This nutrient supports more than your liver
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an effective treatment for acetaminophen toxicity that can often head off severe liver or kidney damage results. It can neutralize toxins in the liver because of its ability to boost glutathione levels.
Glutathione, a tripeptide composed of three amino acids—glycine, glutamic acid, and cysteine—occurs naturally in the body and is extremely important to continued health and wellness, and has also shown anti-cancer properties. Research has shown that glutathione levels decline as we age, and there seems to be a corresponding decline in our health and longevity. It’s also possible in many instances that the drop in glutathione levels may be related to exposure to heavy metals like mercury, lead, and cadmium. These metals steal sulfur groups from enzymes, protein compounds and/or peptides such as glutathione S-transferase (GST), an enzyme dependent on glutathione that studies have shown provides protection against the spread of cancer cells.
If you have a known exposure to one of these heavy metals, it’s imperative that you restore your glutathione levels both through the diet and by supplementing with NAC. Taking 600 mg daily of NAC has been shown to increase blood plasma levels of glutathione by 38 percent.
Much of glutathione’s ability to improve your longevity and overall health comes from its role in detoxifying various chemicals, thereby preventing them from damaging your cellular DNA. In addition to the detoxifying and glutathione-boosting effects of NAC, eating sulfur-rich foods like those mentioned below can help replace the necessary sulfur your body needs to raise your glutathione levels. Here are a few of my favorite recommendations:
- The cruciferous family of vegetables is one of the richest food sources of glutathione. The most potent vegetable is Brussels sprouts. Others include cauliflower, broccoli (particularly the flowers, not the stem), cabbage, kale, bok choy, cress, mustard, horseradish, turnips, rutabagas, and kohlrabi.
- In addition to the cruciferous vegetables, both garlic (Allium sativum) and the ripe seeds of the common green bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) help make glutathione and its dependent enzymes more effective.
- In the Slovak Republic, researchers discovered in animal studies that eating red beets not only reduced cholesterol and triglyceride levels, but also decreased cholesterol deposits in the aorta and increased GST enzyme levels, making the animals less susceptible to chemically induced colon cancers.
- At the University of Illinois, researchers found that including the herb rosemary in the diet could increase GST enzyme activity. The strongest activity resulted when an extract of the herb was given by injection, but ingesting the herb extract orally (at concentrations of 0.25 to 1.0 percent of the diet by weight) showed a 3.5- to 4.5-fold increase in GST activity, which is very significant.
In addition to incidence of cancer, low glutathione levels have been linked to cardiovascular disease, cataracts, macular degeneration, age-related brain problems like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, and aging in general. We now know that a lack of glutathione in AIDS patients is responsible for the wide-scale free-radical damage that destroys immune cells and suppresses the immune system.
Another example of glutathione’s important role in health comes from a study performed by researchers at Louisiana State University who were working with mice genetically engineered to develop inflammatory bowel disease—the very same disease that affects over a million people in this country. Five weeks before the mice began to experience intestinal inflammation, the researchers noted a sharp drop in one particular antioxidant: glutathione. When the inflammation appeared, glutathione gut tissue levels had dropped 80 percent. To determine if there was any relationship, the scientists added NAC to the animals’ drinking water. As their tissue levels of glutathione increased, the inflammation subsided.
Get Your Glutathione
Any steps you take to increase your glutathione levels will be an extremely worthwhile investment. NAC is available from Jo Mar Laboratories.