By Miles Sarill
Supplements Buyer and M.S. Candidate - Experimental Medicine
In the last thirty years, the market for probiotics has evolved and grown greatly. No longer is the sole capsule of Lactobacillus acidophilus the only option; rather, the aisles are populated with a multitude of products each touting “more than 10 bacterial strains” with anywhere between 5 and 150 billion cells per capsule. This boom in the probiotic market is partially fueled by both consumer interest as well as novel research into the microbiome.
It is increasingly understood that our microbiome, our individual collection of bacterial strains, plays a tremendous role in our health at many levels. Although probiotic supplements are often marketed toward balancing good digestive health, novel research indicates a role for a strong gut flora in maintaining healthy immune, skin, lung, and brain health. There are thousands of scientific articles on the effects of probiotic supplementation; although many of these publications center on animal studies, there are an increasing number of human clinical trials.
One such research project involving humans took place at the University of Tartu in Estonia. Dr. Marika Mikelsaar was working to solve the question as to why Estonian children had more resilient immune systems compared to children from Sweden. What they had found was that Estonians grew up with a specific probiotic bacterial strain, Lactobacillus Fermentum ME-3, which the Swedes lacked. Following the isolation and identification of this strain, scientists in Tartu further characterized the biochemical activities of ME-3. What they found was that ME-3 could produce glutathione, the master regulator of antioxidant response.
Glutathione: The Master Antioxidant
Glutathione (GSH) is a tripeptide formed from the amino acids L-glutamic acid, L-cysteine and glycine. GSH is involved in many biochemical processes throughout the body. Through its antioxidant activity, GSH cooperates in transforming dangerous free radicals into water or for detoxifying environmental contaminants in the liver. GSH levels are found to be lower in states of chronic disease and in aging. Although the effects of imbalances between antioxidants and free radicals are still being researched, there is much scientific evidence to suggest that increased concentration of GSH leads to healthier cell division, liver metabolism, heart health and overall vitality.
Free radicals and reactive oxygen species are small molecules with unpaired electrons. Electrons left unpaired become unstable, and can use up electrons from DNA, proteins or molecules within our mitochondria or cell’s plasma membrane. A strong antioxidant system has been shown in research to protect our cells from free radicals and oxidative stress. It is hypothesized that lower antioxidant defenses in aging lead to increased free radical damage. Can boosting glutathione protect our cells?
Supplementing with Glutathione: Does it work?
Unsurprisingly, I’ve heard nutritionists say “glutathione precursors are worth their weight in gold.” The reason for this is that GSH itself is not well absorbed when taken in a capsule. This is partially due to the fact that much of the GSH one takes in a capsule becomes oxidized glutathione (GSSG), therefore requiring our bodies’ cells to recycle GSSG back into reduced, active, GSH.
The ways in which boosted GSH levels can be achieved through supplementation often include fueling our cells with the precursors of GSH. One such supplement precursor is N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), which boosts GSH levels. NAC is also considered a free radical scavenger.
Supplements containing selenium, especially selenomethionine, are useful as Selenium becomes incorporated into enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase, which uses glutathione to detoxify the reactive oxygen molecule H2O2 into water. Similarly, vitamin B2 is necessary for the conversion of oxidized glutathione back into active, reduced, glutathione. Hence, both selenium and B2 may be an important part of maintaining good antioxidant balance and wellness during the cold season.
Some extracts from plants, such as milk thistle, or green tea, contain antioxidant polyphenols which instruct our cells to produce more glutathione. This effect is mediated through the transcription factor, Nrf2. When Nrf2 is activated, it transcribes for a battery of genes that mediate Phase II detox and antioxidant activity.
Well, what about the RegActiv probiotics? As previously stated, a strong connection between intestinal health and immune health has been established by nutritional research, with probiotics underlying support to this link. Lactobacillus Fermentum ME-3 is a strain that produces glutathione, as well as recycles inactive, oxidized GSSG. Even though ME-3 would reside in the intestines, scientific research indicates that ME-3 raises the blood markers of antioxidant activity.
RegActiv probiotics are also designed to affect three different areas of wellness in the body where antioxidant defense is needed: immune, heart and liver health. In the Immune and Vitality formula, ME-3 is paired with vitamin C and B vitamins for promoting healthy immune activity and function. In the RegActiv Cardio Wellness, the active form of CoQ10 – Ubiquinol – is used in conjunction with pantethine. Pantethine, a derivative of vitamin B5, may help balance healthy cholesterol levels. For those looking for love for their liver, RegActiv Detox & Liver Health provides ME-3 in conjunction with the glutathione precursor N-acetyl-cysteine and silymarin from milk thistle. Silymarin is an extract of compounds that induce Nrf2 activation, transcribing for enzymes that create more GSH.
Taken together, RegActiv probiotic supplements represent a different approach in antioxidant support. An increasing understanding of both the importance of probiotics in whole-body wellness and the role of glutathione in immune, heart and liver health by the scientific community has led to the discovery and development of Lactobacillus Fermentum ME-3 as a supplement for consumers.
1) Kullisaar T, Songisepp E, Aunapuu M, Kilk K, Arend A, Mikelsaar M, Rehema A, Zilmer M. Complete glutathione system in probiotic Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3. Prikl Biokhim Mikrobiol. 2010 Sep-Oct;46(5):527-31. PubMed PMID: 21058502.
2) Mikelsaar M, Zilmer M. Lactobacillus fermentum ME-3 - an antimicrobial and antioxidative probiotic. Microb Ecol Health Dis. 2009 Apr;21(1):1-27. Epub 2009 Mar 16. PubMed PMID: 19381356; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2670518.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The information presented here is not meant to replace professional advice, diagnosis, or care from a licensed healthcare practitioner.
The author declares no conflicts of interest.