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Arsenic shown to inhibit thiol compounds, including 'master antioxidant' glutathione

Wednesday, March 05, 2014 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: arsenic, thiol compounds, glutathione

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(NaturalNews) Chronic exposure to the hazardous chemical arsenic, which is commonly found in rice, fruit juices, and even some municipal water supplies, could be severely oxidizing your blood while creating disease-causing inflammation. Based on the findings of numerous scientific studies looking at the adverse effects of arsenic, it is clear that this damaging compound obstructs the necessary activity of antioxidants in the body, including the so-called "master antioxidant" glutathione.

A recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that exposure to arsenic (As) is directly responsible for depleting glutathione (GSH), the body's primary intracellular antioxidant, as well as inducing oxidative stress. Based on an assessment involving 378 participants, all of whom consumed varying levels of arsenic-laced water, the higher the exposure to As, the more damage sustained.

For the research, a joint team based out of both the U.S. and Bangladesh tested their hypothesis that As exposure can lead to decreases in both GSH and cysteine (Cys), a semi-essential amino acid. They also presumed at the study's onset that As exposure also leads to increases in both glutathione disulfide and cystine (CySS), which are more-oxidized versions of GSH and Cys.

Upon distributing varying concentrations of As dissolved in water to all the participants, the researchers noted that blood GSH levels dropped in direct proportion to the rise in As exposure. In other words, the more As a person is exposed to, the less GSH he or she will have circulating in the blood. A similar negative association was observed for CySS in blood plasma.

"In vitro and rodent studies have shown that arsenic (As) exposure can deplete glutathione (GSH) and induce oxidative stress," wrote the authors.

Two other studies, one published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine back in 2010, and the other published in the journal Toxicological Sciences back in 2008, came to similar conclusions. The latter unveils a little bit more about how As interacts with and affects GSH in the body, while the former evaluates how the As derivative arsenic trioxide influences cells.

Glutathione: The key to a healthy, disease-free life

The reason why this is such an issue is that glutathione is the body's master detoxifier. Everything, including your immune system, the proper function of your organs and the transfer and delivery of nutrients among cells, relies upon healthy levels of glutathione, which is becoming increasingly rare as a result of poor diet, stress and exposure to toxins like As.

"Glutathione is critical for one simple reason: It recycles antioxidants," writes Dr. Mark Hyman, M.D., for The Huffington Post. "You see, dealing with free radicals is like handing off a hot potato. They get passed around from vitamin C to vitamin E to lipoic acid and then finally to glutathione which cools off the free radicals and recycles other antioxidants. After this happens, the body can 'reduce' or regenerate another protective glutathione molecule and we are back in business."

On the other hand, a lack of glutathione, or chronic glutathione deficiency, leads to too much oxidative stress that, if left unmitigated, eventually leads to major health problems like Alzheimer's disease and cancer. For this reason, it is crucial to take protective dietary and lifestyle steps to avoid developing a glutathione deficiency. This includes avoiding major sources of As, which the Environmental Working Group provides some tips on here, as well as taking in more glutathione.

Dr. Hyman recommends consuming more sulfur-rich foods like cruciferous vegetables, as well as consuming bioactive whey protein and exercising. He provides other tips here: HuffingtonPost.com.

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