September 02, 2013

N-acetylcysteine (NAC), Homocysteine and Dementia

What is N-acetylcysteine (NAC)?

Although it’s been around for some time, N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is fairly new to the field of neuropsychiatry.

As well as increasing glutathione levels (See previous Blog), NAC also influences signal transmission between nerve cells.

NAC improves symptoms in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease ( 2001 Oct 23;57(8):1515-7).  It has also been used in other neuropsychiatric disorders including addiction, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

History of NAC:

Historically, NAC is used to treat paracetamol overdose.  It also breaks down mucus in lungs and is used in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

NAC restores levels of glutathione (GSH) - the body’s main antioxidant. Specialised ‘glial’ cells in the brain contain high levels of GSH.  They help support nerve cell GSH production.

Taken orally, GSH itself does not successfully restore GSH levels. This is because it is broken down in the gut.  It also fails to cross the blood–brain barrier. However, oral NAC does increase blood GSH levels.  It also penetrates into the brain and raises brain GSH levels.

NAC and Inflammation:

Inflammation in the brain is believed to contribute to dementia and other brain disorders.

In addition to its antioxidant role, NAC has anti-inflammatory properties.  These are believed to be another potential mechanism of its action in the brain.

NAC and Brain Signaling:

Changes in cysteine levels in the brain influence nerve-transmitter signals.  Cysteine assists in regulating glutamate signalling in the brain.  In addition, NAC influences dopamine, another important brain neurotransmitter.

NAC in Psychiatry:

NAC is increasingly used to treat a variety of psychiatric illnesses, including dementia. It also helps cells process vitamin B12, and lowers blood homocysteine levels.

NAC and Betrinac®:

Betrinac® is unique; it contains high doses of three B vitamins, AND 600mg of NAC to reduce oxidative stress and lower blood levels of homocysteine. These ingredients help maintain brain performance and memory as you get older.

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