N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a supplement form of the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine is a conditionally essential amino acid. It’s conditionally essential because the body can produce it from other amino acids: serine and methionine. Let’s explore some, Incredible NAC Health Benefits You Can Count On!

However, when there is a low intake of these two amino acids, it becomes essential to take a cysteine supplement.

NAC and cysteine are both antioxidants on their own, but they also stimulate the release of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation and free radicals.

If you enjoy reading about NAC, then you will also enjoy, Are You Zinc Deficient?  and Vitamins For Heart Health.

This article discusses the health benefits of NAC, including food sources and any associated risk factors.

Health benefits

Here are the top benefits of consuming NAC, according to research.

1.   It’s essential in the formation of glutathione

NAC is highly valued for its ability to facilitate antioxidant production, specifically glutathione.

Glutathione is one of the best and most crucial amino acids needed in the body. It plays a vital role in nutrient metabolism, antioxidant protection, and regulation of cellular events, including protein synthesis, cell proliferation, and cell death, gene expression, immune response, and cytokine production.

2.   It may treat psychiatry conditions and improve addictive disorders

Research shows that NAC may help resolve symptoms associated with different psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

NAC may also improve symptoms of depression and boost certain neurotransmitters, leading to improved brain function.

Additionally, NAC supplements may reduce the cravings and use of nicotine and marijuana and decrease withdrawal symptoms and cocaine relapse in cocaine addicts.

3.   Promotes respiratory health

Numerous studies on NAC show a positive impact on the respiratory system.

To begin with, NAC has been recommended as a mucolytic for both chronic and acute conditions affecting the airway. This is because it can break mucus and loosen phlegm that could be blocking the airway, thus allowing for unrestricted breathing.

NAC helps increase your glutathione levels, which reduces inflammation in the lungs and bronchial tubes. This can be a great relief, especially for those individuals with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

COPD is associated with chronic inflammation of lung tissue causing constriction of the airway with symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath.

Research shows that 600 mg of NAC taken once daily can reduce exacerbations and improve symptoms in stable COPD.

NAC has further been shown to prevent lung decline. Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory properties of NAC may also help reduce coughing, wheezing, and respiratory attacks in chronic bronchitis. 

4.   Supports the immune system

A strong immune system is essential to safeguard you against internal and external attacks.

Research suggests that glutathione may boost immune health. However, most research done on the effects of NAC on the immune system is those on people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

5.   It may lower the risk of heart disease

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death globally, with an estimated 17.9 million deaths each year.

And although NAC on its own cannot lower these numbers, incorporating it into a healthy lifestyle can tremendously reduce the risk.

NAC promotes heart health by protecting your heart muscles against oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress refers to the excessive production of reactive oxygen species or free radicals against the antioxidant defense. This may cause cellular dysfunction leading to heart disease.

NAC has also been shown to promote nitric oxide production, which relaxes and dilates your vessel causing blood to flow more freely and your blood pressure to fall. This may lower your risk of stroke and heart disease.

6.   It may improve blood sugar levels

High blood sugar levels destroy insulin receptors leading to insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

NAC can help improve insulin resistance, thus facilitating proper glucose uptake by the cells, keeping them within normal.

7.   It may promote brain health

NAC refills glutathione and regulates glutamate, both of which support healthy brain functions

Glutathione is an antioxidant that lowers age-related oxidative stress in brain cells, while glutamate is a powerful excitatory neurotransmitter essential for learning and memory.

Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, lowers a person’s ability to recall and learn. But research shows NAC may counteract neurodegenerative conditions and offer neuroprotective benefits against dementia.

In another study, including NAC in the standard treatment of Parkinson’s disease, was shown to improve mental and motor abilities. Parkinson’s is a brain condition associated with the deterioration of dopamine-producing nerve cells. NAC functions by restoring these nerves.

8.   It may promote fertility

NAC may help improve fertility in both men and women

One study found that supplementing NAC with selenium increased semen quality.

Another one found that NAC may improve fertility in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

The best plant sources of cysteine include:

  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal
  • Split beans
  • Edamame
  • Chickpeas
  • Kamut
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Chia seeds
  • Cashews
  • Hemp seeds
  • Lima beans
  • Carrots

How Much Cysteine or NAC Do You Need?

The recommended daily intake of cysteine is 1.9 mg per pound or 4.1mg per kg body weight.

One can comfortably meet their cysteine requirements by incorporating cysteine-containing foods into their diet. However, you need adequate amounts of folate and vitamins B6 and B12 for the body to make the amino acid cysteine.

There is no specific dietary recommendation for anyone considering a supplement; however, a high daily dose of between 600-1800 mg is recommended since NAC supplements are poorly absorbed.

NAC is available as an oral supplement, powder, liquid, intravenous administration, and aerosol spray.

Risks and Side Effects of NAC

While NAC is safe for most people, it may cause drug interaction and slow blood clotting processes. Hence, if you have any bleeding disorder, NAC may not be suitable for you.

Other possible adverse effects include upset stomach, sweating, diarrhea, fatigue, and a skin rash.

Final Thoughts

NAC is a supplement form of the amino acid cysteine. Cysteine is a powerful antioxidant that also facilitates the production of other essential antioxidants like glutathione.

The body may or may not produce cysteine, depending on whether your diet supports its production or not.

NAC protects the body against inflammation and oxidative stress. It also improves brain health and mental conditions, boosts the immune system, supports respiratory health, improves heart health, regulates blood sugar, and supports fertility.

Cysteine can be found in foods you’re likely to consume daily such as grains and legumes, and in most cases, these are enough to supply your needs. But in case you need a supplement, keep in mind it’s low absorption.

NAC supplements are generally safe, with mild side effects on some individuals. However, you may want to consult your doctor in case of any underlying medical condition. Let us know what you think about Incredible NAC Health Benefits You Can Count On,

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