The undenatured whey protein will include "cystine" in the amino acid profile, where the denatured whey protein will include "cysteine" in the protein profile. When deciding which whey protein product to buy, look for the phrases "Undenatured Whey Protein" and "Cold Processed."
Also consider that whey protein isolate is better than whey protein concentrate, because the isolate does not include other fractions of milk such as casein and fat, which may be problematic for some people. People who are sensitive to milk are generally reacting to the casein fraction of milk proteins. Human breast milk is virtually identical to cow's whey protein, and does not contain the irritating casein proteins, that while ideal for fast-growing calves, are not so ideal for humans, so it is best to avoid them if possible by using the isolate form of undenatured whey protein.
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A quick Internet search will yield quite a few products claiming to raise glutathione levels. The question is which really work, and which are a waste of money?
The first impulse might be just to buy a bottle of glutathione pills. However, this is a mistake, because consuming glutathione doesn't raise glutathione levels. The fact is that most fresh fruits, vegetables, and even meat products contain lots of glutathione. The problem is that it breaks down in the stomach, and does not make it intact to the cells where it is needed. Also, the glutathione molecule is too large to pass through cellular membranes, so even if you could get the glutathione molecules to the cells, you couldn't get it inside the cells. So, what do you do?
Glutathione is made inside the cells. The problem is getting sufficient quantities of glutathione precursors and co-factors—the building blocks—of glutathione to the cells, so they can manufacture their own. Making glutathione is a high priority for cells, because they really need it to remain healthy, so given the proper precursors, they readily make it. The problem typically is getting the glutathione precursors where they need to be.
Bioactive whey protein powder extracted from milk is by far the best, most bioavailable source of the most important, rate-limiting glutathione precursor, cystine (It also conveniently contains the two other amino acid precursors glycine and glutamine). Take note of the spelling. It is NOT cysteine you are looking to get, but it's more stable form cystine.
Cysteine breaks down in the stomach, and for the most part does not make it to the cells intact in a form that can be used to make glutathione. It needs to be consumed in the form of cystine, so it survives digestion, and gets into the cells intact, where it can be stored until needed to make glutathione when it is needed by the cells. Unfortunately, you can't just drink a glass of milk to get cystine, and you can't simply buy any whey protein product on the market and have it work to raise glutathione levels.
Milk, fresh from the source, is the most potent source of bioactive whey protein. However, unless you are a new-born calf, a farmer with your own organically raised, pasture-fed milking cow, or a nursing baby, you won't benefit from drinking milk. Furthermore, most adults would have to drink a gallon or more of milk every day to really optimize their glutathione levels.
In order to have the specific glutathione raising benefits, milk must be fresh, raw, and not homogenized or pasteurized. The bioactive whey proteins in milk deteriorate and break down within a matter of hours, so any milk sitting on store shelves is useless when it comes to optimizing glutathione levels. Most store-bought milk has been pasteurized and homogenized, which further breaks down beneficial amino acids and protective fats in the milk, rendering them not only useless for improving glutathione levels, but the process creates a product that actually lowers glutathione levels, and causes inflammation and excessive mucus production.
To ensure you are buying a product that is bioactive, the whey protein must be labeled as undenatured. This means that it has to be processed quickly and gently, and never exposed to high heat or harsh chemical processing. It must also be preserved in a form that does not allow the delicate peptide bonds to deteriorate and break while it is in storage waiting to be consumed. The milk must also be produced in scrupulously clean farms and facilities with healthy cows, because the milk cannot be high-heat pasturized, so it must be clean and safe to consume from start to finish.
Fortunately, methods have been developed that preserve the bioactivity of whey proteins. But not all whey protein on the store shelves is the same. Most whey protein on the market is a by-product of commercial cheese-making operations, and they do not go to the lengths to ensure their whey protein is properly processed. Undenatured whey protein is made with intent, and is a more expensive process, so undenatured whey protein supplements will be significantly more expensive than their cheaper denatured 'junk' whey protein. However, not all 'expensive' whey proteins are undenatured.
Note the differences in these whey protein product labels as you scroll down:
Most young, healthy people have adequate levels of glutathione. One could argue that the reason they are healthy is that their glutathione levels are at optimal levels.
There are population groups, however, who are not so fortunate, because their glutathione levels tend to be inadequate to meet their bodies needs. These include the very young, the elderly, and those with chronic exposure to excessive toxins, stress, and poor diet. It even includes elite athletes who exercise to the extreme. Those who engage in detrimental habits such as over-consuming alcohol, drugs, or refined sugar, and those who smoke also have an increased need for glutathione.
In adults, glutathione levels begin to decline noticably as early as age 30, and continue to decline more and more as we age. Scientists don't fully understand why this happens, but they do all agree, it eventually happens to everyone. Alarmingly, in an increasingly polluted and toxic environment, it appears that the age at which this decline begins to occur is getting younger and younger.
Is it any accident that the typical signs of aging increase as our glutathione levels decline? Unlikely. It is theorized that the onset of aging related symptoms are a direct result of this loss of glutathione's cellular protection. Studies show that those who are the sickest and oldest have the lowest glutathione levels.
Studies consistently show that the typical diseases of aging, along with most other chronic illnesses are mediated by free-radical damage and inflammation. They also show that these chronic diseases and degenerative conditions are always accompanied by low glutathione levels. Diseases and degenerative conditions such as cancer, MS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, IBS, diabetes, heart disease, have been demonstrated to be improved through glutathione optimization.
Babies and young children have an elevated need for glutathione because their cells are dividing and multiplying at a rapid rate, and all that cellular activity creates a significant amount of free radical production. It also creates a lot of potential for DNA damage during the replication process.
Nature created a means to deal with this glutathione challenge by providing the needed gluthathione precursors in mother's milk. As humans evolved, it used to be that mothers breastfed their children exclusively for the first year or so, and continued to supplement their diet with breast milk up to age five. In doing this, children naturally had all the glutathione they needed to grow, build and maintain their immune systems, and replicate healthy DNA. Now, children are lucky if they are nursed for even a month. As a result, we are seeing a significant rise in the number and variety of childhood allergies, cancers, juvenile diabetes, and chronic infections.
One might think by now that everyone should be supplementing their glutathione levels. However, there are some notable exceptions. These include people who have had organ transplants, and those who are on immuno-suppressive therapies. Organ transplant recipients must actively depress their immune systems to prevent the possibility of organ rejection. This is done via the administration of glutathione reducing drugs. So, while organ transplants save lives, they also put patients at higher risk for infections and degenerative diseases in the long term.
While it is clear that organ transplant recipients should not actively raise their glutathione levels, those who are on immuno-suppressive therapies might actually benefit from glutathione supplementation to normalize the immune system instead of depressing it, but this approach must be taken very carefully.
Foremost among those on immuno-suppressive therapies are those with auto-immune diseases. The problem is that due to long-term depressed glutathione levels, oxidative damage, and often times leaky-gut syndrome, many people's immune system's go haywire, and start to develop allergies to their own body's proteins. This causes inflammation as the immune system causes cellular injury. The key to healing is to naturally reduce inflammation using nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, curcumin/turmeric, probiotiics, and other anti-inflammation supplements and begin healing underlying leaky gut, and then gradually introducing antioxidants and glutathione boosting supplements. In severe auto-immune conditions, it is wise to make the transition from immune suppressing therapy to immune normalizing supplementation under the supervision of a knowledgeable medical professional.
The amount of whey protein powder you should take depends upon your health and the protein concentration in your whey protein supplement. If you are taking a whey protein isolate, you would need to take a little less than if you were taking a whey protein isolate. Generally, 9 grams of whey protein per scoop is a typical serving size for the average healthy person to maintain their glutathione levels at optimum. However, if you are sick or have a chronic degenerative condition you are trying to improve, and are generally ambulatory, you should take twice that dosage. If you are so sick you are bed-ridden, you should take three times the normal dose, and depending upon the severity of your condition, you might consider taking even more.
How you feel is a good indicator for how much your body might actually need. So experiment. Keep in mind however, that it does take at least a week or more to start to notice a difference in how you feel. Sometimes it takes more than a month before you notice any difference. Generally, the worse you are feeling, the sooner you will feel a difference. If you are generally healthy, it will take longer to feel a difference, assuming your glutathione levels are lower than they should be. Someone who already has optimal glutathione levels probably won't notice a difference at all, because the body regulates the amount of glutathione it makes, so it doesn't go over a certain level.
Glutathione is not a stimulant drug. What it does is remove the toxins and free radicals that are damaging your cells and allows your body to heal itself. As such, healing takes time, and you may not notice a big difference right away, but know that your body is hard at work repairing and healing at the cellular level. It can take as long as a year for the body to rebound and for you to feel 'optimal' again. So be patient.
Also, keep in mind that whey protein is protein. The body has certain protein requirements, and beyond a certain level, it can't absorb or utilize any more, so the maximum amount of whey protein you could take and still be beneficial is about the recommended daily protein intake that your body would normally require, based on your weight and health. You actually could replace your entire protein intake with undenatured whey protein, and derive a benefit from it, assuming you were extremely ill and needed a lot of glutathione. The good news is that undenatured whey proteins do not create acidity problems the way that other protein sources do, so you won't run into acidity problems with undenatured whey as you might being on a high protein diet. But, doing that would get expensive.
Also, consuming other forms of protein at the same time as your whey protein supplement will compete for absorption in the gut. So it is best to take your whey protein when you are not going to consume a high-protein meal as well. And don't mix it with other whey protein powders, because you want to give the glutathione-promoting cystine an opportunity to be absorbed first and as quickly as possible to maximize absorption.
When taking whey protein to optimize your glutathione levels, make sure you are also getting the necessary cofactors required for glutathione production. If you diet is generally good, this might not be an issue. But it would be wise to take a daily multi-vitamin that contains the critical cofactors Vitamin C, E, B1, B2, B3, B9, B12, Selenium, Magnesium, and Zinc.
A common complaint among those who decide to take undenatured whey protein is that when they mix the powder in a drink, it always comes out lumpy and gross. Unfortunately, the same properties that make whey protein bioactive, also make it a little tricky to mix. Conversely, if your whey protein mixes too easily, you know it's an undenatured whey protein, or it is a low-quality whey protein. Another quick test you can perform to know if your whey protein is bioactive is to put a little bit of the dry powder on your tongue. If it heats up on your tongue, you know it has bioactivity The warmer it gets, the more bioactive it is.
There are specific precautions that need to be taken when preparing whey protein as a glutathione-promoting supplement. As noted previously, the delicate bonds that enable cystine to survive digestion and get to the cells intact can be easilly broken during processing, and this includes the mixing and preparation process when you are preparing to consume it.
Mechanical stress will denature cystine. This means that you should not mix your whey protein in a blender. You should even be careful when you are mixing it with a spoon to not be too aggressive. If your whey protein gets frothy when you mix it, it is an indicator that the bonds are breaking.
To avoid lumpy whey protein drinks, it is easiest to mix whey protein into soft foods like yogurt, pudding, apple sauce, mashed bananas or avocados, or pureed baby food. You can eat it as a pudding, or after it is properly mixed, gradually mix in a beverage and drink it. You can also mix a very small amount of a liquid like water, almond milk, etc. to make a thin paste from the whey protein, and then gradually add more liquid in the glass until it is a desirable, drinkable consistency. If you want to drink your whey protein in a smoothie, you can prepare your smoothie first, then take a small amount in a glass and mix the whey protein into a paste, and then gradually mix in the rest of the smoothie.
Heat will also denature cystine. So, not only is it necessary to not mix your whey protein into a hot beverage or food, you must also consider that you should not follow consuming your whey protein with drinking a hot beverage such as hot coffee or tea, or eating a hot meal. You should wait at least an hour before consuming any hot foods or beverages after you take your whey protein.
High acidity will denature cystine. This means that you should not mix your whey protein with beverages, foods, or condiments that have a high acidity. This includes things like grapefruit juice, orange juice, carbonated drinks, and vinegar. And it is wise to not consume them right after taking your whey protein supplement. It is true that strong acids are naturally present in the stomach, and will act upon the whey proteins you take. While whey proteins can survive the natural digestive process, it is probably unwise to add extra acids to the process, because it shortens the absorption 'window' that the whey proteins have to escape the digestive tract intact and enter the blood stream. Nature naturally packaged whey proteins with plenty of milk calcium, which is alkaline, so it would tend to neutralize some of the acidity in the digestive process, and perhaps lengthen the absorption window naturally. So, it may be helpful to add a little calcium-containing food or supplement to your whey protein mix to allow maximum absorption of the whey proteins you take.
Time sitting after it is mixed will also denature whey protein. It's a time-dependent reaction, so you need to consume your whey protein as soon as you can after you mix it. Sadly, you can't prepare it at home in the morning, and take it with you to drink at lunch. It would be nice to be able to do it that way, but it would denatured by the time you drank it.
The ways to prepare your daily whey protein are only limited by your imagination. Just follow the above guidelines to ensure you get the most bioavailability from your daily dose.
Glutathione is a tripeptide, a molecule which is composed of three amino acids. It is found in virtually every cell of the body. Glutathione functions as the body's primary antioxidant and detoxifier. It plays an important role in maintaining proper immune function, in synthesizing and repairing DNA, and in preventing disease and pre-mature aging. We literally cannot survive without glutathione.
Glutathione is sometimes referred to as the "Master Antioxidant" because it recycles other antioxidants such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, CoQ10, and Alpha Lipoic Acid. While most other antioxidants are obtained exclusively from a well-balanced diet, glutathione is actually manufactured by the body from the amino acids glutamate, glycine, and cysteine.
Glutathione's manufacture also depends upon the availability of other co-factors including selenium, zinc, magnesium, vitamins B1, B2, B6, B9, C, & E. Most of these precursors and co-factors are easily obtained from a healthy diet. The one exception is the amino acid cysteine. Barring severe nutritional deficiencies, it is the availability of bioactive forms of cysteine which is the rate-limiting factor in the body's ability to manufacture sufficient amounts of glutathione.