NMU 289 – NAC Administration Improves Parkinson’s Disease: The importance of preventing the age-related decline in brain glutathione
Nutrition/Natural Medicine Update No 289 (May 23, 2023)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: NAC Administration Improves Parkinson’s Disease: The importance of preventing the age-related decline in brain glutathione
Source: J Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics (2019)
As outlined in the 2021 review paper in the International Journal of Molecular Science, entitled Glutathione in the Brain (Aoyama K), a decline in brain glutathione levels in the aging process has emerged as a significant factor in various neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and other conditions. Glutathione plays a very important role in protecting brain cells from free radicals, and it supports other important brain functions. Thus, the age-related decline in brain glutathione appears to leave brain cells vulnerable to the development of these serious neurodegenerative conditions. As such, researchers have looked at ways to raise blood and brain glutathione levels to prevent and/or improve the management of neurodegenerative conditions. In this regard, a 2019 study published in the journal Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics, showed improvement in symptoms of Parkinson’s disease when patients were administered a glutathione-raising natural supplement known as NAC (N-acetylcysteine).
In this study forty-two Parkinson’s disease patients were randomly assigned to the treatment group or the placebo group. The treatment group received intravenous infusions of NAC (50 mg/kg) weekly and took an oral supplement of NAC twice daily (500 mg, twice daily) for 3 months. The placebo group received standard Parkinson’s disease care only without the addition of NAC. Over the three-month period, the patients receiving the NAC treatment saw improvement in their overall Parkinson’s disease symptoms. In addition, brain imaging showed that the patients receiving NAC treatment to raise their glutathione levels also saw significant improvement in their dopamine transporter binding activity (DAT). What does this mean? As Parkinson’s disease progresses, the dopamine transporter, which pumps dopamine back into nerve cells typically becomes less and less active and effective, leading to a further depletion of dopamine in key regions of the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease. The administration of NAC actually improved dopamine transporter activity, helping nerve cells maintain more optimal dopamine levels. And in doing so, Parkinson’s symptoms improved. This study suggests that NAC treatment not only helps to increase brain levels of glutathione (helping to prevent nerve cell death from free radicals), but it also improves function of the dopamine transporter, helping to optimize brain cell levels of dopamine, and hence reduce tremors, and improve balance and coordination and other features of the disease.
For me, the take home message is to prevent the age-related decline in glutathione from happening in the first place. The age-related decline in glutathione is strongly tied to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, and other serious neurodegenerative conditions. Brain cells are particularly vulnerable to free radical damage simply because they use 20% of the body’s oxygen at any given moment, and oxygen free radicals (ROS -reactive oxygen species) are a known to damage brain cells and contribute to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS and other neurodegenerative conditions. Glutathione is the brain’s most important antioxidant, helping to quench free radicals before they can do extensive brain cell damage –it’s really that simple. As science continues to explore novel ways to fortify the aging brain with glutathione, we can take some logical steps right now, after the age of 40, according to current evidence. And that is to take a glutathione-raising supplement each day that contains:
- NAC – N-acetylcysteine
- Alpha-lipoic Acid
- Milk Thistle (standardized to at least 80% Silymarin Flavonoid Content)
These four natural agents have been shown to raise blood and tissue levels of glutathione and exert other independent disease-prevention effects. Maintaining your glutathione status after the age 40 is one more strategy to consider in your pursuit of healthy life expectancy and quality of life as you age.
I have included the references on glutathione and NAC in brain aging and the Parkinson’s disease study I referred to in this update.
Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next time.
Monti D et al. N-acetyl cysteine is associated with dopaminergic improvement in Parkinson’s disease. Clin Pharmacol Ther. 2019;106(4): 884-890 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31206613/
Aoyama K. Glutathione in the brain. Int J Mol Sci. 2021, 22(9): 5010 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8125908/
Iskusnykh I.Y. et al. Glutathione in brain disorders and aging. J Molecules. 2022, 27(1): 324
Ikeda K et al. Dopamine transporter imaging in Parkinson Disease: Progressive changes and therapeutic modification after anti-parkinsonian medication. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6630131/#:~:text=Clinical%20Role%20of%20Dopamine%20Transporter%20Imaging&text=DAT%20is%20the%20most%20important,release%20from%20the%20presynaptic%20terminal.
Dopamine Transporter (DAT)
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