May 2003 | Glutathione: Your Defense Against Disease

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By Dr. Matsen

Every time you eat, your digestive system makes toxins that could damage the more delicate areas of your body, such as your brain, nerves, joints, arteries, skin, lungs and DNA. Fortunately, you have a liver that’s designed to filter out and neutralize toxins to protect these susceptible parts.

Cancer research on the nature of liver detoxification showed, ironically, that the liver itself is a major producer of cancer-causing substances called carcinogens. It was found that liver detoxification takes place through two sets of enzymes—the Phase I and the Phase II enzymes. The Phase I enzymes take relatively harmless fat-soluble chemicals and, by adding oxygen atoms to them, make them water-soluble so that they can be eliminated through the kidneys. However, the resulting products, called epoxides, can bind to and damage DNA bases. It had long been known that DNA damage could result in mutations to the DNA, which could turn that cell into a runaway cancer cell. From these findings it was determined that epoxides produced by the Phase I liver enzymes were significant causes of cancer.

In my second book, The Secrets to Great Health, I discussed in detail how the angle at which the oxygen is attached to the epoxide determines how readily the epoxide can bind to, and therefore damage, the DNA. However, in retrospect, this idea of epoxides being significant causes of cancer is overrated. There are DNA repair crews that can quickly fix thousands of damaged DNA bases per cell per day. There is also a gene called p53 that acts as a ‘supervisor’—it won’t allow your DNA to make a copy of itself until all DNA bases have been repaired. Therefore, as long as p53 is on the job preventing the formation of any mutations, the role of epoxides in damaging DNA isn’t important.

This makes p53 your primary defense against cancer formation. However, p53 can get knocked out of shape—and therefore be less effective—by exposure to peroxides. Where do peroxides come from? Oxygen molecules (O2) typically have two oxygen atoms. Your Phase I enzymes use one oxygen atom by sticking it onto a fat-soluble chemical to turn it into a water-soluble epoxide. The leftover oxygen atom becomes a deadly superoxide radical to which hydrogen is quickly added to create hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is less toxic than superoxide radicals, but it’s still capable of damaging membranes like those of p53. Glutathione peroxidase should quickly come to the rescue and chop the deadly peroxide into harmless water (Eating Alive II , page 410). This is the key step in saving p53 from being battered out of shape and, therefore, out of commission as protector of your DNA. Yet, even after a cancer is formed, it can be halted or even sent into remission if peroxides can be reduced enough to allow p53 to regain control over your DNA.

Things that increase the Phase I production of peroxides include tobacco, alcohol, coffee, refined carbohydrates, and intestinal yeast overgrowth, so elimination of these will reduce the peroxide stress on p53. However, to cure the “incurable” diseases, including cancer, increasing the activity of glutathione is critical.

Glutathione consists of three amino acids: glutamate, cysteine and glycine. Of these three, cysteine is by far the most critical because it carries sulfur, which is extremely important in detoxification. One of the best sources of cysteine is whey powder processed at low temperature. Immunocal (known as HMS 90 in Canada) is a patented whey powder extract originating from research at McGill University in Montreal. These studies show clearly that increased glutathione activity resulted in decreased cancer activity and therefore, vice versa: decreased glutathione activity resulted in greater susceptibility to cancer. Genetic variations of glutathione enzymes, which half the population has to some degree, are implicated in cancer susceptibility.

A more ominous danger to the effectiveness of your glutathione enzymes at dealing with deadly peroxides is the presence of heavy metals, mercury in particular. Heavy metals are mined from sulfur ores and that affinity to bind with sulfur is retained in the body. European research has shown that within ten years of placing mercury filling in a tooth, half of the mercury had vapourized. Mercury doesn’t stay in the blood for very long, so it isn’t often detected with blood, urine or hair tests. However, Swedish autopsy studies found that mercury binds strongly to sulfur compounds such as glutathione, your key protector against peroxides and therefore your key defense against cancer and every other chronic, stubborn disease. This binding of mercury greatly reduces the ability of your crucial sulfur enzyme to neutralize deadly peroxides.

The full scope of the effects of mercury will become clearer in the near future; while mercury still continues to be widely used in North America, Sweden banned all mercury use in 1998 and has already reported a decline in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. An abrupt drop in childhood autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, cancer, etc might be expected in the near future.