I've long had the suspicion that some of the ingredients in bodybuilding supplements could be dangerous. Some of these guys pop so many supplements and drink so many shakes made with powders that it just can't be good for them. Now, from the University of Virginia, comes research in animals that an antioxidant found in these dietary supplements can lead to hypertension.
The study examined the effect of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) and was published in the September 2007 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The work indicates this antioxidant can form a red blood cell-derived molecule that makes blood vessels think they are not getting enough oxygen. This can lead to pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH), a condition characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries carrying blood to the lungs. This is occurring in animals, and new studies will be needed to see whether this effect is reproduced in humans.
The researchers claim to have uncovered a new understanding of the way oxygen is sensed by the body and the chemical reactions that take place as a result:
"NAC fools the body into thinking that it has an oxygen shortage," said Dr. Ben Gaston, study leader at the UV Hospital. "We found that an NAC product formed by red blood cells, know as a nitrosothiol, bypasses the normal regulation of oxygen sensing. It tells the arteries in the lung to 'remodel'; they become narrow, increasing the blood pressure in the lungs and causing the right side of the heart to swell."
The team says it is now necessary to determine the threshold past which this antioxidant use may be detrimental to heart or lung functioning. They call for health practitioners to check bodybuilding patients for PAH.