By Andrea Bartels CNP NNCP RNT
11 Feb 2022
While appropriate diet, regular exercise and stress management help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease, our genes and environment interplay in a way that doesn’t always work out in our favour. That’s why you may want to consider supplementation of a few key circulatory system nutrients.
Let’s examine the ways the nutrient N-Acetyl-Cysteine (NAC) supports cardiovascular system.
NAC: a Powerful Antioxidant
The body uses NAC to replenish its supply of glutathione—an antioxidant created by the body to protect from the cellular damage caused by free radicals. Although this type of damage occurs at low levels in all of us just by breathing, moving and eating, severe free radical damage is most associated with smoking, chronic inhalation of second-hand smoke, heavy metal exposures like lead, air pollution, radiation and high blood sugar (diabetes).
While we may not feel the effects of free radical damage, we can see changes in appearance and function of our body parts as a result of the aging process. For example, vision decline due to cataracts, loss of skin elasticity and greying hair are some of the more obvious signs of cumulative free radical damage. Yet some of the effects of free radical damage cannot be seen by looking in the mirror. For example, the cardiovascular disease process involves oxidation of LDL cholesterol--- a process of free radicals generation in the absence of adequate antioxidants. As a result of this deficit, combined with various other stressors, the walls of our blood vessels can become damaged or narrowed, reducing the flow of blood and increasing the pressure on the arteries, leading to hypertension.
Because aging reduces our ability to neutralize free radicals supplementary antioxidants such as NAC could provide extra radical-squelching power. However, it’s important to realize that no antioxidant works alone; they work better together. That’s why it’s critical to ensure adequate intake of vitamins C, E, selenium and various carotenoids (found in yellow, orange, red and green fruits and vegetables), too.
NAC and Mitochondrial Dysfunction
NAC is also important to heart health because it protects our energy-producing factories within each cell, called mitochondria. Our heart, brain and liver consume a lot of energy, so they contain more mitochondria than other body tissues. Without NAC, these mitochondria can become dysfunctional, which sets the foundation for many chronic diseases of these organs when not supplied with the nutrients they need to work optimally. One interesting study showed that a combination of vitamin C, NAC and the mineral selenium improved mitochondrial function in the disease called cardiac hypertrophy (enlargement of the heart). While this study used rats rather than humans, it’s important to consider the potential benefits for people diagnosed with this same pathology.
NAC, Hypertension and High Homocysteine
Have you ever wondered how the B complex vitamins are especially important during periods of stress? One of the reasons is that the B vitamins riboflavin (B-2), pyridoxine (B-6), folate (B-9) and cobalamin (B-12) are vital for keeping levels of a substance called homocysteine down. Having chronically high blood levels of this substance and high blood pressure are both separate risk factors for sudden coronary events. But what if we could lower both hypertension and homocysteine at the same time? A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that involved un-medicated smoking and non-smoking men showed that taking 1800 milligrams of NAC daily for 4 weeks showed the potential for just that. While half of the subjects had high blood lipids before starting the trial, results of supplementation showed significantly decreased blood homocysteine levels and lowered systolic blood pressure in both groups: the men with high blood lipids and those with normal lipid levels. What’s more is that the NAC supplementation lowered diastolic pressure in only those who needed the reduction (those with high blood lipids), regardless of whether or not they were smokers.
NAC and Nitric Oxide
Nitric oxide’s mechanism of action is its vasodilating effect, which is generally viewed as a benefit to the circulatory system function. This is why you may have heard of nitric oxide before in relation to male sexual health support. It supports circulation by dilating blood vessels to allow for the passage of more blood, and with it, more oxygen and nutrients. By increasing the production of nitric oxide, NAC improves circulation to and from the heart, a property which may reduce risk of heart attack. Simultaneously it relieves the pressure on the artery walls and the ensuing damage caused by hypertension.
NAC and Platelet Aggregation
“Platelet aggregation” refers to the natural ability of blood platelets to stick together when it is necessary for blood coagulation to prevent excessive blood loss. However, certain lifestyle choices and medical conditions can cause blood to coagulate more often, to the detriment of the individual. Specifically, when platelets are too sticky, then this can potentially trigger a blockage in the circulatory system, and the resulting blood clot can lead to stroke, thrombosis of the leg, or heart attack. Fortunately, NAC appears to have an anti-aggregating effect on the platelets. In a small study of healthy men published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation, the blood collected from the volunteers after they were given supplementary NAC demonstrated a direct anti-aggregating effect on their platelets. The mechanism was identified to be the increased bio-availability of nitric oxide in the platelets of their blood.
We see the phenomenon of platelet aggregation frequently, but not exclusively, in diabetic patients. For this reason, the value of NAC should not be overlooked in protecting diabetics from complications involving glycation-related oxidative stress on the eyes, nerves and heart, no matter whether it’s vision loss, neuropathy or atherosclerosis the patient is hoping to delay or avoid.
Make NAC Part of Your Synergistic Supplement Regime
It’s clear that NAC supports cardiovascular health in a myriad of ways. For this reason, Pure Lab Vitamins NAC supplies 600 milligrams of NAC per capsule. It’s designed to be compatible and synergistic with an array of other Pure Lab products, including Vitamin C 1000 milligram capsules (available in regular and slow-release formats), Selenomethionine, NADH + Ubiquinol and NADH (Slow-Release) and Vitamin K2-MK7.
Consider these accessory nutrients when looking to optimize your cardiovascular system.
Your heart will thank you!
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Goodson, Amy, “Top 9 Benefits of NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine)”. Healthline, Sept. 26 2018. Accessed on February 3, 2022.
Hildebrandt W, Sauer R, Bonaterra G, Dugi KA, Edler L, Kinscherf R. Oral N-acetylcysteine reduces plasma homocysteine concentrations regardless of lipid or smoking status. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(5):1014-1024. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.101964
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Mushtaq I, Bashir Z, Sarwar M, et al. N-Acetyl Cysteine, Selenium, and Ascorbic Acid Rescue Diabetic Cardiac Hypertrophy via Mitochondrial-Associated Redox Regulators. Molecules. 2021;26(23):7285. Published 2021 Nov 30.
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