actually represents a significant health risk to millions of people.”
Links have been made between the infective and inflammatory process of periodontitis and free radicals. Elevated levels of glutathione are known to:
- bolster your immune systems defenses against bacterial infection
- combat free radical induced inflammation
One of the VA researchers, Dr. Raul Garcia, stated, “Gum disease kills. Floss or die!” to which we would add, “Increase your odds – raise the glutathione levels on your gums!”
Yes, gum disease is preventable and treatable; by taking care of your gums you could have a significant impact on your cardiovascular health.
Professor Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, believes: “Fatty deposits (arteriosclerosis) which accumulate are due to a chronic inflammatory disease."
The Foundations medical spokesperson Judy O'Sullivan, agrees stating: "Inflammation in general is often associated with risk factors for coronary heart disease, such as smoking, poor diet… and may prove to be a key factor in the development of coronary heart disease”.
GSH, protecting free radicals - minimizes inflammation of plaque in the arteries.
Inflammation is in itself, an indication of a high degree of oxidative damage.
Samples of inflamed tissue show consistent evidence of severe oxidative stress, where the degree of oxidative damage has been correlated to the degree of inflammation.
Australian researcher G.D. Buffington studying inflamed tissue noted the significant depletion of Glutathione within the tissue. 24
Of all the antioxidants that can prevent or retard the pain response, GSH has been identified as the central one.
Evidence demonstrating the importance of combating oxidative stress with optimal GSH levels, for an anti-inflammatory effect throughout your body is consistent.2, 10
Read about Oxidative Stress
GSH, by enhancing the immune system, could prevent many unnecessary visits to the doctor.
Raising GSH Levels
Raising the level of GSH within each cell of your body is a safe method for patients with heart disease to prevent the recently identified source of disease and inflammation – oxidative free radicals.
The simple act of raising and sustaining your own cellular protective forces – is destined to change the paradigm in the medical community, which it already has in scientific circles.
As the result of many decades of research focused on how to modulate the immune system – there are now several manufacturers both in the USA and Canada providing proteins high in undenatured cysteine that are biologically similar to the cysteine found in mother's milk.
As a patient with heart disease, we urge you to investigate the benefits of protecting each cell in your body – simply by adding these GSH precursors to you diet.
Fig 1: Source - FDA website
The FDA published a slide (Fig 1) showing some areas of how GSH is lowered.
It was found the decline in GSH levels begins to rapidly occur at age forty in the average population.24 (see chart below)
Fig 2: Source - Cellular Health Foundation
Clinical studies have proven that immune depressed individuals have lower GSH concentrations.
The blood and tissues of people with heart disease are marked by critically low GSH levels.
Research trials have revealed a correspondence between low GSH levels and higher complications.
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione (pronounced "gloota thigh own"), or GSH, a small protein, is an essential component of our immune system.
It is produced naturally by cells throughout our body, and plays a vital role in heart disease as:
- A cell's most important Antioxidant
- An Immune System component
- A Detoxifying agent in our body
GSH has now been found to be the cornerstone of the body's anti-oxidant defense team. 1,2,9,12,14
Research now demonstrates the correlation between a precipitous fall in this unique molecule and diseases including heart disease.
You've probably never heard of it because in supplement form it is useless to take.
Yet, almost half of the ‘baby boomer' generation - individuals over 50 - are deficient in this molecule, leading to greater susceptibility to all kinds of disease.20
The FDA has published a list of everyday agents such as vigorous exercise, smoking, UV radiation, and coffee, which actually work to deplete this vital ‘protector' from our bodies.
Clinical studies show that if you provide your body with ‘specific building blocks', it will make a constant supply of this precious molecule for you. 2,3,4,9,14
Critical Element Missing
Glutathione must be made, or synthesized within the cell because GSH cannot be transported into cells in a supplement or ‘pill' form. 1
Each cell requires the three ‘building blocks' or pre-cursors to enable the process to proceed. If only two of the three building blocks are present – the building does not proceed – no matter how great the need for GSH.
Two of the three, amino acids: glutamic acid and glycine are readily available in our diet.
Sadly, it is the availability of the third amino acid, cysteine – that limits the production of GSH.
This is because cysteine, although plentiful in raw milk and fresh eggs, is ‘de-natured' in pasteurization and cooking.
In being denatured, any cysteine we receive in our diet is no longer biologically alive for the purposes of an effective ‘building block'.
We have been unable to provide an un-denatured building block to our diets.
Why aren't we replacing GSH in our diet, especially considering it's a naturally occurring protein in each cell – giving us such fundamental protective value?