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April 18, 2008

If Your Protein Supplement Doesn’t Boost Glutathione, You’re Just Wasting Your Money

MoneyMost of us who hear old stories of slick-talking hucksters and snake oil salesmen like to think of ourselves as more intelligent, more educated, and more savvy consumers than those in generations past who were duped into buying such fraudulent remedies for their ills. But while the days of circus-sideshow nostrum-selling may be gone, still, the nutritional supplement industry has never been burdened by more pseudo-scientific nonsense in product promotion and advertising than it is today.

We can see this phenomenon clearly in the realm of protein supplements. Any person looking to buy a quality protein supplement today is very likely to be led astray, either by purposefully misleading advertising, or by seeking the council of well-meaning people who have fallen for this advertising themselves. We often hear about the virtues of proteins which digest “fast,” or of proteins which digest “slow,” or of achieving the best of all possible words by consuming “precision-engineered” protein blends. But such talk is little more than complete nonsense designed simply to divert your attention away from that which is truly important. The fact is, that the ability of a protein supplement to support muscle building, fat loss, exercise recovery, endurance, tissue repair, and immunity is almost completely dependent upon its ability to increase the production of a cellular antioxidant called glutathione (and of course, even with the best protein supplement, the vast majority of a person's protein intake should still come from good, old-fashioned real food).

Certain protein supplements increase glutathione wonderfully, but, most do not; and if you choose your protein supplement by following the heard mentality of the fitness crowd, chances are you’re missing out on glutathione’s benefits big-time.

Where Does Protein Come From?

But before we begin to discuss glutathione's many health-enhancing effects, the first thing the protein supplement consumer should realize is that the vast majority of protein “supplements” are salvaged from “waste material” of the food industry. Soy protein comes from soy meal which is left over after soy oil is pressed from the bean. The milk proteins, casein and caseinate, come from skim milk, which is itself a byproduct of the production of high-fat dairy products like butter, cream, and ice cream – skim milk is simply what’s left over after the milk fat is used to produce these other foods.

As a related side note, most people naively believe that skim milk was created in response to consumer demand for low-fat foods. But in reality, the dairy companies find it very profitable to use milk fat in foods besides milk (foods like butter, cream, and ice cream). Then, they turn around and sell you skim milk for the same price as full-fat whole milk - if you thought skim milk was created specifically to help us with our “low-fat diets,” think again – it was created (and promoted) for the same reason many protein supplements are - so food companies could make a buck off of their waste material.

And of course, along the lines of dairy byproducts, whey protein, the other protein found in milk comes from the watery substance which precipitates out as cheese is made. It just so happens that the proteins found in whey (if they are not altered or broken in processing, as is so often the case) can have some remarkably unique effects on our health – including boosting our glutathione levels significantly. But as we’ve pointed out elsewhere, when you know that your whey protein powder may be the same food byproduct which is used to produce pet foods and animal feeds, you may want to take a closer look and make sure you’re really getting the “nutritious” substance which is being advertised.

Cows Give Real Milk – Not Powder

Though the food industry often likes to ignore the issue, industrial processing (like turning foods into powders) often changes the nutritional quality of foods significantly. This is especially true with proteins and is very much true with protein powders in particular. When a protein structure is altered from its natural state, it is said to be denatured. Of course, sometimes, protein denaturation doesn’t significantly affect the protein quality (your body is going to break most of the proteins down during digestion, anyway). But whey proteins are much different. Many of the proteins in whey need to be in their native form (i.e. undenatured) in order to exert their glutathione-boosting effects.

For example, the peptide in whey called glutamylcysteine needs to be intact to boost our glutathione levels significantly. And FYI – intact glutamylcysteine is very fragile, and is very hard to come by in most foods – this is why drinking commercial (pasteurized) milk, in which whey proteins are denatured, has no significant effect on glutathione production. This is also why it’s so important the choose a whey protein supplement with the highest levels of undenatured proteins possible.

We’ve talked at length about the problems inherent in whey protein concentrate, a type of whey protein commonly found in protein supplements. Of course, not only does whey protein contain relatively high levels of lactose, and cholesterol, but its level of denatured proteins may be particularly high as well.

And even certain types of whey isolates, called ion exchange whey isolates, often contain unknown levels of denatured proteins because of the harsh alkaline chemicals used in their production. With the prices of whey skyrocketing as of late, and with the virtues of whey isolate becoming more widely known, many companies have taken to using ion exchange whey isolate – the cheaper of the two relative to a filtered whey isolate – in their products. As with so many other tricks these companies pull, they’re hoping you won’t notice.

That’s why you’ll always want to make sure the protein supplement you buy tells you what level of undenatured, active protein is present in the product (of course, most don’t).

Only CFM® whey isolate is produced by a microfiltration (not chemical) process using the highest-quality ceramic filters available; and CFM® whey isolate is documented to contain the highest levels of active, undenatured protein available – over 99%.

Now, knowing that we have a major glutathione-boosting weapon in our nutritional arsenal in the form of CFM® Whey Isolate, it makes sense to look at some of the remarkably protective and anti-aging effects of this powerful antioxidant.

Glutathione – The Master Antioxidant

Even in scientific circles, where needless exaggeration is frowned upon, the tripeptide molecule, glutathione, is often simply called “The Master Antioxidant.” Produced in our body from the amino acids cysteine, glutamic acid, and glycine; glutathione represents our bodies’ greatest defense against the unrelenting onslaught of harmful free radical damage.

Glutathione has been shown to:

Detoxify, and aid in the removal of carcinogens, heavy metals, pesticides, and pharmaceuticals from the body.

Stabilize and protect the energy-producing mitochondria

Protect the DNA

Support proper cell growth

Enhance Immune Function

Support the growth and maintenance of lean tissue (i.e. muscle)

It’s not surprising then, that several studies have shown glutathione to be perhaps the most important anti-aging substance in the body.

Study Link - High blood glutathione levels accompany excellent physical and mental health in women ages 60 to 103 years

Quote from the above study:

These findings confirm that high blood [glutathione] concentrations and excellent physical and mental health are characteristics of long-lived women.

Study Link - Glutathione and morbidity in a community-based sample of elderly

Quote from the above study:

To our knowledge, this is the first evidence of an association of higher glutathione levels with higher levels of physical health in a sample of community-based elderly.

Both of these above studies noted the same phenomenon in the people studied - the higher their glutathione levels, the healthier they were, and the longer they lived. It sounds, then, like boosting our glutathione levels might just be a pretty good idea in the long-run, wouldn’t you say?

And, even those of us who have many years to go before we reach a “ripe-old-age,” may be interested to know that levels of glutathione and its precursors have been directly related to simultaneous decreases in body fat and increases in lean muscle tissue – certainly an enticing attribute for people of all ages.

Study Link - Effect of supplementation with a cysteine donor on muscular performance

The above study also showed greatly increased exercise endurance and strength in people supplementing with a glutathione-boosting undenatured whey isolate.

Quote from the above study:

. . . supplemented subjects were able to generate more power to perform more work during a 30-s maximal effort. y-Glutamyl amino acids [glutamylcysteine] can be transported into cells. In the case of glutamylcystine, this can effectively increase cellular GSH [glutathione] concentrations

Glutathione – The Real Benefit of Quality Protein Supplements

So, spread the word - enhanced glutathione production is one of the very few physiologically valid reason to consume a protein supplement in the first place – all other touted benefits of protein supplements can usually be achieved better, safer, and cheaper through real food protein. Of course, undenatured whey protein isolate, like that found in Integrated Supplements CFM® Whey Protein Isolate has been found to significantly increase glutathione levels – something the producers of soy, casein, and countless other protein supplements simply cannot claim for their products.

We’ll have more soon - stay tuned.

Related Articles:

Studies Find Antioxidants Harmful. Well, Sort Of.

Select Studies on Whey Protein - Whey Protein Protects Against The Toxic Effects Of Iron

Oxidative Stress And Exercise - Too Much of a "Good Thing"

Select Studies on Whey Protein - Whey Protein, Blood Sugar, and Oxidative Stress

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