The strong antioxidant effect of glutathione helps keep cells running smoothly. Bounous and another glutathione expert, Jeremy Appleton, ND, say it also helps the liver remove chemicals that are foreign to the body, such as drugs and pollutants.
Appleton is chairman of the department of nutrition at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Ore., and senior science editor for Healthnotes, a database on complementary and alternative medicine available at newspaper stands and health food stores.
Evidence for the important role that glutathione plays in health comes from studies in people who are severely ill.
"If you look in a hospital situation at people who have cancer, AIDS, or other very serious disease, almost invariably they are depleted in glutathione," says Appleton. "The reasons for this are not completely understood, but we do know that glutathione is extremely important for maintaining intracellular health."