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NAC: Combating Stress-Related Aging

Thursday, June 15, 2017


Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) recently reported that glutathione (the mother of all antioxidants) helps detoxify the unwanted biochemical effects of chronic stress—but its levels decline with age, and this can set the stage for a wide range of age-related health problems.

A new study, published in Redox Biology, featured N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), the compound used in high doses in medical detoxification emergencies. These researchers suggested that at lower levels, NAC can help maintain glutathione levels and prevent the routine metabolic declines associated with both stress-related aging and natural aging.

“We’ve known for some time of the importance of glutathione as a strong antioxidant,” said Tory Hagen, lead author on the research and the Helen P. Rumbel Professor for Health Aging Research in the Linus Pauling Institute at OSU.

“What this study pointed out was the way that cells from younger animals are far more resistant to stress than those from older animals,” said Hagen, also a professor of biochemistry in the OSU College of Science. “In young animal cells, stress doesn’t cause such a rapid loss of glutathione. The cells from older animals, on the other hand, were quickly depleted of glutathione and died twice as fast when subjected to stress. But pretreatment with NAC increased glutathione levels in the older cells and largely helped offset that level of cell death.”

According to Hagen, “The existence of glutathione appears to date back as far as oxygen-dependent, or aerobic, life itself—about 1.5 billion years. It’s a principal compound to detoxify environmental stresses, air pollutants, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and many other toxic insults.“

NAC is known to boost the metabolic function of glutathione and increase its rate of synthesis. It’s already used in emergency medicine to help patients in a toxic crisis, such as ingestion of poisonous levels of heavy metals. It’s believed to be a very safe compound to use even at extremely high levels, and the scientists are suggesting significant value at lower doses to maintain glutathione levels and improve health.

“I’m optimistic there could be a role for this compound in preventing the increased toxicity we face with aging, as our abilities to deal with stress and toxins decline,” Hagen said. “We might be able to improve the metabolic resilience that we’re naturally losing with age.”

“Also of interest is the wide range of apparent detoxification potential offered by glutathione. Higher levels of it—boosted by NAC, might help reduce the toxicity of some prescription drugs and help prevent other health issues," said Hagen.

The study researchers concluded that using NAC as a prophylactic, instead of an intervention, may allow glutathione levels to be maintained for detoxification in older adults.

This research was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the Medical Research Foundation of Oregon.

Ellen Troyer with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff




PEARL

Our current environment, amplified by 24-hour news outlets and social media, has created a collective cross-country level of stress, anxiety and toxic resentment rarely seen before. This level of stress, particularly for older people, can be extremely dangerous to our health. Our recommendation: believe in your ability to cope and to make a difference, spend time in nature, eat balanced nutrient-dense meals, take your walk in nature 30 minutes a day if possible, get adequate sleep and stay connected to family, friends and colleagues.  








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