Mainstream Medicine Investigating "Alternative" N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) For Autism
By Teresa Conrick
Mainstream medicine seems to be toying around with the idea of "borrowing" scientifically sound interventions from the DAN (Defeat Autism Now) movement and other alternative doctors who treat autism. This recent article, Antioxidant shows promise as treatment for certain features of autism, study finds , is an irony on many levels. Some highlights, that we will call -- IRONY #1:
- A specific antioxidant supplement may be an effective therapy for some features of autism, according to a pilot trial
- The antioxidant, called N-Acetylcysteine, or NAC, lowered irritability in children with autism as well as reducing the children’s repetitive behaviors.
- Stanford is filing a patent for the use of NAC in autism, and one of the study authors has a financial stake in a company that makes and sells the NAC used in the trial.
- “One of the reasons I wanted to do this trial was that NAC is being used by community practitioners who focus on alternative, non-traditional therapies,” Hardan said. “But there is no strong scientific evidence to support these interventions
Interesting ..."no strong scientific evidence to support" seems hardly correct. Investigating NAC years ago, I discovered its use in Autism was most probably related to its use as a chelator of toxic metals.
There are 81 studies listed on Pubmed that deal strictly with N-acetyl cysteine and mercury. Here are some good examples:
- N-acetylcysteine as an antidote in methylmercury poisoning
" The present study demonstrates that oral administration of N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a widely available and largely nontoxic amino acid derivative, produces a profound acceleration of urinary methylmercury excretion in mice.....The ability of NAC to enhance methylmercury excretion when given orally, its relatively low toxicity, and is wide availability in the clinical setting indicate that it may be an ideal therapeutic agent for use in methylmercury poisoning."
- N-acetyl cysteine treatment reduces mercury-induced neurotoxicity in the developing rat hippocampus.
"Mercury is an environmental toxicant that can disrupt brain development....Here, based on its known efficacy in promoting MeHg urinary excretion, we evaluated NAC for protective effects in the developing brain. In immature neurons and precursors, MeHg (3 μM) induced a >50% decrease in DNA synthesis at 24 hr, an effect that was completely blocked by NAC coincubation.....Treatment of MeHg-exposed rats with repeated injections of NAC abolished MeHg toxicity. NAC prevented the reduction in DNA synthesis and the marked increase in caspase-3 immunoreactivity. Moreover, the intermediate-term decrease in hippocampal cell number provoked by MeHg was fully blocked by NAC. Altogether these results suggest that MeHg toxicity in the perinatal brain can be ameliorated by using NAC, opening potential avenues for therapeutic intervention."
- Thimerosal Neurotoxicity is Associated with Glutathione Depletion: Protection with Glutathione Precursors
"Thimerosal alone induced approximately 3-fold decrease in cell viability whereas pretreatment with either cystine, glutathione,
or NAC provided significant protection from cell death....It is likely that the extracellular NAC and glutathione provided partial protection by complexing with the Thimerosal in the culture medium as well as by increasing intracellular glutathione levels....The significant protection by NAC and glutathione ethyl ester against Thimerosal cytotoxicity suggests the possibility that supplementation with glutathione precursors might be protective against mercury exposures in vivo. Numerous clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of NAC in increasing intracellular glutathione levels and reducing oxidative stress in humans."
There are 16 studies listed on Pubmed that deal strictly with N-acetyl cysteine and aluminum. Here is one example:
- Effect of N-acetyl cysteine against aluminium-induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative damage in rats.
"Aluminium is a potent neurotoxin involved in the initiation and progression of various cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease. ....Therefore, the present study was designed to explore the possible role of N-acetyl cysteine against aluminium mediating cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress in rats.... Chronic administration of N-acetyl cysteine significantly improved memory retention in tasks, attenuated oxidative damage and acetylcholinesterase activity in aluminium-treated rats. The study suggests a neuroprotective effect of N-acetyl cysteine against aluminium-induced cognitive dysfunction and oxidative damage."
And the holy grail of N-acetyl cysteine --- 308 studies listed on Pubmed that deal strictly with N-acetyl cysteine and the IMMUNE SYSTEM. Here is an indication of how NAC helps on a cellular level in Autism:
- Anti-inflammatory properties of N-acetylcysteine on lipopolysaccharide-activated macrophages.
"Innate immune cells play a role in modulating host immune response. Part of the macrophage inflammatory response is the release of an array of inflammatory cytokines, important molecules during the development of innate and adaptative immunity. Several antioxidant agents have been used in the control of the inflammatory response....NAC modulates immune functions during the inflammatory response."
Take your pick as each of these is involved in Autism which brings me to --- Irony #2:
The Defeat Autism Now movement has been harassed, ridiculed and kicked in the gut by many in mainstream medicine who mocked the thought -- that Autism had anything to do with the IMMUNE SYSTEM -- and the damaging effects of things like MERCURY/THIMEROSAL, ALUMINUM, BACTERIA and VIRUSES. Could it be that they are now trying to OWN some of these safer, alternative medical interventions as their own, and move away from Risperdal, a side effect nightmare -- quote from the above article, "these drugs cause significant side effects, including weight gain, involuntary motor movements and metabolic syndrome, which increases diabetes risk."
I am all for developing safe interventions BUT let's give credit where credit is due. The Defeat Autism Now movement was correct! They paved the way for children with an Autism diagnosis to be looked at for their devastating medical issues - gut, allergies, inflammation, seizures, infections -- pain -- that so many have had for too, too long. Thank you to all of the doctors, and of course to Megan's doctors, who continue to look outside the box to ease the pain and the debilitating symptoms of this IMMUNE SYSTEM disorder called, Autism. Bless them all and never give up.
Teresa Conrick is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.
Hi , just a quick post from the parent of a child with OCD. NAC has definitely helped her and that is because the root of the OCD is dicarboxylic aminoaciduria. A rare disease easily identified by a urine test that her pediatrician had. A mutation in SLC1A1 causes the protein pump, EAAT3 to work poorly. This protein pump's main job is to pump glutamate and aspartate into brain cells. When it doesn't work then the glutamate and aspartate build up and are flushed out in large amounts in the urine. NAC helps move glutamate into brain cells, helping to ease the symptoms of OCD that may be caused by dicarboxylic aminoaciduria. The research....http://sydney.edu.au/news/84.html?newsstoryid=6236
Posted by: Kbran | October 18, 2016 at 08:41 PM
I just hate when people steal my ideas and act like they own them. I know what that feels like. I just hope that they actually use this therapy to treat patients: I wouldn't put it past them to use the patent to deny other practitioners of that privilege.
Posted by: Narad | September 27, 2016 at 08:55 PM
I'm a parent of a 3.5 yr old Autistic boy. He's on a pretty full biomed regime and clean diet (gfcfsf). We are adding one thing at a time, low and slow. He stims a lot and has a lot OCD behaviors, but also eye stims. Should we add NAC next or start him on Cod Liver Oil next....?
Posted by: Anne | September 27, 2016 at 01:16 PM
I had my son on the Effervescent version of NAC for about 6 months and stopped for a while because his Dr. thought it might be interfering with some of his medication (he has Eosinophilic gastrointestinal disease). At any rate, everything went downhill from there. His language skills declined, he started having tantrums, after four months I couldn't take it anymore, I told her I don't care what the Gastro says, I'm putting him back on NAC (and Cod Liver Oil) and within just a few days everything improved.
Posted by: Juan Fermin | February 13, 2014 at 05:07 PM
I am giving NAC to my 20 yr old autistic son at 900mg 3x a day. We have seen dramatic changes in mood stability. He is more calm but also more socially withdrawn. I think it is helping with psychotic tendencies. Still observing. We have given this for about 8 months. Anyone care to comment ? Many thanks.
Posted by: Fransel | August 27, 2013 at 04:44 AM
"Stanford is filing a patent for the use of NAC in autism"
And this means WHAT to the availability and cost of this supplement for us?
Posted by: db | June 13, 2012 at 10:45 PM
I understand Immunocal increases intracellular glutathione with a natural precursor cysteine http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01366859
Posted by: Randy Grover | June 12, 2012 at 03:31 PM
Love the picture with this article!!
Posted by: Jill | June 12, 2012 at 12:08 PM
I think if the goal is to effectively treat autism, there shouldn't be an "us against them" mentality here. So what if mainstream medicine is now using alternative therapies? Isn't that the goal?
Posted by: Jessicarrot | June 12, 2012 at 10:27 AM
If pharma could figure out how to synthesize and patent chicken soup, they would have done so by now.
"Ask your doctor if Poultrex is right for you."
May cause strutting, molting, pecking, chicken-scratch handwriting and egg-laying behavior, especially in boys. Discontinue if comorbid phobias develop - known as "chicken shit" syndrome (CSS).
BLACK BOX WARNING: suicide and homicide by neck-wringing has been reported to PAERS, (Poultrex Adverse Event Reporting System), but serious side effects are rare and 100% coincidental.)
( I could go on and on. What an idiotic industry we throw billions at.)
Posted by: Pass the popcorn | June 11, 2012 at 11:44 PM
I've long felt that acetaminophen (TYLENOL) overuse is a HUGE missing piece of the autism puzzle and NAC as a treatment for autism makes complete sense if acetaminophen does in fact, turn out to be causally linked to autism, since NAC is exactly what they give you in the hospital when you OD on acetaminophen (also known as paracetamol outside the US) to replenish your gluathione stores so you don't die a horrible death from acute liver failure.
(By the way, since we're counting PubMed articles, there are 892 articles there that mention "acetaminophen and n-acetylcysteine.")
The conflict of interest irks me a bit, but at least they're all out in the open about it, unlike another autism researcher that failed to disclose his alternative measles vaccine patent or payouts from trial lawyers. And if they can create way to make NAC more palatable, (NAC smells horribly of rotten eggs...good luck getting it into your kid even if it does work) more power to them.
That said, I'm not going to get too terribly excited until I see this independently replicated in a larger group of subjects.
Posted by: Jen in TX | June 11, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Thank you Teresa. My neurologist recently recommended the effervescent form of NAC (I think because of the original research you referenced). Apparently uptake is improved--
Posted by: mlinn | June 11, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Am I missing something here?
Mainstream doctors say that alternative medicine is either totally ineffective, or downright dangerous.
Stanford's study author claims there is no strong evidence that NAC is helpful for autism--but he is filing a patent on it as an autism treatment, anyway, even thought that's exactly how alternative medicine practitioners have been using it?
Is there no limit to the greed, corruption, and arrogance of these people?
Posted by: Taximom5 | June 11, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Our son has been using NAC along with a very small dose of Risperidone for about 15 months now. At age 10, his problems with OCD-type verbal behavior and sheer aggression were getting. . .bad enough that we wanted to take the edge off, just so we could keep teaching him.
He takes 1,800 mg. of NAC per day (900 mg. in the morning and 900 mg. in the evening). At one point, we switched to a smaller dose (1,200 mg.). Hard to say, but I think we'll go back with 1,800 mg. As for the Risperidone: started with 0.25 mg, went to 0.25 mg twice a day, and now he's topped out at 0.5 mg. in the a.m. and 0.25 mg. in the p.m. for a total of 0.75 mg. each day. That, plus the NAC, is going to be enough.
We did *everything* else first--as the saying goes--but I wish I'd known about NAC sooner. We also use cod liver oil daily (every other day in the summer) and probably will forever, along with some basic multivitamins and minerals.
I would recommend NAC as one of my top choices starting at an early age, if we had it to do over again. Since my husband never wanted to chelate, and since our son's yeast was fairly under control once we started the NAC, we haven't had yeast flare-ups. . .maybe we would have had those had we started sooner or at a larger dose.
Oh yeah--and we had to home school and change schools and actually work with people who knew what they were doing. Whew--good luck. Let us know how it goes!
Posted by: Terri Lewis | June 11, 2012 at 06:17 PM
I've read that there is a potential problem with use of oral N-acetylcysteine: it can feed yeast overgrowth. Apparently extremely strong anti-yeast measures have to be taken while using oral NAC. (per Autism: Effective Biomedical Treatments by Jon Pangborn, PhD & Sidney MacDonald Baker, MD; p.298; the word they used to describe the strength of these measures was "robust"). For those children who already have yeast overgrowth that is resistant to treatment, it might be better to try a transdermal version.
Posted by: Carolyn M | June 11, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Before my son could clear metals on his own, NAC was very powerful in chelating his metals. Once we healed his immune system, and his glutathione was restored, he began clearing metals. I still find it amazing that pediatricians first test lead levels on children with suspected developmental delays, and then stop. They don't test any other metals, especially mercury. What's up with that?
Posted by: Texas Mom | June 11, 2012 at 04:40 PM
Resbid is a time-release formulation of NAC that is inexpensive.
Posted by: Theodore Van Oosbree | June 11, 2012 at 04:32 PM
My son is 26 years old.
Although I did a lot right when he was little - there are some things I did very wrong too.
Since we have been on a stricker diet and a hand full of pills including the cheap N-aceytl cysteine - he told his grandparents proudly that he had not been sick for three years now.
I don't know about you but a 26 year old counting precious years he has felt well is a darn crying shame.
Posted by: Benedetta | June 11, 2012 at 11:49 AM
Catch 22 here.
The drug companies get ahold of N-acetly cysteine
1.) Add something else on to it, that probably will turn our unsafe.
2.) Concentrate it down (they call that compounding, don't they?); and the clic'he here is "Too much of a good thing).
3.) Put it in an expensive time release capsule.
4.) pharma would then have to send around super dressed up pharma reps to educate the doctors, and to encourage them to prescribe it.
5.) It will now cost 300 dollars a bottle.
They have done this before with niacin - a helpful B vitamin - they made niacine into niaspan.
After it had been on the market, my husband and friends all taking it - causing really bad flushing --- then, then ???? they decided to do case studies on it. It was so bad in causing strokes - they ethically had to discontinue the study. Doctors are still trying to prescibe it to thier patients by the way.
The same thing happen to hormone treatments for menopause women - so many was getting breast cancer they had to ethically stop the study. But that did not stop my physcian from suggesting writing me a prescription for that very same thing. I had to tell her about the study. MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH OUR DOCTORS????
Posted by: Benedetta | June 11, 2012 at 11:35 AM
The three stages of response to biomedical treatments for autism (which were already in use for years by parents and "alternative" practitioners): First, they are ridiculed. Second, they are violently opposed. Third, they are appropriated and patented and proudly presented as a mainstream discovery.
Posted by: Twyla | June 11, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Has anyone tried NAC? If so I'd be interested in hearing your results.
Posted by: Sarah | June 11, 2012 at 10:47 AM
It's all so slow..and the root of the inability to fix autism lies with the pharmaceuticals denial of creating it. L-cysteine has been used for a long time to counter the effects of tylenol as well. ..and tylenol has been implicated in association with the MMR vaccine as increasing the chances of autism outcome by up to 8 times. The pesticide pentachlorphenol has a similar yet stronger effect as a liver toxin. Again, so slow, no one ever proved that asprin/chickenpox caused Reyes, yet Reyes disappeared with the removal of aspirin for children. Throw the tylenol away, stop the toxic lawn exposures, limit the vaccines to fewer with phenol and similar toxins removed What it seems we've done is inject children with toxins then provide toxins to take away their toxic symptoms.
In the real picture, it makes sense, inject a toxin, give tylenol which immediately poisons the liver and the body's ability to clear of toxins, and create illness. We KNOW that Reyes children that survived were often brain damaged, similarly the effects of vaccines/pesticides/tylenol has caused a horrible GI illness with the side effect of autism. Maybe a pregnant mom who has been on a toxic acetominophen regimen should NEVER have her infant subjected to hep b vaccine, vitamin K, or pitocin. This toxic prenatal exposure may well account for the denovo "mystery" genes in a few? just thinking out loud..BOYS! first dose of tylenol with circumcision , a day after hep b. Toxic synergy! Some of these vaccines likely carry the full package of toxins to create such synergy in one syringe.
Posted by: barbaraj | June 11, 2012 at 10:17 AM
If you want to know why the pharmaceutical industry is going after DAN with such vitriol, watch the documentary "Burzynski". We are dealing with the exact same scenario. They will eviscerate anyone who uses something they don't own, and then find a way to steal it, patent it and profit from it. The people in our community need to quit acting so naive and outraged about the state of affairs, and learn to outmaneuver our critics. We should be patenting these substances ourselves and building companies around them.
Posted by: wewillwin | June 11, 2012 at 09:03 AM