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Nancy Schimelpfening

Can NAC Help Depression?

By October 9, 2013

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An amino acid called N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), appears to be helpful for depression, as well as several other psychiatric disorders, according to Professor Michael Berk, Chair in Pyschiatry at Deakin University in Geelong, Australia.

Among the disorders which he says can potentially be helped by this supplement are:  bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, drug addictions and depression.

According to Berk, disorders like bipolar disorder and depression seem to share the same factors of oxidative stress and inflammation as part of their physiology.  In addition, studies show that they also involve reduced neurotrophins (substances which cause nerve cells to survive, develop or function), increased cell death and reduced energy production in cellular mitochondria.  And, NAC appears to have effects on many of these different pathways.

The effects of NAC have been investigated in a series of clinical trials, Berk says, with NAC appearing to reduce depression in those with bipolar disorder as well as major depressive disorder.

Berk notes that although it does cause nausea, it appears to be relatively free of any troubling side effects.

Other drugs with similar actions which might have some potential to help conditions like depression include aspirin, cyclooxygenase (COX) inhibitors, omega-3 fatty acids, statins and certain diabetes drugs like pioglitazone.

Patients should take note, however, that, while this information provides some fascinating leads for the future development of new drugs, the medical community is a long way off from making any sort of recommendation for people to treat their depression with any of these medications.

NAC currently has several applications in medicine, including treating acetominophen (Tylenol) poisoning and thinning the mucous of patients with chronic lung conditions like chronic bronchitis and cystic fibrosis.  Many people also take over-the-counter NAC preparations  in the hopes of preventing diseases such as cancer.

Dr. Berk discussed the potential use of NAC in treating depression and other mental illnesses in a presentation given on October 7, 2013 at the 26th ECNP Congress in Barcelona, Spain.

October 16, 2013 at 3:34 pm
(1) Kathleen Pottle Brannon says:

I have bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I have been taking NAC twice daily since reading about it on Natasha Trace’s website about a month ago. I think the evidence from controlled studies is more extensive than you indicate here. Given that evidence and the fact that NAC is a naturally occurring substance in our brains — not a “drug” — plus its affordability and lack of significant side effects, using it seems like a no-brainer to me.

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