Radioopaque dyes used during imaging tests of the kidneys can sometimes lead to kidney failure and nearly always result in reduced kidney function, but the results of a new study show that popular antioxidant, N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC), greatly reduces this risk.
The dye is injected into the body, and within a few minutes, it accumulates in the kidneys. Then an X-ray picture can be taken that will show the structure of the kidneys.
But the dye can lead to kidney damage or failure in some people, particularly those with existing kidney problems. Patients with diabetes and existing kidney may have as much as a 50% chance of kidney failure.
Many researchers think that the damage is inflicted by oxidation, which causes cell damage.
NAC is used to treat several types of lung disease as well as to treat people who have overdosed on acetaminophen, the active ingredient in pain relievers like Tylenol.
The study included 83 people with kidney problems who were randomly assigned to receive NAC before and after injection with a dye or to receive a placebo. Based on several measures of kidney function, people taking NAC were less likely to experience kidney damage.
Other attempts to prevent dye-related kidney damage in the past have been unsuccessful, so the results of this study are "encouraging," according to the researchers.
An accompanying editorial refers to this treatment as a "decidedly low-technology approach". It also notes that diabetes also increases the risk of kidney damage, so it would be a good idea to study the effects of NAC in diabetics.
NAC may also increase the biologic effects of nitric oxide by combining with it to form S-nitrosothiol, which is a more stable form and a potent vasodilator. This interaction may also limit the production of the damaging peroxinitrite radical, since NAC would compete with the superoxide radical for nitric oxide. NAC also increases the expression of nitric oxide synthase and may thus improve blood flow as well.
Researchers also note that proper hydration is another factor which can help protect the kidneys.
The New England Journal of Medicine July 20, 2000;343:180-184,210-212.
Most interesting that the researchers and news media consder NAC a drug. This is actually an acetylated amino acid, not a drug. It is available in prescription form as Mucomyst and is the treatment of choice for Tylenol overdose in the emergency room. NAC appears to be an effective precursor for glutathione which is a potent antixoidant that prevents free radical damage from toxic exposures. It appears that NAC may also be useful in this setting.
I would caution diabetics not to use it routinely however, unless all their mercury is removed from someone who is experienced with mercury detoxification. If mercury is still present in a person's system NAC will bind to it and carry it to the brain, thus worsening brain function. NAC can be used for a mercury removal program, but only late in the program, not early on. This is from Dr. Klinghardt's extensive clincial experience in mercury removal. He is one of the leading clinicians in the world in this area.
The researcher's comment on proper hydration also helping to prevent kidney failure is just another example of the importance of drinking large quantities of water, preferably bottled spring water or filtered non-fluoridated tap water. Do not drink distilled water.