If you know or suspect you're at risk of cardiovascular disease, particularly because you have high blood pressure, there is great news about a supplement that could help you lower that risk. Heart disease risk is often linked to elevated levels of an amino acid called homocysteine. Therefore, lowering homocysteine levels can help lower cardiovascular disease risk. But in the past, researchers haven't been sure of the best way to do this.
Because B vitamins are involved in the process of metabolizing homocysteines, researchers initially thought that B-vitamin supplementation could help. Unfortunately, clinical trials didn't support this idea. The vitamins didn't seem to have any effects on people with elevated risk of or already experiencing cardiovascular disease. They just couldn't lower homocysteines enough.
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So researcher Wulf Hildebrant of the University of Marburg in Germany decided to go in a different direction. He knew that there was a link between N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and homocysteines, so he decided to test whether this link could also lead to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Professor Hildebrant analyzed two studies, one that studied 40 middle-aged men with high blood lipids and one with 42 middle-aged men with normal blood lipid levels.
On average, taking an NAC supplement decreased homocysteine levels by an average of 11.7% across both groups, while the placebo groups showed an average decrease of just 4.1%. Even better, beneficial cysteine levels went up by 28.1% in the NAC groups, compared to 4% in the placebo groups. Plus, blood pressure went down for everyone, with the group who had high blood lipids experiencing the biggest drop in diastolic blood pressure.
While these studies were conducted with men, scientists believe the benefit is likely to extend to women as well. Plus, NAC has a number of other benefits, from improving lung function to reducing your risk of macular degeneration. It's a powerful antioxidant, and it can even help prevent liver toxicity. In the studies, the men took a daily dose of 1.8 grams.
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