A novel idea or marketing hype?
It is well established that glutathione taken orally does not increase glutathione inside our cells. The science on this subject is quite clear. To overcome this limitation, glutathione supplement suppliers have introduced novel delivery systems, such as liposomal, intranasal, sublingual or intravenous, to convince us that their way is best.
This blog focuses on liposomal glutathione and why it may not live up to expectations. Liposomal delivery of some poorly absorbed vitamins is a popular trend as it claims to increase their bioavailability. This may be true for some vitamins, but glutathione is in an entirely different category.
As a supplement, glutathione is well known for having very poor to almost no bioavailability when taken orally or intravenously. It is therefore not surprising to see supplement vendors offering liposomal glutathione as the new miracle way of delivering it. To be fair, their thinking has merit. After all, it has already been established that delivering glutathione to the inside of the cell is vitally important because glutathione performs all its important roles as our master antioxidant inside the cell, not outside. And since there is no naturally occurring molecular transport system for glutathione to move from our blood plasma to inside our cells, taking it orally, nasally or by injection has very little effect.
Before examining the reason why liposomal delivery of glutathione is just as ineffective as glutathione, it is necessary to understand what liposomal delivery actually is.
The word “Liposomes” simply refers to the small fatty spheres which are the building blocks of the cell membranes in our body. The theory behind liposomal delivery is, therefore, relatively straightforward. Glutathione is encapsulated in a small fatty material sphere called a liposome, similar in composition to the membranes surrounding our cells. When taken orally, these liposomes arrive at the intestinal wall and fuse with the membranes of the cells that line the intestine (see figure 1). The liposome then splits open and the glutathione inside is emptied into the cell.
Great, so we have been able to increase the cellular concentration of glutathione in some intestinal cells, but what about the rest of the body? Unfortunately, this is where the theory breaks down. The glutathione-filled liposomes we have ingested are now fused with the intestinal cell membranes, and this is where their journey ends. The extra glutathione we have delivered into the intestinal cells then diffuses out into the bloodstream. But, as we already know, glutathione in our blood plasma cannot enter cells anywhere in the body since there is always a net movement of glutathione out of cells, not into cells. The reason for this is simple: The concentration of glutathione inside all cells is about a thousand times higher than outside. So, just like a blown-up balloon can only ever release air, cells can only ever release glutathione, not the other way around.
With some vitamins, however, the story is a little different. Vitamin C, for example, has dedicated transporters inside cell membranes that allow it to enter cells even though the concentration is higher inside the cell than outside. Visualizing our balloon example again, these transporters act like a pump that allows us to push more air into the balloon. It is therefore quite conceivable that liposomal vitamin C does increase its bioavailability. Unfortunately, no such transporters exist for glutathione.
Of course, a valid question now arises. Why not bypass the intestinal cells and inject liposomal glutathione directly into the bloodstream? This way, our liposomal carriers would be available to all cells. This is not within the realm of current medical practices.
For one, the liposomal carrier theory is just that – a theory. There have been studies on the liposomal delivery of some highly specialized anti-cancer drugs, but this remains experimental even in this critical field. To be able to inject supplements such as glutathione in liposomal form would require decades of research and clinical studies to ensure efficacy and safety. And any such research would be very much at the end of a long queue of far more essential and life-preserving research such as anti-cancer or anti-viral therapy. The big difference here is that cancer research, for example, deals with “end of life” situations, and any such research can take on higher risks than when dealing with perfectly healthy subjects.
But is there a better solution? What if we had a supplement that could safely increase cellular glutathione without requiring liposomal delivery, injection, or any other fancy delivery methods concocted by supplement companies? Fortunately, we do!
The Glyteine® in Continual-G® does not suffer from any of the limitations described above. Taken orally, Glyteine® easily diffuses into the bloodstream through the small gaps between cells that line the intestinal wall called “tight junctions” (see figure 2).
Once in our blood plasma, Glyteine® easily enters cells because the concentration of Glyteine® inside our cells is much lower than outside the cell. Unlike with glutathione, our cells are not bloated with Glyteine®, making the journey from the blood to inside the cell possible. The reason for this is that any Glyteine® inside cells is immediately converted to glutathione.
Glyteine® is the proprietary name for γ-glutamylcysteine, the immediate and natural precursor to glutathione production inside our cells. A clinical study has proven that the consumption of Glyteine® rapidly increases cellular glutathione – even after a single dose! This is the Continual-G® advantage.