The Science Behind Immunocal
Discovery of the health benefits of Immunocal
At the beginning of the 70’s, under the direction of Gustavo Bounous, MD, (FRCSC), a team of researchers from the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University (Canada), was studying proteins of animal and vegetable origins in order to feed the patients with an elemental diet that would allow them to reduce their stay in hospital. Since 1978, their studies had been focusing on whey proteins. This work led to the surprising discovery that a specific undenatured whey protein concentrate helped to sustain optimal glutathione levels, high immunological reactivity and anticarcinogenic activity. Subsequent identification of the active ingredients present in this protein mixture led in 1993 to the production of a high-quality bioactive protein that was given the name Immunocal.
This research was supported by the Medical Research Council of Canada and the National Institutes of Health in the United States. The observed effects of Immunocal which have been discovered at McGill University have been validated by numerous independent research centers worldwide, notable in Germany, Japan, Australia, France, United States and in Nova Scotia (Canada).
Placebo-controlled clinical studies to prove the health benefits of Immunocal
The gold standard for clinical evidence for efficacy is a placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. Immunotec’s present research activities therefore focus on controlled clinical trials in cooperation with various clinical partners in Montreal and other clinical centers in Canada and the U.S.A. The recently published study on the effects of a research formulation of Immunocal on lung cancer patients (Tozer et al. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling, 10:2, 395-402, 2008) is an example. This trial has shown quite impressive results with regard to the health benefits of this Immunocal formulation in the nutrition of seriously ill advanced lung cancer patients. Other clinical studies showing the efficacy of Immunocal have been performed and published by several clinical centers.
Living healthier Through Natural Technologies
The last few decades have witnessed a major shift from the reliance on drugs to a demand for natural alternatives. What has spurred this change is an increasingly overburdened, expensive and often inaccessible medical system that has been so busy taking care of the sick, that wellness has been left to non-conventional medicine. More and more of us are now moving from a reactive to a proactive approach to maintaining health and well-being, and this includes lifestyle changes, exercise, nutrition and natural supplements.
Until recently, many medical professionals have been somewhat wary of natural supplements, worried about quality, consistency and efficacy of what was being sold to the public. In the world of science, it is research that represents the gold standard, and without the funding available to drug manufacturers, natural products have historically fallen short of the rigor involved in investigating a new medication.
Both in the United States and in Canada, federal agencies (the NIH1 initiative and Health Canada’s NHPD2) have taken strides to promote the use of natural products, but only if they meet the standards of validation through appropriate research.
Immunotec has taken full advantage of this opportunity, and with some ease. Immunocal, its flagship product, has been studied extensively with numerous medical and scientific articles written in peer-reviewed journals. Research on this natural substance already existed for over three decades.
Currently, people are looking for clinically proven, natural products that will help to improve health and help them feel younger and more energetic. You have the opportunity to gain tremendous benefits from the leader in the field of natural immune-enhancing products, Immunotec and its principal product, Immunocal.
1. NIH – National Institutes of Health
2. NHPD – Natural Health Products Directorate
Improve Your Immune System and Optimize Your Quality of Life
Immunocal is a natural protein that addresses several critical factors affecting your quality of life. Immunocal can:
- Increase your ability to fight off free radicals through optimizing you antioxidation ability
- Strengthen your immune defenses
- Help properly deal with pollutants and toxins in your body
- Enhance your energy and sense of well-being
It is easy to explain how Immunocal does this.
What is Immunocal
Immunocal is a patented supplement that in nature is most similar to mother’s milk. It is over 90% pure protein and has a biological value higher than any other protein supplement or food available. The term “biological value” (BV) refers to a measurement of how important any edible protein is to your body.
Taken daily, Immunocal will raise your body’s concentration of glutathione (abbreviated as GSH), a molecule referred to as “Your Body’s Most Important Protector”. Most individuals have never heard of glutathione, however given the huge amount of research publications on the subject and the large impact it will have in future health care, the term glutathione will shortly become part of our everyday language, the same way as we use the words “antioxidant” or “cholesterol”. To date, there have been over 80,000 published articles on glutathione in the medical literature.
What is Glutathione?
Glutathione (GSH) is the body’s own health ‘AID to Energy’– Antioxidant, Immune Booster, Detoxifier and Energy enhancer. This small protein, produced naturally in the body, supports these four crucial functions. In fact, your life depends upon glutathione. Without it, your cells would disintegrate from unrestrained oxidation, your body would have little resistance to bacteria, viruses and cancer, and your liver would cease functioning from the accumulation of toxins.
The Roles of Glutathione
Medical science has described literally dozens of roles that glutathione plays in your body. However, the four most important roles of glutathione can be summarized by the acronym:
A I D = E2
These letters stand for:
- Immune support
Let’s look at these four critical processes driven by glutathione:
– Glutathione – “Your Master Antioxidant”
Over the past thirty years, advances in the study of antioxidants have grown to the point that a whole new branch of medicine has developed called “Free Radical Biology” which focuses on oxidant/antioxidant balance. These scientists have elaborated upon several hundred different disease processes where antioxidants play a vital role. The shelves of natural food stores and pharmacies are resplendent with a large array of different antioxidants offered. However, although these antioxidants including vitamin C and vitamin E are usually “natural”, they are not natural to your body. If you do not ingest these vitamins, they will not be found in your cells naturally. Given the importance of antioxidation in hundreds of different disease processes, one poses the question – “What antioxidant does the body manufacture to ward off these processes?” Glutathione is the most abundantly produced antioxidant in the body. In fact, the presence of this small protein is crucial for the functioning of all of the other antioxidants we know of, gaining the title of “Master Antioxidant”.
Glutathione – “Food for the Immune System”
Your immune system is constantly on the prowl for pathogens and foreign antigens—agents of cellular damage, toxicity and disease. These antigens include viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and even pre-cancerous cells. To neutralize these pathogens the body needs a ready supply of glutathione. If it doesn’t have enough, some of the invaders will get through, infecting the body and/or contributing to aging, long-term accumulative damage—even eventual cancer. We can’t avoid illness and aging altogether—although a few scientists are pursuing some age-old dreams—but by keeping our intracellular glutathione levels up we also keep our immune system on full alert and fully armed.
Dr. Gustavo Bounous, discoverer of Immunocal, has focused on glutathione as support for the immune system. “ The limiting factor for the proper activity and multiplication of our lymphocytes (white blood cells) is the availability of glutathione”. Dr. Bounous’ research at McGill University has spawned countless other research papers worldwide examining this phenomenon.
Glutathione – “Detoxification System”
Hundreds of toxins are eliminated by the GSH enzyme system, including drug breakdown products, pollutants, carcinogens and radiation damage. It’s no surprise that GSH concentrations are highest in the liver, the body’s major detoxifying organ. We inhale and ingest natural and synthetic toxins every day of our lives and can’t possibly avoid them, especially in our technological times, our congested and polluted cities and with our bio-engineered food supplies. Experimental studies have shown that low glutathione levels lead to poor liver and kidney function, and result in unnecessarily large quantities of toxins circulating through the body. There, they continuously damage individual cells and organs. The list of toxins eliminated include cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust and heavy metals. Physicians regularly use drugs to elevate glutathione levels in critical illnesses like acetaminophen overdose and severe liver failure.
– Glutathione – “Energize Yourself”
Our cells are like little machines, running 24 hours a day. Where does the energy to fuel this constant activity come from? The answer is quite complicated but science had identified tiny structures within our cells called “mitochondria” which serve as tiny batteries inside the cell. Like any source of fuel, inevitably burning and waste products are a result. The mitochondria literally burn up oxygen and as a result are prone to overload and damage and are limited in their ability to continue working unless these breakdown products like oxyradicals are removed. The major substance produced by the cell to keep these mitochondria “cool” and efficient is glutathione. This translates into more energy and more strength. Raising glutathione has become a focus for many studies from sports medicine to anti-aging for this reason.
What Causes Us to LOSE Glutathione (GSH)
Every day our bodies are exposed to factors that drain our levels of glutathione: stress, pollution, radiation, infection, drugs, poor diet, aging, injury and fatigue. These all contribute to glutathione depletion which, in turn, leads to cellular aging, disease and death. “Concern about maintaining one’s glutathione level will eventually be on par with other health maintenance issues.” says Dr. Bounous, discoverer of Immunocal.
Immunocal Can Fix the Problem
Immunocal is proven and patented to raise glutathione. It is a natural source of the glutathione building block called cysteine, for the maintenance of a strong immune system.
There are other synthetic ways in which glutathione levels may be raised, but the high level of side effects and short duration of action limits their usefulness. In contrast, Immunocal is extremely effective and has negligible side effects when used as directed. It is a protein isolate from milk, but has an insignificant amount of lactose (<1%); therefore, it is easily tolerated by lactose intolerant individuals.
Immunocal is patent-protected worldwide and has several important high-level acknowledgments:
- Awarded an NPN (Natural Product Number) issued by Health Canada
- Listed in the U.S. Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR).
Give Your Body What it Needs to Perform Optimally
Most of us know it’s a good idea to eat well, exercise and get a good night’s sleep. We might also know that it’s a good idea to take some vitamins and minerals.
But if you are seeking a way to give your body an extra edge in a world where we are constantly bombarded with environmental stressors, then supporting your immune system is key. And typical vitamin and mineral supplements aren’t enough to do the job.
Taking Immunocal on a regular basis will give you more control over your health, vitality and wellbeing.
Immunocal — Where's the Beef?
No beef actually, but you got the right animal – Immunocal comes from cows! In fact, it takes about 125 gallons of fresh raw milk to make a pound of Immunocal. What eventually ends up passing your lips is a derivative of whey protein isolate especially engineered to have the highest amounts of glutathione precursors possible. Before talking about what glutathione is, and what it does, let’s look at some of the benefits of taking Immunocal, besides its clinically-proven ability to raise glutathione.
As many of you are aware, whey protein, especially whey protein isolates (over 90% protein), supply most of what we need for muscle mass generation. It is sometimes referred to as the “perfect” protein, because it contains all the essential amino acids required for your body’s protein synthesis. With a biological value (BV) of over 110, it would be challenging to find a protein utilized more efficiently than Immunocal.
Immunocal is also loaded with branched chain amino acids, leucine, isoleucine, and valine (BCAA’s). During exercise, the body preferentially uses BCAA’s as a source of energy. Low levels of BCAA’s may lead to increased fatigue, especially during endurance events. There are more BCAA’s in Immunocal than in soy, egg, or any other protein you can pick up at the nutrition store. This is especially important for muscles to rejuvenate after exercise.
Glutathione, however, is what makes Immunocal especially important. Listed in the Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR), a book that lists all the prescription products that can be written in the United States, Immunocal is categorized as a “glutathione precursor”. Why “precursor”? Because if you eat glutathione, it gets quickly digested and never makes it into you cells. The only way to raise your body’s glutathione levels is to eat the precursors or building blocks for your body to make glutathione on its own.
Dr. Gustavo Bounous, the “great-Grandfather” of natural glutathione precursor research, started looking at this in the late 1980’s. In his development of Immunocal, his intention was to effectively optimize immune function in immunocompromised people, including cancer patients, AIDS patients, and other severely ill people. By no coincidence, all these diseases are associated with muscle loss. Since those early days, over 80,000 articles have appeared in the medical literature. Needless to say, we now know vastly more about the functions of glutathione.
Look up glutathione in a medical book and you will read about functions such as protein synthesis and repair, enzyme regulation, and a host of other complicated actions. However, the majority of all of its functions can be summarized in the acronym “A.I.D.”: A: Antioxidant, I: Immune Optimizer, and D: Detoxifier.
Glutathione is referred to as the “master” antioxidant. This is quite a title to live up to. Glutathione has obtained this status because absolutely none of the antioxidants you’re now taking could function without the presence of glutathione. Glutathione recycles and recharges all the antioxidants in your cells. Given that athletes can use up to 20 times more oxygen while they’re working out compared to their couch-potato buddies, oxidative stress is a very real issue in sports medicine.
Glutathione is critical in order to develop a strong immune response. People with infections are going to burn through their glutathione quickly. The classic example is in HIV, where Immunocal has been patented to raise glutathione levels in patients. Translate this immune-enhancing ability to the gym and think of how many viral infections have upset your training routine. One thing that has clearly been shown through the years is that those of you who are going to push too hard in your training will experience a dip in your immune function. Too many potential gold medalists have fallen short because of this phenomenon.
One hazard that we encounter on a daily basis is our exposure to a toxic environment. It doesn’t matter how careful you are, there is inevitably going to be junk in the food we eat, the liquids we drink, and the air that we breathe that just shouldn’t be in your system. Raising glutathione is a strategy used in emergency departments to deal with certain overdoses to detoxify patients. What has emerged from the years of research is that glutathione is also responsible for the elimination of cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust, heavy metals like lead and mercury, pesticides, herbicides, and a long list of carcinogens that unfortunately make it into our cells. The highest levels of glutathione found in your body are in your liver which is, after all, your major organ of detoxification.
SHOW ME THE BEEF! An online search of articles on glutathione and exercise will bring up thousands of well-researched papers on the topic. Everything from muscle mass development, recovery from injury, decreased oxidative stress, and acidosis to increased performance. Dr. Larry Lands and his colleagues at McGill University in Montreal, Canada published a landmark study in sports physiology and glutathione. Using Immunocal, he was able to demonstrate not only a substantial rise in glutathione levels in exercising adults, but also a remarkable increase in strength and endurance of between 10 and 15%!
No wonder so many pros and serious elite athletes are taking advantage of this science. A healthy way to “beef” up your performance!
LANDS L.C., GREY V.L., SMOUNTAS A.A. Effect Of Supplementation With A Cysteine Donor On Muscular Performance.
J Appl Physiol. 1999 Oct;87(4) :1381-5.
Glutathione – Why all the Noise?
One of the “Hottest” new health supplements
Glutathione (GSH) is a word that many people are still are not familiar with, but given that there are over 150,000 medical and scientific journal articles written on this subject to date, it is one of those terms that will eventually work its way into our common everyday language. One of the reasons for GSH’s increasing popularity, is that it appears to have so many useful benefits for those that know how to raise glutathione levels in their body.
One common myth about glutathione is that you can eat glutathione and consequently raise your body’s GSH levels. Untrue. Eating glutathione supplements or foods rich in glutathione will not do the trick. Most of it will end up being broken down in your digestive tract and eliminated. Since glutathione is made within your cells, what needs to be accomplished is delivering the building blocks (“precursors”) of GSH to the cells themselves. The hardest glutathione precursor to find in our diet is the amino acid “cysteine” which must be in a form that survives the trip from your mouth to your living cells. This is not as easy as it sounds.
In nature, this usable form of cysteine can be found in eggs, but the eggs must be raw, otherwise the proteins that carry the cysteine are changed by heat and lose their efficiency as a “cysteine delivery vehicle”. Another good source would be meat, but again, the meat would need to be raw to be a competent source of cysteine. Aside from a well-prepared steak tartar, safe sources of raw meat are not abundant. What about vegetables? You guessed it. Raw cruciferous veggies are a decent source, but you would have to eat a whole bunch of broccoli with all the gaseous consequences your spouse will suffer.
A bit of a problem! Since glutathione is involved in so many important functions including fueling our immune system, detoxifying a rather lengthy list of pollutants and carcinogens, and acting as our body’s “master” antioxidant, how can we safely raise glutathione? The medical literature certainly is full of articles describing its role in cancer, heart disease, infectious diseases, lung problems and even the aging process itself. Many experts feel that raising GSH has been grossly overlooked, and that this strategy will eventually become as popular as taking a daily multivitamin. How best to take advantage of this remarkable molecule?
Whey, a protein fraction of milk, is loaded with glutathione precursors. The problem here, as was the problem in eggs and meat, is that heat destroys the ability of these proteins to raise glutathione efficiently. The other downside of whey, is that it may contain differing amounts of fat and lactose, which for many individuals is a no-no. In addition, the vast majority of whey protein on the market has been subject to multiple passes of pasteurization, which if you remember your high school biology, is a form of heating. However, there is a way around this problem.
The glutathione building blocks in whey are very fragile, but techniques to extract these valuable proteins have been developed. Researchers at McGill University had started investigating these GSH precursors as early as the 1980’s. The original research team headed by Dr. Gustavo Bounous eventually formed a private enterprise to further develop and market these glutathione building blocks. They adopted the trade name “Immunocal” for the eventual formulation and Immunotec continues to enhance this product.
Immunocal – Whey Above the Rest
So often we are asked how Immunocal fits into the world of dairy science and whey proteins. Let’s examine this rapidly expanding field and see how these products are truly unique.
Many milk derivatives and whey products exist on the marketplace for health-conscious individuals. These products are extremely variable in their protein content, their concentration, the amount of denaturization (damage to the original protein structure), the actual types of proteins present, and other factors which play important roles in the effectiveness of the product (see Table 1).
Immunocal is a protein isolate. Whey protein “isolates” is of the purest form, being between 90‑98% protein with negligible fat and lactose per serving. Whereas whey protein “concentrates” usually contains between 70-85% protein with significant levels of fats, lactose and often many toxins that accompany these. It contains sub-families of proteins with the highest levels of glutathione precursors (building blocks) available. The unique way that Immunotec extracts these proteins intact (undenatured) in their natural form accounts for our ability to deliver high levels of cystine and cysteine to the cell. It was Dr. Bounous who first described the importance of keeping these fragile proteins. These techniques are not employed by other manufacturers whose products have been seriously degraded by the time they reach your mouth. Notice that you will generally not find warnings against heating other proteins, because they are most often already seriously broken down.
During the manufacturing process both the fat and lactose content are removed. This allows even the most lactose-intolerant individual to consume our product safely. For those rare people who have a true allergy to milk proteins, it must be noted that up to 80% of these people are allergic to the protein called “caseine”. Caseine is not a protein that we desire as a glutathione precursor and the amounts found in Immunocal is in the range of 1-2%.
Of critical importance is the biological activity associated with the proteins involved. The vast majority of whey proteins are not tested for this factor. The research most of these companies use as “scientific references” for their product was in fact done by Dr. Bounous and his team toward the development of Immunocal. Whether any of these products actually work or not has been anybody’s guess because they have not withstood the test of real research. Dr. Wulf Dröge has picked up the torch and has taken Immunocal research to previously unforeseen heights, demonstrating the effectiveness of Immunotec’s whey protein technology in most highly regarded scientific journals.
The field of natural health care products will only truly advance if it is based in real research and quality control. Use the products that are legitimately proven and patented to be effective. Be comfortable that you are taking advantage of the highest quality supplements available to ensure health and longevity. The old adage “you get what you pay for” holds true in this realm as well. Skimping on your health and physical and mental performance is not recommended.
My approach to evaluating a natural product is akin to how a real estate agent evaluates a property. The only difference is that the agent uses the motto “Location, location, location” - I stand by “Research, research and research!”. Immunocal is the only whey products that fulfill all of these criteria.
|Whey Protein Variables|
|Concentration of Protein||Isolate = 90%+, concentrate = 70-90%|
|Types of Protein||Glutathione precursors vs. caseine|
|Degree of Denaturization||Immunocal proteins not broken up|
|Fat Content||Immunocal “fat-free”|
|Lactose Content||Immunocal “lactose-free”|
|Bioavailability||Very high in Immunocal|
|Biological Activity||Very high in Immunocal|
|Toxin Load||Immunocal far below industry standards|
|Antibiotic load||Immunocal will reject if antibiotics present|
Living Longer, Living Stronger
As time goes by, it has become increasingly clearer that glutathione and cysteine levels not only fall as we age, but the levels of these two critical substances are directly related to how well and older person is doing. Studies have not only looked at physical health, but quality of life, mental functioning and sense of well-being.
Dr. Wulf Dröge has been for many years an advocate of taking advantage of this strategy. His research goes back over several decades and has set the foundations for many other researchers to build upon. One such study has just recently been published in January 2008. ( Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Jan;11(1):40-4). Australians A. Hayes and PJ Cribb have suggested that we approach the aspect of strength and muscle mass in aging the same way as we approach an RSP (retirement savings plan). The more we pay attention to investing in our bodies at an earlier age, the higher the payoff when we are older.
In their words when discussing options like Immunocal, “particularly in elderly people, simple strategies… that may improve the maintenance of skeletal muscle mass will likely result in a decrease in the overall burden of a number of diseases and improve the quality of life as we age.”
Nice to be constantly reassured that we are doing the right thing!
Glutathione supplementation – manipulation of natural defense mechanisms in health and disease
The human body is one of nature’s finest miracles and researchers are still unlocking many of its secrets. Recent discoveries have shed important light on the role that glutathione plays in maintaining health and fighting disease.
Most individuals have not heard of glutathione, however given the accelerated course of research publications on the subject and the large impact it will have in future health care, the term glutathione will shortly become integrated into our everyday language, the same way as we use the words “antioxidant” or “cholesterol”.
Glutathione is the body’s own health ‘AID’ – Antioxidant, Immune Booster, and Detoxifier. This small protein, produced naturally in the body, maintains these three crucial protective functions. In fact, your life depends upon it. Without glutathione, your cells would disintegrate from unrestrained oxidation, your body would have little resistance to bacteria, viruses and cancer, and your liver would cease functioning from the accumulation of toxins.
RESEARCH ON GLUTATHIONE
In the last twenty years the volume of research into GSH has grown immensely. A huge variety of theoretical papers, bench-top laboratory experiments, epidemiological studies and—most importantly—clinical trials on humans, has linked glutathione to an extraordinary variety of illnesses. The list is long and would be hard to believe were it not for the strength and credibility of the research.
Hundreds of articles have described how elevated glutathione levels help combat the infirmities of aging, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, cataract formation, macular degeneration, and cancers of aging (e.g. prostate cancer). Glutathione depletion is linked with the major causes of morbidity and mortality in North America, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes and infectious disease. Many different medical specialists are paying special attention to natural glutathione modulation, as more traditional means have proven less than efficient.
GLUTATHIONE - “THE MASTER ANTIOXIDANT”
Advances in the study of antioxidants have grown to the point that a whole new branch of medicine has developed called “Free Radical Biology” which focuses on oxidant/antioxidant balance. These scientists have elaborated upon several hundred different disease processes where antioxidants play a vital role. The shelves of natural food stores and pharmacies are resplendent with a large array of different antioxidants offered. However, although these antioxidants including vitamin C and vitamin E are “natural”, they are not natural to your body. If you do not ingest these vitamins, they will not be found in your cells naturally. Given the importance of antioxidation in hundreds of different disease processes, one poses the question – “What antioxidant does the body manufacture to ward off these processes?” Glutathione is the most abundantly produced antioxidant in the body. In fact, the presence of this ubiquitous small protein is crucial for the functioning of any of the other antioxidants we know of.
GLUTATHIONE - “FUEL FOR THE IMMUNE SYSTEM”
Your immune system is constantly on the prowl for pathogens and foreign antigens—agents of cellular damage, toxicity and disease. These antigens include viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and even pre-cancerous cells. To neutralize these pathogens the body needs a ready supply of glutathione. If it doesn’t have enough, some of the invaders will get through, infecting the body and/or contributing to aging, long-term accumulative damage—even eventual cancer. We can’t avoid illness and aging altogether—although a few scientists are pursuing some age-old dreams—but by keeping our intracellular glutathione levels up we also keep our immune system on full alert and fully armed. Dr. Gustavo Bounous, a leading glutathione expert, concurs that glutathione is fuel for the immune system. “ The limiting factor for the proper activity and multiplication of our lymphocytes (white blood cells) is the availability of glutathione”. Dr. Bounous’ research at McGill University has culminated in the development of a nutritional supplement called “Immunocal” which raises glutathione levels.
GLUTATHIONE - “TOXIC WASTE DISPOSAL SYSTEM”
Hundreds of toxins are eliminated by the GSH enzyme system, including drug metabolites, pollutants, carcinogens and radiation damage. It’s no surprise that GSH concentrations are highest in the liver, the body’s major detoxifying organ. We inhale and ingest natural and synthetic toxins every day of our lives and can’t possibly avoid them, especially in our technological times, our congested and polluted cities and with our bio-engineered food supplies. Experimental studies have shown that low glutathione levels lead to poor liver and kidney function, and result in unnecessarily large quantities of toxins circulating through the body. There, they continuously damage individual cells and organs. The list of toxins eliminated include cigarette smoke, automobile exhaust and heavy metals. Physicians regularly use drugs to elevate glutathione levels in critical illnesses like acetaminophen overdose and fulminant hepatic failure.
Every day our bodies are exposed to factors that drain our levels of glutathione: Stress, pollution, radiation, infection, drugs, poor diet, aging, injury and fatigue. These all contribute to glutathione depletion which, in turn, leads to cellular aging, disease and death. “Concern about maintaining one’s glutathione level will eventually be on par with other health maintenance issues. People will soon be raising their glutathione levels the same way they take their vitamin pills each morning,” says Dr. Bounous.
It is vital to clarify one particular aspect of the glutathione story. When people find out about GSH, they want to go to their health store, buy some and ‘take’ it. Although it can be found as a supplement, eating glutathione has negligible effects on your health. It is quickly broken down in your digestive tract and eliminated. GSH must be manufactured within your cells, which is exactly where it appears—in every cell of your body. The only way to accomplish this effectively is to give your body the building blocks (precursors) it needs to manufacture glutathione for itself.
Some pharmaceutical drugs such as NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) have been developed to provide these precursors but there are also natural ways to raise glutathione levels. Vitamin C, E and selenium indirectly support glutathione function. Milk thistle (silymarin), alpha-lipoic acid and L‑cysteine may have moderate effects. The most effective natural way to raise glutathione as borne out by medical research, is by feeding the individual specific cysteine and cystine-rich proteins as found in undenatured whey protein isolates.
This type of natural approach to addressing health concerns is a welcome complement to traditional medicine, which has historically marginalized nutritional therapy. The key in bridging this gap between western medicine and natural medicine lies in appropriately studying supplements with solid research.
The Science of Glutathione
Glutathione is a small molecule found in almost every cell. It cannot enter most cells directly and therefore must be made inside the cell, from its three constituent amino acids: glycine, glutamate and cysteine. The rate at which glutathione can be made depends on the availability of cysteine, which is relatively scarce in foodstuffs. Furthermore, the cysteine molecule has a sulfur-containing portion which gives the whole glutathione molecule its ‘biochemical activity’, i.e. its ability to carry out the following vitally important functions: Firstly, glutathione is the major antioxidant produced by the cell, protecting it from ‘free radicals’ (‘oxygen radicals’, ‘oxyradicals’). These highly reactive substances, if left unchecked, will damage or destroy key cell components (e.g. membranes, DNA) in microseconds. Oxyradicals are generated in the many thousand mitochondria located inside each cell, where nutrients like glucose are burnt using oxygen to make energy. (Mitochondria can be thought of as the batteries that provide the power for the cells to operate). Oxyradicals also come from pollutants, from UV radiation and other sources. In addition, glutathione recycles other well-known antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin E, keeping them in their active state. Secondly, glutathione is a very important detoxifying agent, enabling the body to get rid of undesirable toxins and pollutants. It forms a soluble compound with the toxin that can then be excreted through the urine or the gut. The liver and kidneys contain high levels of glutathione as they have the greatest exposure to toxins. The lungs are also rich in glutathione partly for the same reason. Many cancer-producing chemicals, heavy metals, drug metabolites etc. are disposed of in this way. Thirdly, glutathione plays a crucial role in maintaining a normal balance between oxidation and anti-oxidation. This, in turn, regulates many of the cell’s vital functions, such as the synthesis and repair of DNA, the synthesis of proteins and the activation and regulation of enzymes. Fourthly, glutathione is required in many of the intricate steps needed to carry out an immune response. For example, it is needed for the lymphocytes to multiply in order to develop a strong immune response, and for ‘killer’ lymphocytes to be able to kill undesirable cells such as cancer cells or virally infected cells. The importance of glutathione cannot be overstated. It has multiple roles as indicated and, indeed, as one examines each system or organ more closely, the necessity for glutathione becomes increasingly evident. Glutathione values decline with age and higher values in older people are seen to correlate with better health, underscoring the importance of this remarkable substance for maintaining a healthy, well-functioning body.
Lomaestro B., Malone M. Glutathione in health and disease: Pharmacotherapeutic Issues Ann Pharmacother 29: 1263-73,1995
Glutathione – A Natural Product to Discover
A recent press release by CBS highlighted the need for a "universal or all-purpose drug" able to combat any germ or toxic chemical released by hostile forces. In general, the idea would be to bolster the defenses we already possess, in particular the immune system, to fight against infections and cancer. CBS made brief mention of two substances, cysteine and glutathione, that deserve much greater attention.
Glutathione is a key substance found in every cell in our body, and may be thought of as a "naturally occurring universal drug" – and one without adverse side effects! It is the cell’s most important antioxidant, neutralizing "free radicals" that would otherwise damage or destroy the cells. The body produces free radicals during metabolism. Under any form of stress, such as chemical toxicity or bacterial infections, the body generates many more free radicals. If glutathione is in short supply, these free radicals can overwhelm the cell. Exposure to radiation from sunlight or other sources also results in increasing highly reactive free radicals that likewise our bodies need to neutralize.
Glutathione is also the main detoxifying agent in the body. It converts damaging chemical substances (toxins) into harmless products that the body eliminates. Such chemicals include cancer-producing substances, heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, smoke and other pollutants. Thus, glutathione provides important protection against many environmental hazards. The liver is particularly rich in glutathione for this purpose. The immune system is our main defense against infection. Once again, glutathione plays a vital role, enabling the immune system to function optimally, which it cannot do when glutathione is deficient. For example, the cells of the immune system (lymphocytes) cannot multiply as much, cannot produce as many antibodies, and cannot kill unwanted cells like cancer cells or those infected with a virus. Glutathione deficiency also adversely affects other systems and organs such as the lungs, the nervous system, and the intestinal tract. It is on record that there are many medical disorders associated with glutathione deficiency. These include AIDS and cancer wasting, some intestinal disorders, lung diseases, over-trained athletes syndrome and trauma. Furthermore, as we age, glutathione levels decrease which no doubt explains, in part, an older person’s lowered resistance to disease.
Glutathione is a very small protein made inside the cells from three amino acids obtained ultimately from our food or supplementation. One of these amino acids, cysteine, gives the glutathione its antioxidant and detoxifying properties. This amino acid is relatively rare in foodstuffs and this can lead to glutathione deficiency, even in healthy people. For example, one study demonstrated that, by feeding a cysteine enriched food product, namely Immunocal, glutathione values increased by 35.5% in the lymphocytes of normal young adults. (see reference below) It is well documented that glutathione sold as a dietary supplement is mostly destroyed during digestion and therefore is of little use. Cysteine itself is toxic and suffers the same fate unless chemically modified. Practitioners use N-acetyl cysteine as a supplement, but it has certain unpleasant side effects, even in moderate doses. Thus, the best source for cysteine supplementation is from cysteine-rich foodstuffs. It is normally present in food as the stable form, cystine (2 molecules of cysteine linked together). Our bodies digest, absorb, and carry cystine to the cells where they convert it into cysteine. Since heat or mechanical stress etc., easily split cystine into cysteine (where digestion destroys it), raw unprocessed foods or special food supplements high in bioactive cysteine (cystine) provide the best source of this vital amino acid. Sixty years ago, Florey and Fleming revolutionized the medical treatment of infection with the discovery of antibiotics that act against a broad range of bacteria. Glutathione, a "natural drug", perhaps in the same way could provide a significant contribution towards defending ourselves against the growing number of diverse biological and chemical hazards facing our society today.
Lands L.C., Grey V.L., Smountas A.A. Effect of supplementation with a cysteine donor on muscular performance. J Appl Physiol 87:1381-5, 199
How does Immunocal Platinum differ from Immunocal?
Immunocal has been Immunotec’s flagship product for years. Immunocal is a natural source of the glutathione precursor cysteine for the maintenance of a strong immune system. What is it about the “Platinum” formulation that differentiates it from Immunocal?
The major mechanism by which Immunocal works by is by providing glutathione precursors. In the development of Immunocal Platinum, we have looked very carefully both at the biochemistry of protein metabolism and at potential components of whey sub-fractions that relate to aging. Two separate formulations have been added to Immunocal in the development of Immunocal Platinum - CMP™* and RMF.
CMP (Cytokine Modulating Peptides)
These are also whey protein subfractions. These peptides are derived from whey by proprietary isolation technology. They have been shown in in-house studies to down-regulate certain cytokines. CMP also acts by raising TGF-beta2 and by providing even more Lactoferrin.
*CMP is a trademark of Glanbia LLC.
RMF (Redox Modulating Formula)
The challenge of neutralizing the potential increase in acid production in individuals ingesting high amounts of protein has been successfully resolved with RMF. A combination of citrate salts are included to buffer organic acids such as sulfuric and lactic acid. As a result of improving the acid-base balance, calcium loss is also lowered.
WHO BENEFITS MOST FROM IMMUNOCAL PLATINUM?
Initially developed with the geriatric population in mind, it became clear that there were benefits for athletic individuals and individuals that want the benefits from a natural source of GSH cysteine precursor for the maintenance of a strong immune system and helps to maintain proper muscle function and bone health by reducing calcium loss.