walang #gandagluta: the myths of glutathione (part 2)

During my short days working in a cafe, two 30-year-old women came in with a set of glutathione shots and went straight into injecting 5ml of the whitening miracle into each other’s bloodstream- without professional help. The one in yellow chattered away about wanting to be whiter than she already was despite her skin being much fairer than the rest of us there. The lady in blue nodded as she pierced the syringe through her friend’s skin.

From their small talk, I learned that none of them were licensed doctors.

An hour passed and I found myself shopping for supplies with the cafe’s 39-year-old cook. Right after shopping for coffee beans, she went straight to the pharmacy aisle and purchased two glutathione pills for less than P99. That’s P48.5 for one pill-cheaper than the standard over-the-counter cough syrup. With pills that cheap, it’s needless to say a doctor’s prescription wasn’t necessary.

But let’s change the scenario: let’s say they do want to take glutathione pills for the sake of their health rather than their skin. No harm in that. With all the vital health benefits of glutathione, there isn’t anything wrong with taking glutathione supplements, right?

Not so easy.

There are several nutrients existing in the body that need to be resupplied by food and sunshine; glutathione isn’t one of them.

It’s not a nutrient, it’s an antioxidant naturally produced by liver cells. It isn’t necessary to have a supplement for something that’s just naturally produced in the body. Nothing beats a healthy lifestyle with a regular diet and exercise.

One of the best ways to have a constant supply of glutathione is having a diet rich in sulfur. But if you really want a supplement, please consult a doctor.

Considering the lengthy processes needed to produce synthetic glutathione, treatments that use this substance is expensive and often very impractical. There’s already a supply in the body to begin with. Plus, there’s a cheaper alternative that mirrors glutathione’s effects: N-acetyl-cysteine (the by-product of glutathione).

Glutathione is composed of three amino acids, and two of them are easily digested by the intestines-something that doesn’t help with the intake. According to food supplement researchers Patel Kamal, Kurt Frank and Gregory Lopez, there is still no guarantee that glutathione pills would fulfill anyone’s expectations when they ingest it. So consult, consult, consult.

The injection is claimed to be far more effective, but improper procedure and an overdose are very dangerous. Each human body operates differently from the other. Despite the studies that have linked glutathione with several health benefits, there is no assurance that it would work for every case.

Legal Limits and Dangers

Moreover, glutathione is very potent; and because of this, having too much of it will destroy the liver. Then, in simpler terms, it will destroy the rest of you.

At most, the human body can only take up to one or two hundred milligrams of glutathione and shouldn’t exceed at that point- if taken orally. A similar case goes for glutathione taken through injections, but administering a shot by yourself or letting a friend do it is not advisable.

The legal limit for glutathione supplements varies from country to country and consulting a specialist is highly recommended.

Mislabeling of Glutathione Supplements

However, looking for supplements that meet legal limits is a difficult task- especially here in the Philippines. In 2007, renowned local journalist Jessica Soho discovered that there were supplement companies that deliberately mislabeled the amount of glutathione in their product. One was notorious for importing glutathione pills from Japan that was said to contain 500 mg of the antioxidant-an amount that exceeded Japan’s legal limit by 400 mg. However, a series of conducted tests found that the 500 mg was only a 10 mg. A kilo of the wet market’s meat supply has more glutathione than their small, expensive pill. A close call, but still dangerous.

Rival companies have sued each other back and forth regarding this issue, mainly because one denied the accusations of the other despite clinical testing as evidence.

Moreover, further undercover work through Soho’s story found that there were (and are) some pharmacies that sell glutathione pills, unlicensed, often without needing a doctor’s prescription at the request. Mislabeling supplements and selling them without due process is illegal in this country. Here are FDA’s contact details in case you’ve encountered a pharmacy and/or brand that do these heinous acts.

Conclusion

Glutathione is naturally produced by the body, so extra supplements aren’t necessary. But I don’t condone the use of glutathione at all; just seek professional help before doing so. This is a wonderful antioxidant of the body that does not deserve to be exploited for the potential it has.

Do I encourage the media’s portrayal of an antioxidant that poses so much benefit? No.

Do I support certain sectors of the market deliberately reducing the potential of this amazing molecule down to its side effects? No.

Do I support pharmacies that turn hard-earned research into over-the-counter pills without medical approval? No.

Do I support two women giving glutathione shots to each other without any professional help? No.

Am I fine with the cosmetic market feeding off of Filipino insecurity and the desire to be white? No.

If you really want to try glutathione, go ahead. But do so without the need to have fair skin.

Prioritize your health above your insecurities. There’s no such thing as #gandagluta, just #glutalove. Love what you have and educate yourself with extra knowledge that defies the strategies of the beauty-oriented market.

Read part 1 here.

References:

  1. [superwhiteningpills.net]. (2007, July 7). Glutathione as Skin Whitener- Jessica Soho Feature [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkfwZjLHKnQ
  2. Belrose, J. C., Xie, Y., Gierszewski, L. J., MacDonald, J. F., & Jackson, M. F. (2012). Loss of glutathione homeostasis associated with neuronal senescence facilitates TRPM2 channel activation in cultured hippocampal pyramidal neurons.Molecular Brain, 5, 11. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1756-6606-5-11
  3. Chen, Y. (2007).Relationship of glutathione deficiency to oxidative stress-related disease and aging (Order No. 3263047). Available from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses A&I; ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. (304885583). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/304885583?accountid=28547
  4. Cooper, A. J. & Kristal, B.S. (1997, August). Multiple Roles of Glutathione in the Central Nervous System. Biological Chemistry. 378(8):793-802. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9377474
  5. Food and Drug Administration Philippines. [http://www.fda.gov.ph]
  6. Golden Orion Hawks International Alliance. (2015, July 28). The Truth about GLUTATHIONE [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ADid8ZuisI
  7. Grosvenor, T. Glutathione Is Produced Naturally In Every Cell Of The Body. Retrieved from http://www.whatisglutathione.org/
  8. Hyman, M. (2011, November 17). Glutathione: The Mother of All Antioxidants. Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/glutathione-the-mother-of_b_530494.html
  9. Klein, R. & Klein, O. Glutathione Side Effects. Immune Health Science. Retrieved from http://www.immunehealthscience.com/glutathione-side-effects.html
  10. Lardizabal-Dado, N. [New Media Publisher]. (2008, July 19). Jessica Soho features Glutathione [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfkIojCsXi0
  11. Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., & Chandra, N. (2010). Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health.Pharmacognosy Reviews, 4(8), 118-126. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.4103/0973-7847.70902
  12. Lopez G., Frank, K. & Kamal, P. [eds.] (2014, December 2). Glutathione. Examine.com. Retrieved from https://examine.com/supplements/glutathione/
  13. Max International. [almageccom]. (2010, April 12). Why Is Glutathione Critical To Health And Even Life? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ln6WCLCw2k
  14. Morris, G., Anderson, G., Dean, O., Berk, M., Galecki, P., Martin-subero, M., & Maes, M. (2014). The glutathione system: A new drug target in neuroimmune disorders. Molecular Neurobiology,50(3), 1059-84. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12035-014-8705-x
  15. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-717-glutathione.aspx?activeingredientid=717
  16. Rutherford, M. [Martin Rutherford]. (2014, June 4). Benefits Of Glutathione And The Problem With Most Glutathione Supplements [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UlJxRLZM4M
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One thought on “walang #gandagluta: the myths of glutathione (part 2)

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