The Amino Acid That Heals

When a patient is rushed to the hospital after an overdose of acetaminophen, the antidote is N-acetylcysteine (NAC). This uncommon amino acid has also been widely used in Europe to treat bronchitis and is credited with reducing both symptoms and progression of the condition.

NAC is an antioxidant and a precursor to the most abundant mini-protein antioxidant found in cells: glutathione, a protein critical to immune cell function. HIV patients, who typically display low glutathione concentration in cells, were given 8 grams per day, up to 32 weeks. Subjects responded with elevated blood and immune cell, or T cell, levels and glutathione concentrations compared to patients receiving placebo.

An equally intriguing result was found when 37 smokers with impaired blood flow to their extremities were given NAC doses of 600 mg per day for two weeks. When retested, blood flow in subjects' fingers was significantly improved, indicating NAC may help protect the lungs and blood vessels from the damage wrought by smoking. Additional studies are needed to confirm the long-term effects of NAC, and its safety in asthmatics.

Nutrition and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada, MS, has collaborated on more than 45 university-based studies, is co-founder of Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS) and founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition (www.imaginutrition.com).